Part 4: How to get, gain, assume and maintain control of your divorce

The following is the fourth and last installment in the four-part series that discusses how to get, gain, assume and maintain control of your divorce. The first segment covered "getting" control; the second focused on "gaining" control, while the third addressed "assuming" control. This final installment will feature "maintaining" control.

By Stacy D. Phillips
Updated: September 25, 2014
Family Lawyers


In this final tutorial on how to control your divorce, I wish to cover the how-to's of maintaining control once you have gotten, gained or assumed it with regard to your divorce and the situations and circumstances surrounding it.

The divorce process for the majority of those who go through it is an arduous task as some days you are up and may feel as though you have a grip, even euphoric; on other days you may be down and feel like you are going to lose it! Do not worry, most of those going through divorce experience the same "see-saw" effect. Misery does not have to love company, but those suffering appreciate it knowing others are suffering, too.

On those down days, trying to keep both your cool and your equilibrium can seem almost impossible. But, the ability to manage on an even-keel and maintain control of the chaos around you (not to mention the feelings and angst you may be suffering within) is what will keep you functioning well and provide you much-needed peace of mind.

The goal then is to work at finding reasonable ways to maintain control despite the atmosphere around you -- inner and outer conditions that may serve to throw you off kilter.

As I have done in the previous discussions in this series on the topic of controlling your divorce, before I present my questions I first want to offer another Webster definition. Though Webster has several definitions for the word "maintain," the following definition best fits my message as it relates to the content and context of divorce and one's ability or efforts to control the person. He says, to maintain is... to keep unimpaired or in proper condition."

I am sure it sounds reasonable and makes perfect sense, but the trick is in taking Webster's definition and applying the overall concept to you when it comes to how you handle the day-to-day travails of your divorce; maintaining on a consistent basis. When your ex calls and starts screaming at you or threatens to destroy your credit, or the children act out their anger at you because they do not understand why both their parents cannot get along, or you find yourself trying to make ends meet when you have the same bills and less money to pay them, or your former in-laws begin to meddle, the idea of maintaining any semblance of order or peace may seem like a real stretch.

There are those who are able to maintain -- keep their cool -- as their divorce chaos seems to take center stage. How do they do it? There is no silver bullet, but over the years I have listened to my clients and gathered suggestions from them. Their tricks and secrets along with some of my own, taken from my book on the subject of divorce and control -- methods I believe, often practiced -- can restore your peace of mind if it is slipping away, or at a minimum help you get back on track.

Before you consider my suggestions, I want you to determine if you are constantly, frequently or infrequently out of control and unable to "maintain" control of your divorce. Answer the following:

  • Are you constantly distracted to the point of being unable to function productively by the goings-on of your divorce?
  • Some days do you feel charged up and capable and other days drained and useless. Which scenario dominates most days in your week?
  • Does your mood depend on how your divorce is going?
  • Do you feel constant temptation to engage in a Divorce War?
  • Is your breathing rapid; your blood pressure raised; your anxiety level high?
  • Do you find the only time you have some peace of mind is when you nap or turn in for the night?
  • Do you wake up throughout the night worried, angry or tense; can you sleep at all?
  • Are you obsessing over the details of your divorce?

I think you know where I am going with the "yes" answers to these questions! Naturally, when you go through a divorce you will no doubt have episodes of feeling down and out, or frustrated or downright angry. But, as I mentioned in my other three segments in this series, it is important to get, gain, and assume control; now my goal for you is to find ways to maintain control. Doing so on a regular basis though is hard. You may have noticed that as you answered the questions above. And, if you answered yes to even one of the above questions you clearly have work to do.

There is one more question to ask yourself -- and the most revealing: Do I feel as though I am at the mercy of what will happen next? In other words, will the next event dictate your state of mind? If so, it means you have not yet learned to maintain control. Again, this means you have work to do.

I realize that grasping the "maintenance" of one's divorce may vary from person to person because we all react to stress differently. I do believe, however, no matter who you are, if you follow some of the suggestions below you will begin to feel encouraged that no matter how erratic the circumstances around you, you do not have to respond or react erratically in thought, emotion or deed. Here is something to ponder: what lies at the core of your inability to keep a constant grip (maintain) on the whirling around you? The feeling of being overwhelmed which, of course, hampers your ability to keep a firm grasp once you have gotten, gained, or assumed control. With that in mind, here is the plan I would like you to follow:

  • Do not "bunch." In other words, do not view things in mass. What that means is to take one thing at a time. Stay in the moment with what is happening right now and deal with that singular problem, only. Do not agonize about yesterday's foibles and do not anticipate tomorrow's traumas. And do not think about all the things that are piling up on you (at the same time) -- financial problems, fights with your ex... trying to keep peace with your in-laws, juggling your work schedule to handle both your demanding job and the needs of your children. Just stay present; current.

  • For every negative, dwell on two positives. For instance, if your ex calls you a nasty name, think about two people in your life that always have wonderful things to say to you about you. Your children and parents are probably two of several sources.

  • Do not "future think." In other words, even though it may seem that your worst case scenario may mean a court trial to settle your affairs with your ex, deal with the mediation date that is scheduled before your trial. You may not have to go to trial after all (and if you do you can worry about it then). What we often think will happen often does not.

  • Tell yourself, with each difficult day or moment, "this too shall pass." It may seem hard to keep your balance when you are suddenly thrown off again (e.g., seeing your ex with a new significant other when you had no idea he/she was even dating, yet... ) This mantra is really very true. What seems like a big deal today will look very different to you tomorrow (in time). I promise. Do not waste your time and energy on situations that you can do nothing about. Keep centered.

  • Know that through the frustration, pain, and sorrow, you are growing by leaps and bounds. It is during life's difficult times that we gain the most wisdom and character.

  • Stay focused on the future and what your goals are -- your dreams. Write them down and keep them posted prominently in front of you. These will serve as reminders as to where you are headed.

Each of these suggestions will help to keep you solid and on track when you think you cannot "maintain." So, even if you are mentally, spiritually and physically exhausted, pick at least one of the suggestions and do it. Also, remember the key in maintaining control is in taking one day, or perhaps one hour at a time.

Read the other article in this series:

Stacy D. Phillips is a co-founder of Phillips Lerner, A Law Corporation, which specializes in high-profile family law matters. She is co-chair of the Women's Political Committee and a member of Divorce Magazine's North American Advisory Board. She can be reached at (310) 277-7117. View her firm's Divorce Magazine profile here.

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July 29, 2008
Categories:  Family Lawyers

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