Divorce easily ranks among the hardest things most people ever endure. It’s right up there with grieving the loss of a loved one. In fact, it can take you through many of the same emotions. In many ways, divorce is a death—the death of a close relationship—and maybe even more than one.
Your emotions may threaten to overwhelm you. It’s common to go through periods of grief, guilt, anxiety and self-doubt. And at the same time, you’ll be asked to make tough, life-altering decisions.
Stress and important decisions rarely mix well
The problem is that stress rarely leads to good decision-making. On the contrary, stress can lead to reactive and premature decisions. As the Harvard Business Review noted, people under stress often react prematurely. They may assume their choices are binary and overlook other, potentially better options.
In divorce, this might mean moving forward with a settlement that’s not quite ready, just to get things over with. Or it might mean giving up on mediation before you’ve tried alternate approaches. It’s possible the decision might work, and as Forbes notes, you might even be happy with it in the short-term. However, you risk sacrificing your future.
The truth is that your settlement isn’t just about a house, a car or a dollar amount. It’s not just about the percent of time you’ll spend with your kids, when they’ll be with you for the holidays or if you’ll get to choose which school they attend. It’s about your chance for future happiness.
Steps you can take to achieve your goals
The good news is that as soon as you acknowledge the way stress may affect your decision-making, you’re on the upward path. When you know how stress can push you to one or another extreme, you can take steps to broaden your view. These may include:
- Define your goals. You can’t meet your goals if you don’t know what they are. Clear goals and priorities can serve as your compass in even the most trying times.
- Work with an attorney who listens. Once you set your goals, you want to make sure your attorney is on the same page. You want an attorney who will listen, understand and help you achieve those goals.
- Step back to consider your options. You may think in terms of property division and child custody, but divorce is about your life. You want to consider the different angles rather than rushing ahead.
- The more you prepare, the more likely you’ll be ready to take advantage of the choices you’re given. The less likely you’ll be surprised. And even when you are, you’ll still know where to aim.
This is a lot for anyone to process, especially while you’re going through one of the toughest times in your life. That’s why you want an attorney you can trust, as well as a solid support group. You need to enjoy time with your friends and relaxing activities. You need to clear your head. Divorce will threaten to swallow your life, and you can’t let it.
Your life after divorce
The divorce process doesn’t last forever. You may not always see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s still there, waiting for you. The question is: What will you find once you get out? Will you sell yourself short to get done early? Will you face years of co-parenting with an ex whom you’ve alienated during bitter courtroom battles? Or will you find yourself suddenly free—the weight lifted off your shoulders—and ready to take advantage of all that life has to offer?
In the end, your divorce is about the future. It’s about the type of life you hope to live after the papers are done and signed. And the best way to reach the future you desire is by making good decisions.