Life does not stop after divorce, it begins anew!
I am always interested in reading articles on how to have a “good” divorce. As if that is really possible given the presumption that one wants it and the other does not. However, we can always look to Hollywood for a guide, think Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin … and their “conscious uncoupling.” Then there is also Demi Moore and Bruce Willis who have claimed to still love each other even though they both went on to marry others.
But for us mere mortals, it isn’t so easy. We are instructed by our lawyers to play nice, not to lash out at the other spouse and to approach negotiations with a calm and level head.
But that dance takes two to tango.
And if you’re caught in a divorce with someone who is determined to not follow the rules, you better be ready to learn a new dance or you will be crushed.
A nasty divorce is where one partner is intent on making the experience as difficult and drawn-out as possible. Sometimes this is aggressive and overt as verbal battles are initiated and children are treated as weapons to wound the other spouse. Other nasty divorces are more subtle, with manipulations and quiet deceptions woven throughout depositions and discoveries with the goal of undermining and discrediting the other. Both types of nasty divorces are carried out by those with a lack of empathy, such as narcissists and sociopaths, but the frenzied emotions of divorce can trigger irrational behavior in even the most unflappable person.
There are also times when one spouse wants the divorce to be done and over with, but their soon-to-be-ex insists on dragging out the process to make them “pay,” or because they’re just bent on making the spouse’s life a living hell. Anyone who has been in this situation can attest to the daily nightmare that life becomes.
These types of divorces threaten more than your bank account; it attacks every facet of your existence, including your own sanity. But it is wise to remember, that even though you may be divorcing Attila the Hun, you control your own behavior.
As much as we’d like to, we can’t make the other side behave. So, it’s up to us to figure out what we want to do and how we want to approach the situation when the acrimony grows. This is why you need to pick your battles mindfully.
If you find yourself in the midst of a nasty divorce, here are some tips on choosing your battles:
Do Not Beat Yourself Up
First of all, do not beat yourself up. If for some reason you feel frustrated that the divorce is not going smoothly, or easily, or if you occasionally get down in the mud with your soon-to-be-ex: learn to forgive yourself. Divorce is a messy business with so many raw emotions we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemy, let alone ourselves. And if we feel confused, frustrated and panicked, even when we think we understand what’s going on from a legal standpoint, it is because we are human.
Am I fighting for something I absolutely need or am I looking for vengeance?
There are times when we are just so angry during the divorce process, and we feel the process is not going well or is not fair. During these times we may make the choice to project feelings of anger at our spouse in the only way we thing we can—by “getting back” at them. We will find ourselves in our lawyers’ offices or seeking advice online or with friends for ideas on how we can “make the ex-pay” for the hurt they have caused us. Instead of processing those emotions and separating them from the actual business transaction of divorce, we fall into the trap of projecting those emotions on physical, tangential items. If you find your spouse making unreasonable demands on you during the divorce, understand that they too may also be doing this, whether they know it or not—projecting their emotions onto something they think they can control—the ability to somehow hurt you or get back at you.
We all get caught up in the moment and in being righteous. If your soon-to-be-ex starts asking for his mother’s china (mine did) and “special glasses” from wherever, let him have them. That is something not worth the fight. Believe me, there will be much more important things you will be fighting for.
How Will the Battles I am Fighting for Now Impact My Future?
The business transaction of divorce part is difficult. Your lawyer may want you to fight for everything, but he/she has dollar signs on their brain. Your friends and family may tell you the same. The spouse you are divorcing may be acting unreasonably. Outside forces make it very hard sometimes for you to figure out what exactly you should be asking for, fighting for, and negotiating for during a divorce.
But at the end of the day, it is your decision what you should fight for, and what you should let go. And chances are you may not get everything you want or think you deserve. But it is important to remember that nobody “wins” during a divorce. Even if they make unreasonable demands and it drags out in the courts for years, the end result may likely mirror drained bank accounts, cashed-out 401-K’s, and stress inflicted on ourselves as well as our children that, despite years of therapy, may never be reconciled.
Choosing your divorce battles is a balancing act. If we fight for everything we may get all the assets we wanted, but at what cost? If we are drained and broke afterwards, then how can we start the new chapter in our lives mindfully, without the weight of hurt and resentment? Sometimes, we want to avoid conflict and give the spouse everything, which can harm us down the road. Other times, we will fight tooth and nail to “win” the divorce, and fight to maintain the illusion of control that no longer exists
At some point you need to take control where you can and just:
The sooner you accept the reality you’re in, the better off you will be. Your divorce won’t look like others you have heard about; let go of some preordained idea of what you expect to happen. Be ready for anything and assume nothing.
If you keep the focus on your future rather than on fairness you will come out with a better attitude and be ready for the next adventure life has in store for you.
Remember it is just stuff! You can’t take it with you!!
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