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9 Ways to Pick Your Divorce Battles

9 Ways to Pick Your Divorce Battles

When fighting through a divorce, it’s normal to feel like we are getting dragged through the mud for months—even years—wondering if it will ever end. Couples fight over almost everything—who’s responsible for paying off the credit cards, who gets the children during Christmas—the list is infinite.

So, it’s up to us to figure out what we want to do and how we want to approach the situation when the acrimony grows. In essence, we must learn how to pick our battles mindfully. Determining what and what not to fight about can be as tricky as navigating a minefield. But the following suggestions will help you to do so with less drama and stress.

1. Accept that it’s going to be confusing and weird for a while.

Do not beat yourself up when you feel frustrated during the split. Divorce is a messy business transaction that collides with emotions you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. If you feel confused and panicked, it’s because you’re human.

But in spite of the chaos, it’s important to remember that you will get through this, and you don’t have to let arguing define you.

2.  Understand that nobody really “wins” their divorce.

Culturally, we are conditioned to review divorce as an an “us versus them” transaction, where the two opposing sides must fight to get their way. Many high conflict divorce lawyers–knows as “gladiators,” will encourage their clients to fight for total control of the marriage’s assets, custody, etc. It’s easy to fall into this trap, but is it what you really want?

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When you are forced to make business decisions during such an emotional time, you may act out of spite and try to “get back” at your spouse, extracting revenge. However, you must keep in mind that this will cost tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, inflict additional stress on you and your children, and possibly prolong your divorce. You may get the upper hand from a litigation standpoint–but at what cost to you, your emotional health, and your chance to move on with your life?

3. Ask yourself: Am I fighting over something I absolutely can’t live without?

Answering this question truthfully gives you a better understanding of what you feel is non-negotiable when choosing which battles to fight. Everyone’s situation is different, and each person must figure out for him or herself what is truly worth the time and emotional energy to battle over. These factors may include alimony, savings, child support, fair division of debt, temporary spousal support, and protection orders if there is any type of endangerment.

But remember, not everything during a divorce is something you need to survive.

4. What do my dependents and I need to ensure our security and well-being?

Think of this question as the bottom section of Maslowe’s Hierarchy of Needs. The foundation of the pyramid represents survival–the same things that we need to advocate for during the split. But remember, you must be completely honest with yourself. While you and your children may need temporary spousal support to make ends meet, that doesn’t necessarily include the gas grill that you really liked.

Remember–advocate for the things you and your dependents really need, not the things you think you are owed.

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5. How can I prioritize the wants?

Divorces drag sometimes due to division of assets that have nothing to do with money. Legal battles have gone on as couples fight for possession of the things that hold sentimental value to both of them (family photographs, heirlooms). Although it wouldn’t leave you destitute to lose these things, you would feel deeply wounded, since they remind you of happier times. We may also make special demands as a way of exercising control.

This behavior is natural–because we are human and have emotions and and desires. But the key is to understand why we truly want these things, so we can prioritize and determine where to best spend our time and energy.

6. Why can’t I give this up?

The things you think you deserve are often based on emotion—many times, they are matters of the heart.

Two competent parents may fight over custody for months, because they both feel more entitled to the children than the other partner. One spouse may drag their feet, insisting they always get the children for Christmas, not necessarily because the other parent is incompetent, but because they are resentful of the divorce and somehow feel that they “deserve” this due to “what the spouse has put them through.”

If you find yourself trying to justify what you’re asking for because you think it is owed to you, pause and try to think objectively.

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7. Am I fighting just because I’m angry and hurt?

Anger may cause you to project bitter feelings at our spouse in the only way you can—by “getting back” at them. You will find yourself in the lawyer’s office soliciting advice on how to “make the ex pay” for the hurt they have caused.

Although you cannot control how your spouse behaves during this process, you can work on acting rationally. Remember, the smoother the divorce goes, the faster the healing process can begin.

8. Am I fighting because I’m afraid of change?

One reason divorce is so tough is because it uproots what you thought was normal and does away with any sense of control you thought you had–over your life, your marriage, and your identity. When you’re trying to process those emotions and that sense of loss, you sometimes displace that lack of control and fight harder for things you still have a say over.

It’s normal to be afraid because you do not know the future. You fear venturing into the unknown. When you acknowledge that certain demands stem from fear, you can begin to face them head on.

9. How will this impact my future?

As we discussed in point two, it is important to remember that nobody “wins” during a divorce—a case can drag out for years with the only thing to show for it being a drained bank account, cashed-out 401ks, and stress inflicted on yourself and your children that may never be reconciled.

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That is not to say you shouldn’t stick up for yourself. But before you begin a legal, emotional, and financial “Battle Royale”, you must consider how you will feel about this one, ten, and even twenty years form now.

If you are drained and broke after fighting, how can you start the new chapter in your life? You must balance advocating for yourself while fighting the urge to maintain an illusion of control that no longer exists.

Your lawyer may want you to fight for everything. Your friends and family may say the same. Your spouse may be acting unreasonably. Outside forces make it very hard to figure out what we should be asking and negotiating for during a divorce. But at the end of the day, it’s your decision what’s worth fighting for, and what’s worth letting go.

The key is to be honest with yourself, kind to yourself, and mindful of the new chapter in your life that you can look forward to once this difficult journey ends. Let those points guide you in spending your time, money, and emotional energy.

Featured photo credit: 1-800-Divorce/Stan Wiechers via flickr.com

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Martha Bodyfelt

Certified Divorce and Recovery Coach

How To Kick Your Divorce Anxiety In The Ass 5 Divorce Screw-Ups to Avoid 3 Steps for Beating Your Divorce Fears 10 Things to Know Before You Decide to Divorce 9 Ways to Pick Your Divorce Battles

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

2. Pace Yourself

Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

3. You Can’t Please Everyone

“I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

6. It’s Not All About You

You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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