You remember those parties that at the end of the night, when everyone has gone, and the lights are on, and there is just a mess lying everywhere, and you know you should go to bed, but instead you linger? Not quite cleaning up; done eating, drinking, and dancing. Just sort of wandering through your home, righting a knocked picture, mopping up a spilled drink, and letting the sounds and sights of the night playback in your brain like a highlights reel?
Sometimes that is the exact sensation that slows down a divorce process. When the couple has decided that they no longer want to be married; and they have already hashed-out the big ideas of their divorce, such as who will live where, who will pay whom how much, and when. Really, all that is left to do is vacuum the spilled confetti, turn out the lights and call it a night. But, yet, in a way this moment is the most difficult. After the fighting has been largely resolved, and the conversations have become civil, almost tender, again, the true cost of what they have lost becomes more apparent.
Now, while we are NOT fighting, while we remember why we were friends in the first place, this is the time that we least want to turn out the lights and walk away.
And, so, ironically, it is when people frequently find ONE MORE THING to fight about! “Oh, wait, I just remembered the bill he didn’t pay in October 2008 – I want recompense!” Or, “Hey – did we decide who is keeping the cats? Who says the cats have to stay with the house?” And, “My painting! He can keep it, but I want an appraisal and the he has to pay me half the value.” Etc. The last minute revelations can be endless.
Matters that could be easily resolved by a quick telephone call, or a side conversation after the Agreements are signed and the divorce is finalized somehow work their way center stage and become an opportunity for people to fight again, or agree again, or acquiesce out of generosity again. It can be way for the memories – and the good feelings – to linger a little longer.
Unfortunately, it can also backfire. If someone has held his or her breath, and played nicely, and done everything they needed to do to make this end, and then they are asked to give up just one more thing – a cat, a painting, an extra weekend of visitation with their kids – it can be the final straw. The moment in which everyone realizes that this may never end! “If I keep giving in, I may end up homeless with no clothes! When does it stop??”
Just because your lawyer does not tell you to stop asking for things, and just because your spouse is still speaking nicely to you, does not necessarily mean that the party is still going on. Smart people with happy post-divorce lives are people who stopped looking for more stuff, even when there could have been an extra party hat lying underneath a chair someplace; called it a night and went to bed. There is always tomorrow.
What We Love: That final moment of civility which, if treated carefully, can last the rest of your lives.