As a collaborative divorce attorney, I am interested by all ideas around conflict resolution. When it comes to this topic, I especially think mental health professionals get it “right,” given their training and experience. Recently, I stumbled upon an article written by a clinical psychologist and marriage counselor, Dr. Susan Heitler, that really resonated with me. In the article, Heitler discussed eight guidelines for divorcing well. Here are just a few of her thoughts:
Find a non-blaming way to understand what led to your break-up
Breaking up can lead to all sorts of emotions – anger, resentment, disappointment, anxiety and guilt are just a few. Instead of going to “war” in your divorce process, with attempts to get even, begin with building an honest understanding of what you and your spouse each did that led to your break up. Aim to find an understanding that is descriptive rather than judgmental.
Learn skills for collaborative dialogue and shared decision-making
Most divorcing couples handle the divorce with the same mistaken strategies that ruined their marriage. Learn and use the skills that were missing in your marriage relationship if you want the divorce settlement process to stay cooperative.
In the settlement agreement, aim for what you can “live with”
Aiming to get more than your fair share can be tempting, especially if you felt you have been wronged, and if you have a spouse who tends to be overly generous. Two wrongs don’t make a right. With divorcing couples, time and time again, agreements that are based on selfishness, stinginess, or overly generous settlements tend to come back to bite you both.
Treat divorce as a gradual process, not a one-time action
Divorce is like a large, round and bitter pie with many slices that all need to be digested. Give yourself time to gradually work through a full disengagement process. As for the first piece to digest, it’s best to have broken-up emotionally. Once you have accepted that the marriage is over, learned from your mistakes and reached a point of willingness to let your spouse go his or her own way, it will be easier to move on to your next “piece” and discuss the settlement.
Remember that there is life after divorce
Divorce can be experienced as shame and failure. However, it can also bring relief from old antagonisms and be a chance to heal long-standing wounds and an opportunity for learning, growth and an improved life situation. The choice is yours.
Tagged with: collaborative process • communication • conflict resolution • divorce choices • divorce with dignity • peaceful divorce