As a divorce lawyer for the past 17 years, I get to meet and speak to dozens of people every week regarding their relationships and the problems they encounter in their marriages. Having counseled thousands of people, I am privy to both the underbelly of marriage and divorce. In the same way that people get married by choice, they make a choice about the tone of their divorce.
Avoiding war in divorce is as simple as avoiding war with your neighbor. It is complex, but at the same time achievable. I always ask my clients to reflect on the following five questions before deciding on a strategy in their divorce:
1. Can you envision being friends with your spouse after your divorce?
There must be some redeeming qualities to the soon-to-be ex spouse because my client chose to marry him/her to begin with. By eliciting this inquiry, clients may be more inclined to re-focus their attention on something positive, thereby creating a balance to the traditionally favored approach of anger and resentment.
1. Can you envision your divorce as a new beginning as opposed to the end?
Life is a progression of changing events, both in your personal and professional life. If clients are able to see the greater picture, they are more likely to reflect on marriage as one episode in their journey as opposed to having their marriage define them. Some marriages may last a lifetime, but others just run their course. This goes back to the inquiry into the belief systems and expectations of each person. From my experience, most negative feelings in the divorce process come from a person's inability to reconcile that it is actually happening to him or her. Divorce is simply impossible to predict.
3. Are you willing to recognize that your children deserve to be raised in a loving, peaceful environment, even though you are getting divorced?
Most people choose to overlook the trauma that a divorce creates for their children. Many decide to stay in unhappy marriages for the sake of their children, indirectly damaging them by raising them in an unhappy environment. Then there are couples who decides to divorce to presumably shield their children from their unhappy union, all the while creating such negativity and tension through the divorce process that the end result is still traumatized children. On occasion, reflecting on the above question will allow parties to transcend their egoic differences, overcome their interpersonal issues and create -- by choice -- a friendly environment that will allow them to raise their children with dignity -- respecting each other has human beings.
4. Are you willing to recognize that most negativity created in your divorce will come from both of your egos?
Most people don't take time to reflect on the central role that ego plays in their marriage and their divorce. Inquiry into the components of human beings -- the body, the mind, the ego and the soul -- will facilitate my clients' ability to analyze the source of their frustrations with each other. This in turn will open up choices for them, should they proceed on autopilot (as people frequently do) or to stop and smell the roses by taking a closer look at how they choose to divorce.
5. Are you willing to proceed with this inquiry into the ego, to be able to move past the negativity and overcome the petty issues for the greater good of yourself and your children?
Socrates once stated that "an unexamined life is not worth living." This concept has most relevance for people going through divorce -- a period of great change and confusion for many. Each and every person facing divorce has the same choice: they must decide what they stand for, how they want to live their lives, and what tone they want to set for their future.
Many of my clients choose to elevate themselves and go through the divorce process with personal dignity and kindness. This choice requires deeper inquiry, reflection and the help of professionals that ask the right questions. This choice gives my clients the ability to help them and to put an end to their own frustration. War should not be an option for anyone choosing deeper inquiry. The question is, do they see the bigger picture?