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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

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Last Updated on February 21, 2019

The Secret to Effective Conflict Resolution: The IBR Approach

The Secret to Effective Conflict Resolution: The IBR Approach

In business, in social relationships, in family… In whatever context conflict is always inevitable, especially when you are in the leader role. This role equals “make decisions for the best of majority” and the remaining are not amused. Conflicts arise.

Conflicts arise when we want to push for a better quality work but some members want to take a break from work.

Conflicts arise when we as citizens want more recreational facilities but the Government has to balance the needs to maintain tourism growth.

Conflicts are literally everywhere.

Avoiding Conflicts a No-No and Resolving Conflicts a Win-Win

Avoiding conflicts seem to be a viable option for us. The cruel fact is, it isn’t. Conflicts won’t walk away by themselves. They will, instead, escalate and haunt you back even more when we finally realize that’s no way we can let it be.

Moreover, avoiding conflicts will eventually intensify the misunderstanding among the involved parties. And the misunderstanding severely hinders open communication which later on the parties tend to keep things secret. This is obviously detrimental to teamwork.

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Some may view conflicts as the last step before arguments. And they thus leave it aside as if they never happen. This is not true.

Conflicts are the intersect point between different individuals with different opinions. And this does not necessarily lead to argument.

Instead, proper handling of conflicts can actually result in a win-win situation – both parties are pleased and allies are gained. A better understanding between each other and future conflicts are less likely to happen.

The IBR Approach to Resolve Conflicts

Here, we introduce to you an effective approach to resolve conflicts – the Interest-Based Relational (IBR) approach. The IBR approach was developed by Roger Fisher and William Ury in their 1981 book Getting to Yes. It stresses the importance of the separation between people and their emotions from the problem. Another focus of the approach is to build mutual understanding and respect as they strengthen bonds among parties and can ultimately help resolve conflicts in a harmonious way. The approach suggests a 6-step procedure for conflict resolution:

Step 1: Prioritize Good Relationships

How? Before addressing the problem or even starting the discussion, make it clear the conflict can result in a mutual trouble and through subsequent respectful negotiation the conflict can be resolved peacefully. And that brings the best outcome to the whole team by working together.

Why? It is easy to overlook own cause of the conflict and point the finger to the members with different opinions. With such a mindset, it is likely to blame rather than to listen to the others and fail to acknowledge the problem completely. Such a discussion manner will undermine the good relationships among the members and aggravate the problem.

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Example: Before discussion, stress that the problem is never one’s complete fault. Everyone is responsible for it. Then, it is important to point out our own involvement in the problem and state clearly we are here to listen to everyone’s opinions rather than accusing others.

Step 2: People Are NOT the Cause of Problem

How? State clearly the problem is never one-sided. Collaborative effort is needed. More importantly, note the problem should not be taken personally. We are not making accusations on persons but addressing the problem itself.

Why? Once things taken personally, everything will go out of control. People will become irrational and neglect others’ opinions. We are then unable to address the problem properly because we cannot grasp a fuller and clearer picture of the problem due to presumption.

Example: In spite of the confronting opinions, we have to emphasize that the problem is not a result of the persons but probably the different perspectives to view it. So, if we try to look at the problem from the other’s perspective, we may understand why there are varied opinions.

Step 3: Listen From ALL Stances

How? Do NOT blame others. It is of utmost importance. Ask for everyone’s opinions. It is important to let everyone feel that they contribute to the discussion. Tell them their involvement is essential to solve the problem and their effort is very much appreciated.

Why? None wants to be ignored. If one feels neglected, it is very likely for he/she to be aggressive. It is definitely not what we hope to see in a discussion. Acknowledging and being acknowledged are equally important. So, make sure everyone has equal opportunity to express their views. Also, realizing their opinions are not neglected, they will be more receptive to other opinions.

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Example: A little trick can played here: Invite others to talk first. It is an easy way to let others feel involved and ,more importantly, know their voices are heard. Also, we can show that we are actively listening to them by giving direct eye-contact and nodding. One important to note is that never interrupt anyone. Always let them finish first beforeanother one begins.

Step 4: Listen Comes First, Talk Follows

How? Ensure everyone has listened to one another points of view. It can be done by taking turn to speak and leaving the discussion part at last. State once again the problem is nothing personal and no accusation should be made.

Why? By turn-taking, everyone can finish talking and voices of all sides can be heard indiscriminantly. This can promote willingness to listen to opposing opinions.

Example: We can prepare pieces of paper with different numbers written on them. Then, ask different members to pick one and talk according to the sequence of the number. After everyone’s finished, advise everyone to use “I” more than “You” in the discussion period to avoid others thinking that it is an accusation.

Step 5: Understand the Facts, Then Address the Problem

How? List out ALL the facts first. Ask everyone to tell what they know about the problems.

Why? Sometimes your facts are unknown to the others while they may know something we don’t. Missing out on these facts could possibly lead to inaccurate capture of the problem. Also, different known facts can lead to different perception of the matter. It also helps everyone better understand the problem and can eventually help reach a solution.

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Example: While everyone is expressing their own views, ask them to write down everything they know that is true to the problem. As soon as everyone has finished, all facts can be noted and everyone’s understanding of the problem is raised.

Step 6: Solve the Problem Together

How? Knowing what everyone’s thinking, it is now time to resolve the conflict. Up to this point, everyone should have understood the problem better. So, it is everyone’s time to suggest some solutions. It is important not to have one giving all the solutions.

Why? Having everyone suggesting their solutions is important as they will not feel excluded and their opinions are considered. Besides, it may also generate more solutions that can better resolve the conflicts. Everyone will more likely be satisfied with the result.

Example: After discussion, ask all members to suggest any possible solutions and stress that all solutions are welcomed. State clearly that we are looking for the best outcomes for everyone’s sake rather than battling to win over one another. Then, evaluate all the solutions and pick the one that is in favor of everyone.

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