I saw an interview recently with a probate lawyer about families and wills. She said that more families fight over the terms of wills and estates than those who simply accept them. They fight so long and so hard, spending more money on legal fees, and end up with less than they would have if they simply accepted the terms of the will. She said it always seems to come down to family members fighting because they want to feel that they are right.
The bottom line is: "Do you want to be right? Or do you want to be happy?"
I believe you can apply this same logic to divorces and this is exactly what I went through in my own divorce.
My situation was a bit unusual. Just as my husband and I separated, I also lost my job (thanks to the economy), my mom died, my daughter moved away from home, and then I had to move...all within a few months. The separation and eventual divorce was part of a series of losses that nearly did me in.
I learned some lessons that were true in our case, but not necessarily in everyone's divorce. I was talking to a friend recently and she told me that she and her ex-husband had the most loving, supportive and generous break-up imaginable. They didn't fight over anything, custody, money, home...not one thing. The only reason they eventually got divorced was because years after their separation, her husband got involved with someone who insisted he get a divorce.
In my case, and in most of the divorces I've witnessed, we fought. We were both angry, and in pain, and we lashed out.
Here's what I learned that would have been helpful at the time. You do not have to rush, unless there are financial arrangements that have to be made, but a final divorce agreement can wait until you've had some time to process the feelings. My ex set an appointment for a mediator less than two months after we decided to separate, when we were still living in the same apartment. His way of dealing with anxiety was to try to get the divorce finalized. I needed the opposite. I needed time to process all the changes that were going on in my life. It turned out that it took us 3 years and many legal battles that cost way too much money.
Being right is not better than being happy.
Fortunately, miraculously, seven years later, my ex and I are now friendly. We both admitted that we made many mistakes both in our marriage and in our divorce. Would slowing down have made a huge difference? I have no idea. But I know that the pressure I felt, the need to take some time to work through all the feelings and not worry about mediators, emails, legal issues, might have made that period in my life less stressful.
I did learn that I am more fragile and stronger than I ever knew and I believe that most of us are.
Divorce is like a death. In some ways it can be worse, or feel worse, because you are so mad at your ex and yet there they are, still alive, no longer in love with you and probably dating. It hurts and it's also a relief. You're no longer trapped in a marriage that wasn't working for either of you.
Take the time you need to feel all the feelings and don't worry about being right.
Be happy instead.