Divorce is a process that can take on a life of its own, sweeping you along with it until the dissolution date. If you aren’t intentional about your desired outcomes, you may wake up the day after it is over wondering what the bleep just happened.
Having gone through my own divorce last year, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to deal with the extreme range of emotions while at the same time going through the legal process. It is easy to fall into being reactive instead of proactive.
“Live life by design not by default” is the mantra within the efficacy coaching practice at Korn Ferry. It is what we drill into our clients as we challenge them to be intentional about their choices and the goals they select in order to take ownership of their careers.
Get Clear About Your Desired Outcomes
This credo equally applies to divorce. What does a divorce by design look like? Getting clear about your desired outcomes and making consistent choices throughout the divorce process that align with those outcomes. Even if you felt blindsided when your spouse filed papers, you do not have to stay in the defensive position. You can take the reins and empower yourself through the choices you make. How do you do this?
- Gather information (knowledge)
Knowledge is power as we have all heard a million times. In the last two posts, I talked about the importance of knowing your legal and financial options. Once you better understand what these are, you are ready to take a breath and pause.
You’ll find great power in pausing. Pausing allows you to be responsive instead of reactive. Pausing prevents knee-jerk reactions such as blurting, “I want the house!” before considering whether you will have the time, means or energy to maintain it.
(I use this example because in interviewing newly divorced women, the majority said if they had to choose again, they would have taken the money and bought a condo. Many said they found it overwhelming to deal with childcare, work and home maintenance as a newly single person.)
What Does Your Life Look Like The Day After Your Divorce?
Pausing also allows you the space to think about what your life may look like the day after your divorce is final. Considering this will influence what outcomes are important for you. You may ask yourself:
“Will I have the time, energy or means to maintain a house or am I better selling it as part of the divorce and buying a condo or renting for a while?”
“Do I want to stay tied to my ex through alimony payments?”
“What can I do now to set the stage for a smooth co-parenting plan?”
“What are the really important outcomes I need to achieve for me and for my children that will have the most impact financially and emotionally?”
“What part are my emotions playing in my desired outcomes? What are my motivations?”
Once you have gotten clear about your desired outcomes, divide them into three buckets with the labels:
The optimal category contains everything possible that you hope your spouse agrees to.
The non –negotiable bucket contains the outcomes you absolutely need to achieve. These are outcomes that your attorney has said are within your rights and your financial planner has said are a priority for your financial well-being. These are also important for you emotionally.
Finally, the livable bucket contains compromises. These are the outcomes that while not optimal, you will accept without spending more money and time to fight.
Get Clear About What Matters To You
Creating these buckets is an important exercise for several reasons.
First, they reflect your values – what is important to you. Being clear about your values allows you to focus your energy on what matters and let the little stuff go.
Second, once clear about what matters, you can be more strategic and less reactive in your responses to your spouse. It is not realistic to get everything you want. And sometimes when an attorney says you are entitled to x, you may not always think through the consequences of getting x.
For example, if it is important to your emotional health to cut ties with your spouse, you may decide to forego collecting alimony even if you are eligible. How can this decision then help you gain leverage in an area that is very important to you?
Finally, it is important to have these buckets so that you can communicate them to your attorney or mediator. It will save you money if your professionals know best how to target their time and energy on your behalf. In understanding what is important to you, they can also remind you if you temporarily forget in the heat of the moment and are tempted to change course.
Being intentional about your divorce outcomes will lessen the likelihood for regrets later. There is so much to grieve when your marriage falls apart. You don’t want to add a settlement that will cause you to scratch your head and wonder why you ever agreed to it. This can lead to more money and trips back to court which will prolong your pain and prevent you from moving forward into your new life.
If you are in the Hartford, Connecticut area and would like referrals to attorneys, financial planners or mental health professionals, write me.