Beware of Magical Thinking in Divorce
Many people who come to see me seem to think one or all of the following myths about divorce:
- Divorce is going to be the answer to all my problems.
- Divorce will cost me money and be an unpleasant process, but after it’s final, I will be just fine and so will the kids.
- After the divorce, I will be able to continue at the same standard of living.
If you believe in any of the statements above, watch out. This is confusing divorce with fairy dust, and you shouldn’t dive into divorce until you understand the truth about the process.
Divorce Isn’t the Ultimate Solution to Your Problems
The truth is that divorce is not going to solve all of your problems. In fact, it’s likely to cause more, as it’s a drastic, painful, and potentially costly decision to make.
Divorce means choosing between imperfect options. When a couple divorces, no one gets what they signed up for. It is the death of their dream. It is common for each party to think, “Life isn’t being fair, so there should be some compensation somewhere, right?”
Well, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but life is not fair, and nearly everyone thinks they are getting the short end of the stick during a divorce.
Emotional Processing Will Continue Long After Divorce
Immediately following the divorce, you will not be just fine; it takes a long time to emotionally process what just happened, and this is certainly true for your children as well.
Signing the documents to make the divorce official is simply a formality– it has little bearing on the emotional toll that the enormous life change of divorce brings. There will be a long adjustment after divorce for both spouses and, especially, for children.
Divorce is a legal settlement. The emotional settlement from divorce can take years and years to accomplish. Here’s what Judith Wallerstein had to say in the book she co-authored with Sandra Blakeslee, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25-year Landmark Study:
“Divorce begins with the escalating distress of the marriage breaking apart–– a crisis that often peaks when divorce papers are finally filed and served. It creates several years of disequilibrium for everyone in the family. Many parents say that low point doesn’t occur until two years after the divorce … and if you are yourself a child of divorce, your own journey down this road will be complicated by your earlier life experiences.”
This is why mediation, marriage and family counseling, and therapy are such desirable options– these practices offer more emotional consideration and helps manage individual and familial emotional strife.
Divorce Means a Change to Your Standard of Living
Unless you are extremely wealthy in your own right, you are going to have to get used to watching your pennies and taking your lifestyle down several notches.
In about one out of every 50 divorce cases I handle, a couple will ask me to mediate their divorce but after we delve into financial details and paint a picture of life after divorce, they realize they can’t afford it. They go back home, and sometimes, three or four years later, they come back for a mediated divorce, only this time with clearer, more realistic thinking.
This is not to say that you should stay married just because a divorce would mean that you have to decrease your standard of living. But you should consider ways to solve standard-of-living issues without going to the extreme of divorce.
If the amount of family income is the issue, either you could explore the possibility of earning more or spending less. If your spouse is the only breadwinner, you could explore the possibilities for you to earn income also. And if you are convinced you need to divorce, there are ways to approach it that will not result in one or both individuals falling into poverty.
If you are seriously considering divorce, you need to have a firm understanding of the emotional consequences, financial implications, and other issues that will arise as a result of divorce. By communicating with an experienced divorce lawyer and mediator like myself, you invite an analysis of the best path to processing your marital issues.
For more insight into divorce, read my book 7 Secrets from the Divorce Whisperer: Saving Yourself, Your Money and Your Children During Divorce available for purchase on Amazon.