You’ve put your heart and soul into your marriage and now it’s falling apart! Now you have to deal with splitting up assets, potential support, and division of responsibility for your children if you have any. Where to begin?

The best place to start may be making sure that you’re psychologically optimized for the road ahead.

There’s a primitive part of our brain called the amygdala that’s responsible for emotions. It’s very useful, especially in detecting threats. However, if uncontrolled, it can go haywire when confronted with significant events and potential life-altering changes. Divorce falls into that category.

How can emotions-gone-wild hurt you in divorce? Well, if you’re moving toward an official split with your spouse, your primary goal should be to maximize your chances of putting yourself in the best position possible both with respect to your finances, and if you have children, making the transition as smooth for them as possible.

If you’re not operating from a position of calm and clarity, and instead, your emotions are driving your behavior during divorce, you’re likely to 1) make poor decisions that cost you extra money, time, and aggravation, and 2) behave in a manner that hurts your children, if you have any.

Identifying and effectively dealing with these emotions up front can put you on track to a smoother divorce.

Anger
Do you feel like you put more into the relationship than your spouse did? Was your spouse unfaithful, and now the trust is broken? Are you frustrated with your spouse’s behavior since your split?

These issues are likely to cause anger. Anger is normal. And it’s understandable that when you’re hurt, it surfaces.

However, it’s also one of the most expensive and energy-consuming expressions of emotion in divorce.

First of all, if you’re operating out of anger, you’re likely not making good decisions about your goals and objectives in divorce. If anger is trumping reason, you’re likely to pursue things you otherwise wouldn’t, and persist when you should relent.

Anger has the potential to hurt your creditability before the court, cost you a lot of money in attorney’s fees (because you’re fighting unnecessarily and for the wrong things), and if you have children, the strain it causes between parents can cause them significant harm.

Guilt
In divorce psychology, guilt is usually on the other side of anger. Do you feel like you’re to blame for the divorce? Could you have done more to make it work? Were you unfaithful? If instead of being angry at your spouse, you feel like you’re the one who’s responsible for the divorce, you’re on dangerous grounds.

People experiencing unchecked guilt in divorce tend to compromise themselves to compensate for their perceived shortcomings in the marriage. These are the individuals who feel they “owe it” to the other spouse to concede much more than they should.

Uncontrolled guilt can result in the person being compromised financially by giving up more than is fair and necessary to finalize the divorce. Or if there are children involved, the party experiencing guilt may agree to a parenting plan that isn’t fair and not in the best interest of the children.

What makes guilt particularly difficult to work through is that many times, the other party is operating out of anger, which is distorting that person’s perception of fairness. So the angry party drives the guilt-ridden party into submission.

Fear
Fear is normal. When people confront unique circumstances or events, fear surfaces. People generally don’t like change and they’re risk-averse.

However, if fear is ruling your decision-making in divorce, you’re likely to compromise yourself.

If you did your homework and hired a lawyer with whom you’re comfortable, you should put faith in the lawyer’s judgement. Sometimes that will require you to do things in your divorce that are “risky” or “scary.”

This often involves a decision on whether to pursue a particular issue. If you’re operating from a position of fear, and you’re not analyzing the issue objectively, you’re likely to make mistakes in your decision-making.

Of course, there are some issues that are not cost-effective to pursue - and not worth the time and hassle. But there are times in a divorce when you have to protect yourself. And failure to do so results in compromising yourself long term - usually with issues of finances or children.

How can I work through these emotions and optimize for rationality?
The first step is recognizing them. Ideally, you’re able to step outside your mind and body and look down on your situation objectively and ask yourself: why is this person (you/) thinking this way or taking this position? What happened to cause this mindset? How can these thoughts and feelings be managed?

Of course, this is easier said than done. When you’re caught in the vortex of emotion, it’s not easy to step back and look at circumstances objectively. Especially without the key tools for working through these emotions.

The good news is that those tools are accessible to you.

The best place to start is making sure that you’re tending to your basic needs: eating healthy foods, drinking plenty of water, getting some exercise, and getting enough sleep (which may be difficult to do when you’re stressed).

If you’re stuck on disruptive thought patterns or behaviors and you need some help, it’s advisable to reach out to a mental health professional. Reaching out for a psychologist no longer carries the stigma it once did. Some of the most successful people in the world have therapists!

Specifically, our clients have had good experiences with Phds in psychology with a specialization in cognitive behavioral therapy. This form of counseling helps the individual objectively analyze and manage thoughts and behavior.

Another helpful tool that you may want to consider implementing into your daily routine is a mindfulness practice - otherwise known as meditation. Meditation helps people view their thoughts and emotions objectively, which can help control and manage negative and destructive feelings. And it also helps you focus on the present, which is one of the keys to sustainable happiness.

Understanding that you should be aware of your emotions as you go through divorce - and for that matter, for the rest of your life - a significant advantage. Working your way though these issues will put you in a better place mentally, which will optimize your chances of an efficient and fair divorce outcome. And as a bonus, you may gain some habits that will improve the quality of your life going forward!

Any questions about divorce? Feel free to contact us.