Newly separated people do stupid things. It's not a cut down. I'm not trying to be hurtful; it's just reality. Trust me, as a newly separated person, I probably did more stupid things than anyone I know.
The reason? It's a difficult, emotional, unbelievably scary, precarious time during which people become temporarily different people. A confident, stable, gregarious person can temporarily turn into an insecure, emotional mess who is always unsure of him or herself and who can't seem to do anything right. It is a time of weakness and extreme vulnerability.
Because of these insecurities, the self-hatred, in some cases, and the lack of self-worth, people make bad choices. Simply put, they do stupid things. The good news? That frame of mind isn't permanent.
So, learn from others who have been newly separated. Learn from their mistakes.
I recently heard the story of a divorced woman who told me that when she was separated several years ago, she had a few glasses of wine one night and left a long message on her soon-to-be ex's voicemail, using several expletives (lots of four-letter words) and spewing out threats.
Her ex's attorney played the voicemail in court and she ended up losing custody her children. Ugh. That made me sick to hear. Why? Because that could happen to anyone. It's a combination of bad luck and a very bad choice.
When people are newly separated, they sometimes act crazy. I know I did. People do things that are so out of character because they really don't know who they are momentarily, which was probably the case with this woman.
For some, being newly separated feels like you are on trial, like you are being watched and judged. It's scary. You don't know what your ex is going to do, or what moves he/she is going to make because all of a sudden, he or she has become the enemy, a total stranger. It's a horrible feeling.
I think eventually, when a deal is made, when the divorce is final, everyone exhales and hopefully your relationship with your ex gets better because the pressure is off.
Here are some STUPID things you shouldn't do as a newly separated person (or EVER!)
1. Leave voicemail messages for ANYONE after you've been drinking or ANYTIME -- even if you are sober -- that might paint you in an unflattering light.
2. Send an email or text that you wouldn't want a judge or your ex's attorney to see.
3. Drink and drive.
4. Talk badly about your ex in front of your kids.
5. Talk badly about your ex to people in your community who you don't know very well.
6. Send an email or text to your ex really quickly when you are really upset or right after you find something out that he/she did.
7. Call your attorney for every little detail.
8. Change your standards when it comes to dating and how men/women treat you.
9. Take drugs or drink excessively to try to numb your anxiety.
10. Threaten your ex.
11. Tear up old photos or throw away marriage mementos.
12. Do anything out of spite or just to cause your ex pain or to anger him/her.
Being newly separated is really, really hard. I can remember lots of crying, a lot of anger, frequent feelings of hopelessness, a dramatic loss of self-esteem and of course, STUPIDITY.
It's okay. The stupidity eventually goes away (hopefully.) They key is not to do anything damaging. Because if you do stupid things, there could be real consequences, resulting in things you will regret forever.
So, next time your ex sends you a nasty email, don't furiously hit your key buttons answering him/her, spewing venom. Wait until you are calm and rational. Actually, you can answer the email and say whatever you'd like. It's healthy to vent. Just don't hit "send!"
Jackie Pilossoph is the author of the blog, Divorced Girl Smiling. She is also the author of her new divorce novel with the same name, as well as her other divorce novel, FREE GIFT WITH PURCHASE. Ms. Pilossoph is a weekly business features reporter and columnist for Sun-Times Media. She lives in Chicago with her two kids. Oh, and she's divorced!