Are you trying to navigate the frustrations of divorce but struggling?
Working exclusively with men and women navigating divorce, I frequently see recurring themes. Frustrations, fears and worries all sound very similar from person to person, particularly during the heaviest phase when the legal proceedings are in full swing. A couple of weeks ago, I posted a humorous reel to my Instagram account where a lawyer is reassuring a client that it is perfectly okay to cry herself to sleep. Below are the top four frustrations of divorce, complaints I repeatedly hear, and helpful mindset hacks and strategies to cope with each. With any luck, these will bring you comfort, and you can dry those tears.
Here Are the Top 4 Frustrations of Divorce
1. The Process Itself is Dragging
Your marriage and dynamic took years to build before heading toward its ultimate demolition. Unless you and your spouse agree on everything and have a genuinely uncontested case, this is a situation in which instant gratification could cost you. Caving to frustration puts you at risk of making hasty decisions and succumbing to unrealistic demands to “get it over with.” Your marital settlement agreement is a living, breathing document. You want to sleep peacefully at night, knowing it is something you can live with.
Antidote #1: Coping with a Slow-Moving Divorce
Your restlessness is likely a sign that your life lacks stability and control. Seems reasonable enough. No one likes to feel constantly on edge, under a microscope and lacking resolution. The critical point here is to trust the divorce process and find other ways to foster control and certainty in your life. What parts of your life can progress even while your divorce is pending? In my case, I knew I wanted to help others, so I began taking classes, writing, and doing pro-bono coaching even before my divorce was finalized. Feeling like I was making progress in this department of my life shrunk down the areas that were gaping holes of unknown.
Ironically, the process of getting divorced reminded me a little of planning my wedding. There were periods of intense decision making and then the pendulum would swing back to a time of calmer seas. Take advantage of the downtime with lots of rest, self-care, and mental breaks from the minutia and negotiations.
2. You Do All The Bending While The Other Party Remains Inflexible
What if you trust the process but are dealing with an angry, vengeful soon-to-be ex that is stalling and obstructive around every corner? If your ex exhibits narcissistic or disordered traits such as lacking empathy, inflexibility, and rigid thinking, you may already expect an uphill battle. Pull out whatever stops you can to prioritize your mental health to remain calm, respectful, and compromising when possible, but uphold boundaries when you cannot.
Antidote #2: Coping With An Inflexible Spouse During Divorce
Triggers from others often point to something within us that we recognize or are suppressing. In this case, perhaps the two-year-old in you longs to throw a temper tantrum to get your way too. Who doesn’t at times during a divorce? The worst tactic you could take would be to fight crazy with crazy and feed the beast. But you have rights too and are also capable of setting terms that are acceptable to you. To do so, I suggest categorizing your asks: What do I really want? What would I like? What can I give up? Keep this list somewhere and remind yourself of it. Remember, the other party’s inflexibility is not a good look. Know that your ability to compromise will help you in the long run, even though it may not seem like it right now.
As a last resort, if your spouse is genuinely uncooperative, speak to your family lawyer about more serious options. Some other options include asking a judge to order child support or alimony payments while the divorce is pending, finding an uncooperative party in contempt of court, or requesting the non-compliant spouse to pay attorney’s fees.
3. Being Left In The Dark
Several of my clients were caught off guard when they were not informed of key developments in their cases. With any luck, you chose your attorney after a vetting process; trust this person. Communication from your attorney is vital as most clients are likely unfamiliar with the divorce process and, in general, confused regarding the many intricacies of family law.
Antidote #3: Coping With Confusion And The Unknown Of Divorce
Attorneys are human, with several active cases and moving pieces at any time. Think of yourself as the boss of this process – your lawyer works for you, after all. Please familiarize yourself with their office policies regarding turnaround time for phone calls and emails, and stay on top of it.
Any good lawyer should take the time to answer your questions, and while this may increase fees in the short term, it may save thousands down the line. I used to worry that I was bothering my lawyers until I remembered that they work for me and appreciate an organized and committed client. Be very wary of any divorce attorney that makes you feel like a burden.
4. Living Under The Same Roof While The Divorce Is Pending
Many couples remain living under the same roof while the divorce is pending or until temporary orders are in place. This is less than pleasant for obvious reasons, mainly if the relationship is in such disrepair that there is a complete communication breakdown. If you were not on eggshells before, you would likely be now.
Antidote #4: Coping Strategies For Living With A Spouse While The Divorce Is Pending
I like to think of this time as less a purgatory of sorts and more of a metamorphosis. Like a developing butterfly, you are temporarily trapped on the outside but are preparing for freedom internally. Now is as good a time as any to begin practising emotional regulation when triggered by your spouse. By now, you are intimately aware of their patterns; how can you anticipate and manage your response accordingly? In other words, start taking responsibility now for how you show up as an ex and co-parent. As a bonus, this will stand you in good stead for healthy relationships down the line.
Another tweak involves experimenting with different approaches: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result. Is there a particularly toxic dynamic between the two of you where one needs to bite the bullet and be the adult? An example could be that he/she has historically fallen short of your expectations, creating conflict. Practice managing your expectations now, knowing this person will not get an instant upgrade to dad or father of the year once the divorce is finalized.
Allow each other the space you need, whether that’s the physical, i.e., setting up separate bedrooms and parts of the house (note: make sure children understand the changes), to allowing for a schedule where each of you can spend time alone and parent the children while the other is out. If you are the default parent, taking your hands off the wheel will be inevitable. Use this time as a trial run to see how you each fare and make tweaks. Finally, remember you get to fly eventually, even if it takes forever. Make the most of your time in limbo regarding your personal growth and development and how you restructure your relationship with your soon-to-be-ex.
If I were to put money on it and poll the divorce attorneys, our list would all look quite similar. None of this advice is meant to sound trite or pollyannish, but if you can apply just a few of these nuggets, the hope is to end the frustrations of divorce.