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Lesson 35: How Decision Making Can Go Wrong in Divorce

Divorce is a traumatic event and suddenly the safety, predictability and meaning of life changes. The divorce could have been building up with deception, concern or conflict about finances, feeling a lack of respect, unmet expectations, and poor communication resulting in conflict and creating an environment which may have an adverse effect on the wellbeing of children. Add to that external stressors generated by something like a pandemic, social unrest, and a global financial upheaval, and divorce is sometimes an outcome of all of this.

This causes someone to feel very out of balance. We know then the brain senses something out of balance, the reptilian brain senses danger and come to the rescue with a threat response.

It might be natural for someone reeling from the emotional impact of so many changes, so many threats, and a feeling of powerlessness over all of these circumstances, to let the reptilian brain dictate what you need to get back in balance:

  • certainty
  • guarantees
  • revenge
  • blame
  • shame
  • full custody
  • generous maintenance
  • emotional justice
  • people on my side
  • The feeling that the system should take care of this unfairness and injustice.

Normally the more logical and creative and realistic part of the brain can take over here and recognize that the relationship is broken and that even if the divorce is only a threat, the relationship needs to be redefined to one that works for both parties.

The reptilian brain is hampering the ability for you to be able to use your creative, problem solving brain and what prevails are:

limiting beliefs, assumptions, digging your heels in, throwing in the towel, being close-minded, betting the farm on another relationship, and resistance to seeking expert advice. The this type of individual only sees the option as to go it alone and hire someone who will fight a good fight for them.

This almost certainly results in a long and costly court battle or one or the other of the parties settling for whatever crumbs they can get and harboring bitterness and resentment as you move into creating the next chapter of your life.

The individual feeling alone and powerless may encounter many obstacles which further reinforce the feeling that you are a victim – Notice the bad egos and bad actors (often your own attorney or spouse), bad decisions and bad information (from friends, family, other advisors), and bad understanding of what the implications might be for these decisions. This is the Victim Mindset which resists taking any responsibility for what is happening.
This victim mindset and focus outward on who or what to blame results in your decision-making being sabotaged by acrimonious responses to offers, adversarial reactions to your advisors, aggressive retaliation toward your spouse or whoever it was that was at fault, or you abdicate your decision-making by deferring to another because you may feel unable, unwilling or paralyzed and overwhelmed, and you assume bad intent all the way around including perhaps destroying your own self-esteem by disparaging comments about your ability to do this.

Getting Clear on What is Most Important to You 

Another critical element in helping make the best possible decisions is to be clear about what is important to you and how you want to view yourself after you get some distance. And if you have children, to identify how you want to demonstrate for them how one gets through the rough spots which they will inevitably experience in life. Having a plan may include creating a manifesto for yourself about how you want to be seen by yourself and others during the divorce; how you want to interact with others; what values you want to live; how your children will be impacted during and after divorce; and what kind of relations you will have as co-parents or as a continuing member of the family or of the community that you and your spouse both shared.he drama of divorce can cause people to focus all of their time and energy getting “emotional justice” from a court system that only provides a legal process that adheres to laws and precedents. We have all heard stories of people that have spent all of their assets defending their right to their share. When the divorce is settled outside of the courtroom, and roughly 95% are settled out of court, you may end up close to the equitable split where both parties feel equally unhappy with the outcome. And, if you are clear about your priorities and can communicate with the other person, you may find that you each have different priorities and want different things which will help you each to move on beyond the divorce settlement. Think about the longer-term view of life – and how you want to feel two, five or ten years from now. 

©Certified Divorce Coach Program-Divorce Coaching Inc.

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