Everyone is still reeling over the Brad and Angelina divorce. I mean, I'm not even that tuned into celebrity gossip and I know all about it. Maybe it's because I'm proud that Jolie is going to be a visiting professor at my old university, maybe it's because they're so good-looking they escape basic laws of physics, but I have to say, I was way more "WTF" than I have been at any other celebrity breakup. And I think it's insensitive to think we can guess exactly what happened and pry into their lives. I think the only focus should be on how people can get through a breakup amicably because it's so important — especially if you have kids.
As someone whose parents separated and were not very amicable, I can tell you it's the worst. Little things people don't think of — like having an outdated glasses prescription that gives you a headache because both parents insist it's the other's job to replace them and you just can't bear to be in the middle anymore, so you stop asking — have a huge affect on your day-to-day life. "Staying amicable after a breakup is often easier said than done, relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW tells Bustle. "But it's also the best thing that both parties can do for themselves and their children (if they have them)."
So what do the experts say? Here is some advice for Brad and Angelina — and any other couples trying to stay cool through a breakup:
1. Avoiding Bickering
It's all about taking the high road. "In their case, I think kids may have been a factor in their split, in which case staying amicable for the sake of the children will be difficult for them," Matchmaker and dating coach Karenna Alexander tells Bustle. "BUT, it's critical if they want to do what is best for their children. They should each take the high road and try to be adults and put their children first. So my tip is to take the high road, and put any petty bickering aside, for your children. Remember you only get one chance to raise your children right, and they are probably the most important thing in the word to you, so taking the high road should not be too hard." And there's definitely room on the high road for both of you.
2. No Badmouthing In Front Of The Kids
If only my parents had done this. "If you have children the most important thing you can do is refrain from bad-mouthing your ex," Hartstein tells Bustle. "You might loathe them but you have to remember that your ex is their parent whom they love. When you trash talk this person you are talking about their parent. Even if your child doesn't get along with that parent, it's still very upsetting, confusing, and painful to have you ripping them apart."
3. Take Responsibility
If you're both taking responsibility for your role in the breakup, then relationship between the two of you will be way more mature. "Another very helpful way to keep things amicable with your ex is to go to therapy," Hartstein tells Bustle. "I'm sure you already know all the ways your ex contributed to the breakdown of your relationship but do you know how you contributed? It generally takes two and insight into your own behavior and patterns will help you be less angry with your ex and better position you for a more successful future relationship."
4. Respect For Each Other And Those Around You
One thing that celebrities have to deal with that we don't is remembering that this is a private family matter. "I think it's great that neither of them are commenting on this private family matter," Erika Martinez, Psy.D., licensed psychologist from Envision Wellness tells Bustle. "Staying mum keeps both parties from dragging each other's name through the mud in front kids, family, friends, colleagues, and that's the best way to remain amicable — by tapping into your sense of respect for each other out of compassion for those caught in the middle of a breakup (i.e. children, mutual friends, etc)."
5. Talk To Your Kids
Not only do you have to be careful about not bashing an ex in front of your children, if you actually talk to them directly it can do a lot of good. "Keep an ongoing dialogue with your children, depending on their age," Anita Chlipala, LMFT and founder of Relationship Reality 312 tells Bustle. "One of the most difficult aspects of my clients’ parents’ divorce was when it was unexpected. Let your children know it had nothing to do with them and that they are loved and will continue to be loved, and use age-appropriate language to answer their questions. Let them know that they can come to the both of you with any questions at any time." It will be good for your kids, your ex, and for you.
6. Put Your Egos Aside
Ego is one of the worst offenders in tricky breakups. You both have trouble getting over your own hurt feelings and focusing on the bigger picture. "One of the most important aspects of keeping it amicable is to focus on the children and their needs," Dr. Dawn Michael of The Happy Spouse tells Bustle. "When the focus can be directed towards the children then it leaves less importance on each person's ego, hurt feelings, etc. The reality is that the children have to continue to be involved with both mom and dad so anything that would place them in the middle or cause them grief is not worth it. Also to keep in mind when you shame a parent, you shame a child, so keep negativity out of the press towards each other as much as possible. From what I can see both Brad and Angelina are dedicated to the children and appear to be great parents. A lesson that all divorced parents need to focus on more of....the children!"
7. Keep Things As Normal As Possible
Even though you may be divorced, you're still a family, and you want to keep things going along as normally as you can. "You may no longer be a couple but you will always be a family and your children deserve as much normality as possible," Dr. Gary Brown, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Los Angeles with over 25 years working with hundreds of couples, tells Bustle. "If the children are old enough to speak for themselves, I would certainly encourage parents to ask their children what they can do to help their child through this difficult period of transition. Parents who have the maturity to do this — and without overtly or covertly trying to get their child to 'take sides' — will have an easier time co-parenting in the future." Try to stick to the status quo wherever possible, because there's enough change as it is.