At the end of the day, I think it all comes down to emotions. If people didn’t have strong emotions around the issues of divorce, it would be relatively straightforward to divide assets and debts equitably. A solid parenting plan that takes into account the realities of a family and their needs could be written up in an afternoon by a good mediator or attorney. In fact, these days you could probably ask ChatGPT to whip up a Separation Agreement that the court would sign off on.
But it’s simply not that easy, is it?
We are emotional creatures. And when we start talking about shifting around the base components of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (ie. our ability to keep ourselves alive, housed, and fed or our need to experience order, predictability, and control in our lives), things get scary fast. If you think you are about to experience homelessness, or won’t be able to pay your bills, or are worried about losing control of your time with your kids, even the most stable of us might freak out.
And that’s when things go off the rails. That’s why people will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a legal team or have a divorce that lasts for years. Unfortunately, there is an entire industry that capitalizes on these very basic fears and even fans the flames, increasing conflict and cost for families across the country. Why? Well, increased conflict drives cost and billable hours. Sounds jaded, I know, but it’s something that I see over and over again and it’s one of the main reasons I do what I do.
Increasing conflict doesn’t help the parties and certainly doesn’t make life better for children. It decreases the ability of parents to effectively co-parent. It increases the odds of post-divorce litigation. It leaves families with less money and fewer assets after the divorce. It feeds into the burgeoning cultural trend of distrust, paranoia, and general animosity. It scares the parties and, in turn, radiates that fear and anger out into the community, feeding fear and anxiety and mistruths about divorce. It stokes unhelpful dialog on the internet about misunderstood but trendy topics like “narc abuse” and “parental alienation”.
IMHO, there aren’t enough divorce professionals out there helping parties manage their hot buttons, regulate their emotions, improve communication skills, and learn how to manage conflict effectively - skills that we need not just in divorce, but in navigating our personal, private, and professional lives every day.
One thing that I find myself telling people over and over again is “don’t make decisions based on fear or anger” - especially during a divorce. Instead, find ways to manage your emotions, communication, and conflict - even if your spouse or divorce professionals can’t. I’ll be talking throughout the upcoming months about hot buttons and building conflict resolution skills on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms. You can also read this post right now for some ideas on how to get started.
Why is it on the top of the “most stressful things in a person’s life” list?