Loosing The Children: Dividing up the children is especially painful, even in the most harmonious of divorces. At the extreme, of course, is a custody fight in which one parent will definitely become the winner, the other the loser. But in all divorces involving children, each parent loses a little. The noncustodial parent, even if he sees his children a great deal, loses the day-to-day contact with them and has little or no say in what decisions the co-parent makes concerning schooling, religious training, or even discipline.
The custodial parent, on the other hand, loses control of the children while they are visiting the other parent and has no say in what influences or different life-styles are being brought to bear on the children, unless, in the eyes of the court, such differences are thought to be harmful to the children. Even though a single parent may yearn to get out from under the responsibilities of child rearing, it is still very difficult to let the reins go. The situation becomes particularly explosive when another partner for the mother or the father enters the picture and has contact with the children. Many divorced parents never make it entirely through the phase of loosening their control over the children, even though they have successfully managed to give up each other.
Giving Up The Material Stuff: This can be one of the toughest phases of divorce because the object here is tangible and not abstract. There is nothing a person can do to make another love her (or him) or to keep that person from loving someone else. But when it comes down to dividing a shared property, from a fishing cabin in Maine to an ashtray bought in Morocco, concrete victories can be won, and thus antagonisms may boil. Suddenly, something that has always been "ours" becomes "yours" or "mine."
The disputed property is real, not only in terms of economic worth, but as a sentimental souvenir of happier times. Such division of things is even further complicated by the couple's different attitudes toward "his" and "her" property. He may have loved the fishing cabin in Maine because of the leisure time spent on the water. She may have loved it just as much, but because it was the only place she found time to paint. He may want the ashtray because he bargained the price down to $2.00. She may want it because it is the precise color of red she has always loved and rarely found.
Just as some relationships are eroded to the breaking point by such petty actions as leaving the top off the toothpaste, the stages of divorce, which have gone smoothly enough up to now, may explode with mushroom cloud force over the dispersal of the spoils of marriage. After all, even a bad marriage is a part of one's history, and everybody wants the best of the artifacts.