If you have worked through the emotional stages of grief with respect to your divorce, or you are enlightened enough to be able to surrender to what is, then you are ready to start the negotiation process. If your spouse is at the same stage, then you are good to go. If your spouse is not emotionally ready, I urge patience. I know that is not what you want to hear. I understand you so badly want this marriage to be over, but if you see that your spouse is not quite emotionally ready to “let go,” then I reasonably predict there will be some serious resistance to work through before you get your settlement wrapped up and ready to file.
Use This Time to Assess Your Options
While you are waiting patiently for your spouse to work through his/her/their emotions, this is a good time to start collecting data on the options you have for the divorce process. Consider consulting a lawyer trained in the Collaborative Divorce Practice so that you can learn how to divorce with grace and dignity. Most jurisdictions require a waiting period or time of separation before you are eligible to get a final divorce order. You will likely have some time on your hands, so I suggest you use this period to explore the different ways to get your and your family’s needs met. This is one of the major benefits of a Collaborative Divorce. Both parties can retain lawyers who are committed to helping you through this process with integrity and transparency. Along with a mental health coach, you will learn to normalize all the intense emotions while moving forward toward a separation. As a team we can identify “pressing concerns” and start to get those needs met for the sanity and peace of your family, simply by talking about them together. No threats. No demands. Just a civil conversation recognizing that you are two people involved in a complex emotional process, and possibly feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed, and anxious.
You owe it to yourselves and to your children to wait for your spouse to be closer to acceptance than to anger. Negotiating with an angry person is very challenging. Often it doesn’t work, and that is when many cases end up in court. In a Collaborative Divorce, we don’t condone stonewalling and we support progress. Just because someone is not emotionally ready to negotiate the final terms, doesn’t mean that they can’t be gently nudged in a direction of small steps. Forward progress, no matter how small, made in a supportive, non-judgmental environment, gets both of you closer to acceptance. Once you have both accepted that this divorce is the best thing for both of you and your kids, then you will be ready to make a deal that works for everyone.
Acceptance is a Choice
One’s ability to accept the reality of a divorce, varies from person to person. Some folks can’t “accept” that it happened to them. They go through the process kicking and screaming about the injustice of it all. They portray themselves as martyrs or victims. These folks generate large amounts of bitterness, resentment, and attorney’s fees. They will have to work through these feelings at some point down the road. Some may simply live uncomfortably in their own skin with the narrative they've created. That is an option and a choice.
Others view the transformation of their relationship from a different perspective. They develop appreciation of the time of the marriage and the gifts it delivered. They acknowledge the love and lessons it brought and view divorcing as an opportunity to move on as peaceful, empowered co-parents, or even friends.
A good divorce lawyer will help you identify your stage of grief and allow you the dignity to feel your feelings before rushing you off to the courthouse. I suggest that you get your head on straight before you retain an adversarial divorce lawyer. Consider what a relief it would be to simply get divorced without the need for shame and blame. Meet your divorce lawyer when you are ready to show your innate capacity for kindness and generosity, despite your strong emotions. If you meet an attorney before you are feeling so generous, tell them that you aspire to that frame of mind. Demand that your lawyer help you achieve a peaceful divorce. Get divorced, but do it with dignity and compassion for yourself and your spouse. Set the example you want to be for your children. Research the best options for your family and then bring that information back to your spouse. If they are given a choice between an adversarial divorce, and a compassionate one, which do you think they will choose? Even if they choose an adversarial option because they are in so much pain, at least you gave them the option to try it differently.
Can you recall a time when you exercised patience and it made all the difference to the outcome?