Perspective. I recently met with a group of marital and family therapists. Perspective is their job, right? They listen to a woman wonder whether she should divorce a man who loves her unconditionally but doesn’t communicate well, she leaves the therapist’s office and a man walks in whose wife is physically and verbally abusive, but he would never dream of using the “D” word.
Here are some guidelines I have noticed. The toughest decision is the very first one: in or out? Do I want to stay in this marriage, and work through whatever this is, or have I given everything there is to give? I think this should be the factors that they have to balance. Not – how much will it cost? How long will it take? Will it be painful? The answers are all worst case scenario – it will take longer than you want; it will cost more than you can afford, and – yes – it will be painful.
So what? All of those are the same answers one could give about having children: costs too much, takes too long, definitely painful (whether you are the mother or the father.) But those are not the deciding factors on whether or not to have children. Or we would have a much more sparsely populated planet.
Frequently, there is one person who wants a divorce and one person who is completely blind-sided by it. In general, the person who is blind-sided is the one who was getting the good deal all along. The person who wants a divorce has probably grappled and struggled with the decision for months, if not years, before finally deciding that the problems are insurmountable.
Obviously, this is not always true. Plenty of selfish louts decide for reasons of pure self-interest to get out of the marriage. And plenty of devoted hard-working spouses want to stay together anyway.
The threats usually start when someone is trying to take away the good deal.
The goal of a good divorce is to get through it as quickly, painlessly, and inexpensively as possible, while maintaining one’s ability to move forward in life. Too often, we see people who are afraid of “losing everything” in the divorce, instead spending everything in the divorce. When it’s all over, what is the difference? They would rather see their lawyer make $25k or $30k on a divorce than get one penny less than their fair share. By the time the smoke clears, the lawyers have each picked up $30,000 and the nest egg is gone. No wonder people are afraid to get divorced!
Ironically, the people who have the best divorces are the ones who are confident in their ability to survive it and move on. Whereas, the ones who are afraid that it will devastate them, are frequently the ones who make things worse by hanging on to their fear and anger. Please help your clients visualize the outcome – a new smaller, cleaner condo; some money in the bank; being poised and gracious at the kid’s graduations, recitals & weddings, etc.
People who think they will fight to the death over any given matter, suddenly lose their will to fight when all of the money is gone, and by then, of course, it is too late. And not just for financial reasons. It is harder to respect someone who has dragged you over the coals to get at a family heirloom, or keep you from seeing your children, or even your pet.
Divorces can last years, and the longer they last the more damage they do, and the more money they cost.
One major reason, is that the legal track cannot really get ahead of the emotional track. Until both parties are tired enough of the fighting, it is possible to prolong the process for years. I have seen people have custody battles over a dog, an engagement ring, and – no lie – a weed whacker. If you feel the need to fight, you can.
What We Love: Perspective. It is never too late to get some.