Remember the old game, “If you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring one album* what would it be?”
(* or DVD, or CD, or book, or movie, or friend…)
The first question, of course, is if you were stranded on a desert island, how did you have time to pack that favorite item? The second is if you had time to pack, is a form of entertainment really what you would choose first? Not survival gear? The third is if you knew you would be stranded, wouldn’t you cancel the trip to that desert island right away?
But, presuming that we suspend our disbelief and abide by the rules of the game, it does present an interesting question. What one form of entertainment offers you enough diversity and challenge that it could continue to be a pleasant experience well after all others would have worn thin? A Dickens novel, a recording of the London philharmonic playing Beethoven, or a live set of Miles Davis at Newport Jazz festival are some customary responses. Something so great and complex and encompassing that it would allow you to discover more about yourself and the world the more time you spent with it.
Consider this as the first question you should ask yourself when you know you are going to get a divorce. If you could only bring one item with you into the world after your divorce, what would it be? Consider, you are trading your old life for a new one, and that a lot of the old behavior patterns will no longer apply. Maybe “all” you want is the house. But do you want the house so badly that you would be willing to give away the furnishings in it? Or do you want a particular piece of art that the two of you acquired during the marriage? Maybe just your children, or your freedom, or your peace of mind is more valuable than any item in the world to you.
This is not to say that you will only be allowed to keep one thing. Chances are good that you will each be allowed to keep an equitable portion of the accumulated items and assets. The point is that not each and every item is of equal import. Do not fight about the toaster oven and the televisions and the motorboat and the house with equal fervor. Rather, decide in advance what one item matters to you most and let the rest of it be of equal non-importance to you.
Here is the caveat, though. Just because you know what one item matters most, does not necessarily mean you have to announce it at the beginning of your negotiations. Telling an angry spouse that he or she can easily prolong the fight by merely withholding one item could derail a lot of good intentions. Wait. See what the tenor of negotiations is going to be. When you are sure that you can safely identify your desert island item, do it. And be willing to leave the rest of it behind.
What We Love: Most material items are replaceable. Your happiness is unique and precious. Refuse to let anyone take away your happiness. Then even a desert island can become your own private paradise.
Sharon Oberst DeFala