Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Taking the High Road -- 9 Tips to Guide You

Divorce can be one of life's most stressful events, even in the best of circumstances. Some divorces are handled in a fairly civilized manner (Collaborative Law is a great way to accomplish that), but many divorces, unfortunately, are nasty, drawn-out and expensive procedures. If you or a loved one are about to go through a divorce, here are some tips to help minimize the difficulties of divorce.

1. Don't do things to just annoy your spouse. That's not to say you need to agree to everything your spouse wants. What this refers to is choosing not to antagonize your spouse by demanding the picture he or she has always loved, or by saying things you know will embarrass or humiliate your spouse, etc. Everyone knows buttons they can push -- Just Don't Do It! You may get some brief feeling of pleasure, but your spouse most likely will respond similarly, and maybe at a higher level. There's no real benefit to escalating the conflict.

2. Don't respond when your spouse does something just to annoy you. Take the advice that you may have given kids. Just ignore it and s/he will probably quit doing it. Going back and forth fighting with each other is childish and doesn't help you progress toward a final settlement. You may feel that you are entitled to respond in kind, but it really doesn't help you. To avoid the unpleasantness you sometimes (or often) experienced during your marriage, you have to be the adult and break the cycle of conflict.

3. Keep the children out of the middle. No messages sent. No using them as a pawn. Think long term here. The disputes are between two adult parents, not the kids, but the kids can be damaged by the adults' fighting. Do what you can to keep the kids out of the middle and you will have a happier family.

4. Don't waste money doing unnecessary things, fighting over insignificant things or arguing for things that you will clearly lose. Think about the costs of fighting. Financially, is it worthwhile to spend attorneys' time and your money fighting over inexpensive or easily replaced items? There are many issues in divorces and they aren't all created equal. Some are much more significant than the others. You should focus on the important ones.

5. Act mature even if no one else does. It's harder to fight with a person who doesn't fight back than with someone who seems to relish the contest of wills. Besides, your family, friends and children will recognize and reward your efforts in the long run. Be a model for adult behavior and help yourself in your recovery from the effects of divorce. Keep in mind higher goals for yourself and don't allow yourself to be sidetracked by someone trying to pick a fight. You will come out in better shape and save yourself time and money. You don't have to mimic or match someone else's bad behavior.

6. Don't just complain or whine, figure out constructive steps you can take to get a good result. Sometimes it is hard to figure out how to get out of the ditch. Problems can seem overwhelming and solutions unreachable. If that's the case, get help. Talk with a therapist, a life coach, a mentor, your attorney, a teacher or maybe some reasonable friends. (I added the "reasonable" qualification because sometimes friends aren't the most helpful.) Figure out some goals for yourself and take some action. Even a little step forward is progress. Doing nothing will get you going backwards, if you're not careful. Get some exercise and try to get healthier. That makes it easier to get started.

7. Pay attention to your lawyer more than you do your family and friends. Your friends can give you advice for free, but you get what you pay for. They don't really know all the facts of your case and don't know the law as well as your attorney does. They also don't have the working knowledge of the judge, the local court system and the other lawyer that an experienced attorney will have. Your friends may be well intentioned, but they often can really cause problems by providing bad advice and pushing the wrong actions. Attorneys aren't perfect, but they do generally have a better long-term perspective than friends do.

8. Figure out your goals -- what's really important to you -- and what you need to do to accomplish them. And then take action. When your life is in transition, it's a good idea to set a target, your goals, and plan how you can accomplish them. Think about it some and put your goals in writing. They don't have to be perfect -- you can revise them as you work on them. You may try one thing and then decide that something else is more appealing or important. What's important is to have a purpose and a plan, and then take action. Get help from trusted advisers, if you need to, but get started thinking about the future in specific, concrete ways. Stop just reacting to what's thrown at you. Start planning and initiating your own activities.

9. Don't limit yourself to just standardized solutions to problems. Open up your mind and be creative so that your needs can be met. Setting lofty goals is sometimes daunting, but use your imagination and come up with your own creative solutions. Don't limit yourself. Be open to trying out "ridiculous" ideas. Sometimes they work best and they can be fun.

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