By Barton Goldsmith McClatchy-Tribune News Service
The month of January has been dubbed by some as "National Breakup Month" because it's the time of year when most divorces are filed.
People want to avoid upsetting their families during the holiday season, but the second that life gets back to normal (whatever that is), all bets are off, and in some cases, so are the gloves.
Divorce is not to be taken lightly. It is not something you tell your partner you want unless the relationship is making you very unhappy and you have tried everything you can think of to save it, including counseling.
Threatening to end a marriage is not a weapon to use in an argument or because you want your partner to change something. You must earn the right to terminate a relationship, no matter how mad or hurt you are.
If you don't talk things through and come out of it with a good understanding of why things are not working out between the two of you, the decision to break up can haunt you for a long time.
I have seen numerous clients who sadly admitted that they didn't have to end their marriage.
Before you make this life-altering move, please give it a lot of thought and introspection. If there is no alternative and you must move on, however, there are a few things to keep in mind.
If you have children, you need to help them understand that even though their parents are no longer going to be living together, you are both still their parents.
You also need to do your best not to argue with your spouse or discuss the divorce in front of them. Many children experience anxiety or depression when they know their parents are divorcing. You need to make the well-being of your children a priority.
With that said, the area where most divorcing couples have issues is with child custody and money. The best you can hope for is that both parties end up feeling that the settlement was a little bit unfair. In situations like this, there shouldn't be a winner. Letting it be a tie will create the least amount of conflict as you move ahead.
Also remember that even though you are no longer living together, you can continue to work together as parents.
I know several divorced couples who not only raise their children in a cooperative manner but also continue to work together as business partners.
If you can work together without rancor, the benefits are positive for everyone, and this new way of relating will make your life easier and more peaceful.
Most people are never 100 percent convinced that they should divorce.
You may always have a little doubt and some good memories. When you believe that you need to end your marriage, it usually doesn't feel very good.
If this happens to you, keep your focus on the future and get through this rough time with as little negativity as possible.
And remember to put the kids first, please.
(Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author of "The Happy Couple, How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.")