How to GET control of your divorce
I have learned during my 25 years as a divorce attorney that the fight over control among couples is what typically leads to the breakup. Once the split has occurred, those constant control battles that brought down the marriage very often only worsen. This is especially true if children are involved.
Generally, during the course of the marriage, couples find themselves fighting over control in one or more of what I term the “Big Six”: Money, Children, Loss of Intimacy, Health (mental and physical), Growth (personal and professional) and Fear (physical or mental). After a couple splits, most tussles where control was an issue or at issue takes a more specific direction and is most often confined to two basic areas: money and children. As the divorce process ensues, the divorce wars rage on, but to be a victor one must get, gain, assume and/or ultimately maintain control of his or her divorce. That takes diligence, patience, focus, and hard work.
Webster defines “get” as to come into possession of; to obtain; to go for and bring back… That is the starting point most divorcees should strive for as they work through their divorce issues — to “get” control of his/he situation — to handle the troublesome and nagging issues appropriately, thoughtfully and carefully. Anything less blatantly screams, “I cannot get control of my divorce!”
I ask my clients to answer six pertinent questions. The answers reveal whether or not they need to get control. You may want to follow suit and ask them of yourself. They are as follows:
- Do you still feel an attraction toward your ex?
- Are you affected negatively by the things he/she says to you?
- In any way, do you feel your ex has a “hold” on you emotionally? (Sexual attraction, self-esteem… )
- Do your moods largely depend upon how you are feeling about the way your ex treats you?
- When you come into contact with your ex how do you feel?
- In any way, do you feel your ex has the ability to “push” your buttons?
If the answer is yes to any or all of these questions then you, like many of my clients, need to get a firm grip because yes to these questions illustrates a vulnerability that robs any divorcee of the ability to get control of him or herself. And, until you are personally empowered and centered (in control), you cannot move on. In addition to answering the above questions, I also ask my clients to determine if they are still engaged in any one of the three major divorce wars: emotional, psychological and legal. If the answer is yes then there is work to do.
Let’s say you did answer yes to any one (or all) of the above, and let’s also assume you are involved in one or more of the wars (they often overlap and/or go together), what can you do to “get”control? The first step in getting it is to recognize that you do not have it! Next, you need to make a concentrated effort to work toward getting control by taking each question to which you answered yes and do the “what” test. Knowing, for example, that you are still attracted to your ex may require you to break it down. Ask yourself: What is it that still attracts me? Is it his/her personal power; financial status; looks…make a list. Now, next take that list and write another one that clearly describes what it is that you are no longer attracted to. Could it be his cheating heart, reckless spending…what is it that turned you off? If you fall in the category of saying: nothing, he/she left me and I am still deeply attracted to him or her, talk to your therapist or trusted other advisor. There are those who can help you work through those feelings and help you move on so you can find an attraction to a new love, one that is reciprocated. If not now, eventually. As you consult with your trusted advisor, you may find that what you were really attracted to was an idealization of what you thought he/she was, not the real him/her.
Do the same process with the remainder of the questions to which you answered yes and work through each of those, too. For instance, write down what it is he/she says that negatively affects you. Compare that to what others have said to you about you. Continue on with your answers. What kind of hold does your ex have on you and why do you suppose that is? Make a list! Check your moods. What is it about the way your ex treats you that causes your moods to swing? Can you begin to see how you have the need to get control of your moods so you can get control of yourself, and ultimately, get control of your divorce? When coming upon your ex what are those physical and emotional symptoms you feel? Write those down, too. If you have answered yes to the “button-pushing” question make a list of what exactly he/she does to push them.
Once you begin to examine the “what” of the answers to these questions you will have already begun the “get control” process. Yes, you are truly on your way! Breaking down each answer — dissecting your contrasting lists — brings a new level of understanding. With understanding, comes the ability to take or get control. First things first, though: Get control of you. Once you do, you will clearly possess the take-charge mentality you need to get control of your divorce.
Read the other articles in this series:
Stacy D. Phillips is a co-founder of the formerly Phillips Lerner, A Law Corporation, which specializes in high-profile family law matters. Stacy is known for her skilled persuasion, adept negotiation, aggressive advocacy, and compassion in representing her clients, whether in litigation, mediation, or Collaborative Divorce.