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Negotiating a divorce might feel like a minefield, but you need to prioritize over what battles you would like to fight, for your own sanity.
While dealing with fights during a divorce, it’s normal to feel like you are getting dragged through the mud for months — even years — wondering if it will ever end.
Couples fight over almost everything – who’s responsible for paying off the credit cards, who gets the children during Christmas, who keeps the family grill — the list is infinite.
While some arguments are inevitable, it’s important to remember that fighting over everything will only prolong your anger and frustration and drain your savings. Knowing how to pick your battles can be as tricky as wandering a minefield while blindfolded, but it’s not impossible.
The following suggestions will help you navigate when the drama comes up.
Culturally, we are conditioned to view divorce like a boxing match, where the two opposing sides should do whatever they can to come out on top. Many high conflict divorce lawyers encourage their clients to fight for everything: all the assets, complete custody, etc. While there are some extenuating circumstances where this approach may be appropriate, it should not be the standard way of doing things.
It’s easy to fall into this battle trap, but is it what you really want? When you are forced to make business decisions during such an emotional time, you may act out of spite and try to ‘get back’ at your spouse.
But why? Attempting to ‘win’ doesn’t make you a winner at the end — it will instead cost you in legal fees, inflict additional stress on you and your children, and possibly prolong your divorce. You may get the upper hand from a litigation standpoint – but at what cost to you, your emotional health, and your chance to move on with your life?
Do not beat yourself up when you feel frustrated during the split. Divorce is a messy business transaction that collides with emotions you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy.
If you feel like you’re getting hit by a freight train every day, it’s because you’re human. Separating from your partner and the life you had together leaves even the strongest people in a panic. But in spite of the chaos, remember that you will get through this, and you don’t have to let uncertainty and anger and fighting to get ‘your way’ define who you are.
Answering this question truthfully gives you a better understanding of what you feel is non-negotiable when choosing which battles to fight. Everyone’s situation is different, and each person must figure out for him or herself what is truly worth the time and emotional energy to battle over.
These factors may include alimony, savings, child support, fair division of debt, temporary spousal support, and protection orders if there is any type of endangerment.
Determining what you really need versus what you would like to have takes a lot of honesty and self-discipline, and it’s crucial to advocate for the thing you need, not the things you think you are owed.
Divorces drag sometimes due to division of assets that have nothing to do with money. Legal battles have gone on as couples fight for possession of the things that hold sentimental value to both of them (family photographs, heirlooms).
Although it wouldn’t leave you destitute to lose these things, you would feel deeply wounded, since they remind you of happier times. We may also make special demands as a way of exercising control.
This behavior is natural – because we are human and have emotions and and desires. But the key is to understand why we truly want these things, so we can prioritize and determine where to best spend our time and energy.
Anger may cause you to project bitter feelings at our spouse in the only way you can—by ‘getting back’ at them. You will find yourself in the lawyer’s office soliciting advice on how to ‘make the ex pay’ for the hurt they have caused. Trying to extract revenge on your spouse, although understandable if you have not learned to deal with hurt, is completely infantile. You’re better than that.
Although you cannot control how your spouse behaves during this process, you can work on acting rationally yourself. Remember, the smoother the divorce goes, the faster you can move on with your life.
It is important to remember that nobody ‘wins’ during a divorce. A case can drag out for years with the only thing to show for it being a drained bank account, and stress inflicted on yourself and your children that may never be reconciled.
That is not to say you shouldn’t stick up for yourself. But before you begin a legal, emotional, and financial Battle Royale, you must consider how you will feel about this one, ten, and even twenty years down the road.
If you are drained and broke after fighting, how can you start the new chapter in your life? You must balance advocating for yourself while fighting the urge to maintain an illusion of control that no longer exists.
Your lawyer may want you to fight for everything. Your friends and family may say the same. Your spouse may be acting unreasonably.
Outside forces make it very hard to figure out what we should be asking and negotiating for during a divorce. But at the end of the day, it’s your decision what’s worth fighting for, and what’s worth letting go. The key is to be honest with yourself, kind to yourself, and mindful of the new chapter in your life that you can look forward to once this difficult journey ends.
Let those points guide you in spending your time, money, and emotional energy.
Image source: negotiating a divorce by Shutterstock.
Martha Bodyfelt is a divorce coach whose website, Surviving Your Split, helps women navigate their
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