As I’m writing this, I’ve been thinking about some of my clients. As a Divorce Coach, I see clients at their lowest ebb, but in the long term, they are all survivors. Traditionally, the model of divorce has been painful, costly, and time-consuming. It’s long over-due to re-evaluate this and look for a model that cuts time and costs and lowers the amount of pain endured.
The New Year is a time for reflection. Many make promises to themselves that they will lose weight, get fitter, be more optimistic. But for others, it’s a time to reflect on their relationship. Some will look at their relationship and decide to invest more time: time to explore, to travel, to spend more time together. However, for others, they may reach the conclusion that their relationship has gone as far as it can, and it’s time to go their separate ways: some willingly, others painfully. Traditionally January with its post-Christmas tensions has always been the peak month for inquiries about divorce, the post-summer-holidays in September is another peak month.
As a divorce coach, I see a lot of relationship breakdowns. There’s a general assumption that it’s inevitably going to be acrimonious and horribly expensive. But does it have to be so? Just saying the word divorce will make you think negative thoughts – guilt, pain, acrimony. Is it the fault of the couple, or the fault of the current system? Divorcing well or consciously uncoupling, a phrase made popular by Gwyneth Paltrow, should be the aim of every couple facing separation. After all, most couples want to navigate their divorce sensibly and without breaking the bank.
High conflict relationship breakdowns cause harm to the children and adults involved, so why do we allow it to happen? We have the power within us to stop harming ourselves and others. The way to divorce well is to approach it with the right mindset. Life is about to change. It may not be what you would have chosen, but it’s happening, so let’s do it with dignity, grace, and a sense of fairness.
The only way to consciously uncouple is to approach it together. Divorce should not be an adversarial win-lose encounter. That’s going to be very expensive and deprive you of money that could be better spent on a future separately. In adversarial cases, the only people who win are the lawyers.
How much better would it be to have a mission statement such as ‘Yes, we’re getting divorced, but we are going to do it as a team. We are going to keep our children at the center of the divorce not put them in the middle, and make sure that the money is used for their future, not lining the pockets of the lawyers.’
Except in cases where there has been abuse, either physical or coercive control, or where one partner is trying to hide assets, there is no reason why couples can’t be decent to each other and work it out together. Every separating couple needs legal advice because there are huge decisions to be made about the children and the finances, but lawyers don’t have all the skills needed to get through a divorce. Divorce is about so much more than the legal process. The biggest part of divorce is the emotional separation. It’s a moment when your lives change forever. You cannot and should not make long-term decisions from the emotional part of the brain. You need first-class emotional support from an impartial Certified Divorce Coach who can help you be emotionally ready in the early days of the divorce process. And for a fraction of the cost of a lawyer.
Engaging the services of a qualified divorce coach can help you prepare for the business of divorce. Repeatedly telling your divorce story to a lawyer for which they are not qualified to give advice is nothing more than a very expensive box of tissues. Much better to call your divorce coach for a moan, not only will they listen, but also, they can help you gain emotional strength and resilience to get through it. A good divorce coach will help you formulate the right questions to ask your lawyer, help you get the right paperwork together for your financial advisor, and even help you prepare a co-parenting agreement that works for everyone, especially the children.
The key to a good divorce is communication. Divorce might breed mistrust but this is usually because of a lack of communication. Speaking to individual lawyers rather than each other is only going to exacerbate this. Separation might give you the time and space to be honest with yourself and each other. Talking to a divorce coach can help smooth the waters, allowing you to open lines of communication by putting you in a better mindset. You have to remember that once the decree absolute is signed, the lawyers will disappear, leaving you alone to face the challenges of the aftermath. A divorce coach will be there as long as you need them and if you have children, you must remember that co-parenting is life-long so getting support early on to help you process your emotions will make this easier.
When divorces become tense and seem to go on forever, you really need a divorce coach to stop you from making some of the biggest mistakes you might ever make. Some of these include:
- Taking the ‘my way or the highway approach’ – not agreeing on principle is not only silly but also often results in angrily bypassing a good settlement and can prove to be very costly. Don’t be greedy. A coach will help you to find a solution that is acceptable all-round by getting you to think about what you need versus what you want.
- Throwing in the towel – getting so worn out by the whole process you just want it over at any cost. A good divorce coach will help you to get into the right mindset to work out a settlement that won’t see you having to go back to court post-divorce. They will help you focus on the future, not the past or the traumatic present, and help you identify what will help you get your long-term future sorted.
- Betting the farm on another relationship – even if you’ve been in a loveless marriage and have found another partner, a divorce coach will help you see that making short-term decisions based on an emotional need can have a significant impact on the future. There’s no guarantee that a new relationship will last past the early post-divorce days and where will you be then?
- Wanting guarantees and certainty – there’s no guarantee of what’s going to happen in a post-divorce financial future. You cannot take a victim role and assume the system will take care of you. A qualified divorce coach can go over a draft financial settlement and explain each clause to you or can refer you to a good financial planner who can help.
- Forgetting who the decision-makers are – it’s your divorce and only you and your spouse can make the final decisions. A good divorce coach will help you be strong enough not to abdicate decisions to a lawyer or a judge – you know what is best for your family. A judge will only make decisions based on statutes or case precedence and, because they are only human, some of their decisions may pass through a biased filter. Too often an adversarial lawyer will try to press for more, but all that does is cost more in time and money. Trust your instincts. A good divorce coach will ensure you are a credible client which will help you to work with the lawyer, mediator, or court and to be able to communicate your needs properly.
- Listening to the wrong people – no two divorces are the same. It’s important not to take advice from friends and family, no matter how well-meaning they are. You need a good divorce team around you – Legal support, financial support, emotional support from your coach, and social support from good friends.
A divorce, for most couples, is the biggest surrender of assets they make in their lifetime, so yes you need legal and financial advice, but think about how you get it. What state of mind are you in? Work with a good divorce coach who will stop you from making a big mistake like one of those six above.
Be hopeful. This is a fresh start. It’s natural to feel sad, guilty, bereft, and anxious, but it’s also possible to feel optimistic and free. Focus on creating your new perfect future and surround yourself with positive people who will buoy you up and in time you’ll not just survive but actually thrive.
As the song, Fighter says:
You probably think that I hold resentment for you
But uh-uh, oh no, you’re wrong
‘Cause if it wasn’t for all that you tried to do
I wouldn’t know just how capable I am to pull through
So I wanna say thank you
‘Cause it makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
Makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter
Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter