Divorce is never a pleasant thing, but it doesn’t have to get to the point of telling your-soon-to-be-ex they’re eating pate-aux-Rover.
Kathleen Turner famously uses this and other wacky tactics against her on-screen ex Michael Douglas in wacky divorce black comedy The War of the Roses, and if it’s come to the point of divorce, you may want to drive a monster truck over your ex’s classic car or other prized possessions.
But nobody wants to die swinging from a chandelier.
Let’s save the beyond uncivil antics for Douglas and Turner; here’s how you can keep your divorce from turning into a bad remake of their classic.
Remember Your Dignity
The reason things get so psychotic over at the Rose residence is that Oliver (Douglas) and Barbara (Turner) abandon all pretense of human dignity in order to retain maximum money and material possessions by the end of the divorce, even destroying the very possessions they’re fighting over in order to destroy each other. Sound highly illogical? That’s the tip of the crazy iceberg.
Oliver’s attorney Gavin D’Amato (Danny Devito) looks on in horror as Oliver gleefully shows a floor plan of the house marked as to who controls different areas, like a battle plan rather than a home. To Oliver, this is totally rational, even great—to Gavin and the rest of us, it’s lunacy.
So remember to maintain dignity and normal behavior; no matter what your ex and their lawyer do, your dignity cannot be taken from you. But if you give in to ridiculous antics yourself, you surrender it and lose credibility as a claimant. This means the judge is less likely to take you seriously and decide in your favor in matters of contention such as custody of the children, alimony, and other contentions in court.
Remember Their Dignity
Barbara’s sudden and unsinkable contempt for her husband is, in the end, what drives the insane spiral of the bitter divorce. All she cares about is coming out on top of the divorce with the house and most of the things, and she is absolutely unwilling to reconcile or even treat her husband like an equal. Eventually, she resorts to attempted murder in order to get her husband out of her life—running over his antique car while he’s still inside it.
The lesson here? Barbara’s treatment of her husband spurs on Oliver’s behavior toward her; if you want to keep your divorce civil then you absolutely cannot allow yourself to antagonize your spouse. It’s as simple as the Golden Rule.
Consider All Options
Do you actually need a divorce? Barbara and Oliver’s marriage might have been saved if they’d tried other matters to settle their differences. For example, couples’ marital counseling might have helped them find effective methods of coping with, for example, Oliver’s fake laugh that grates on Barbara’s nerves. It could also help Oliver to treat Barbara and her ambitions to sell her famous liver pate with less dismissal and contempt.
And it might have prevented them from eventually killing each other.
You may be able to settle out of court if you can agree on who will get which possessions, so if you absolutely want to end your marriage, try that option first before engaging in an expensive court battle.
When you seek counseling or legal aid for divorce, your counselor or legal adviser, or even your lawyer, should have what is best for you in mind when coming up with a strategy to either save or end your marriage, so go with an attorney you have a trusted relationship with rather than someone who is only in it for the money.
Just Get it Over With
If no reconciliation or agreement can be reached, then get through the divorce court proceedings as efficiently as possible. The longer the divorce proceedings are drawn out, the more time madness will have to develop. Don’t try to draw it out longer than necessary as a ploy to drive your co-divorcee crazy. Mind games of any kind are a bad idea here—it loses you the moral high ground and looks bad for your case if you get caught.
When Roger Ebert reviewed “The War of the Roses” in 1989, he said the lesson from the movie was “divorce is survivable,” and that is absolutely true. Hopefully you’ll be able to resolve your divorce as peacefully and quickly as possible. But as long as you don’t turn into the Roses, you’ll be just fine.
Annie Babbitt writes about her interest in current events, political science and philosophy. Annie loves helping promote change and being an advocate for those in need.