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Tips for Staying on the High Road During a Divorce

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GoransonBain shares tips for minimizing anxiety and resentment during the divorce process.

By Kris Algert

Kris Algert

Many people express a desire to “take the high road” during divorce, but then fall short. Divorce involves a transactional event (“I give you this if you give me that.”) and an emotional event (“You hurt me,” or, “I am afraid.”) and interaction between the two might be the cause.

Taking the high road:

1. allows you to be the good guy.

2. preserves dignity and is respectful to your spouse.

3. benefits your children.

4. results in a more satisfying, mutually beneficial agreement.

5. costs less.

To stay on the high road, keep in mind the following tips:

1. Commit. Choosing the high road is an affirmative choice, not something that happens by accident. It is a choice you have to make repeatedly throughout the divorce process.

2. Tell the truth. Telling the truth is easier than telling and remembering a lie, and is instrumental is creating an atmosphere of trust. Trust improves communication, allowing for productive negotiations and agreements. Lies, silence, evasiveness, ambiguity and vagueness contribute to anxiety, anger and fear; communication deteriorates and negotiated agreements become more difficult. Justifying less than the truth is not “cushioning the blow” or “sparing feelings” or “protecting your spouse.” It is the opposite. Tell the truth in the kindest way possible. Yes: “I don’t like the shirt you are wearing.” No: “You look like a slob in that shirt.”

3. Avoid taking things personally. Imagine you and your spouse on a trail circling a lake. You walk and your spouse bikes. Your sights and experiences while walking are different than your spouse’s sights and experiences while biking. You are on the same path but have different experiences and perspectives of the lake and trail. Your marriage is the same: You and your spouse have been on the same path but experiencing it differently. Your decisions, goals, fears and ideas are unique to each of you. Trying to convince your spouse that his or her experience and perspective are flawed creates an expensive and endless cycle not conducive to negotiated agreements.

4. Abstain from assumptions. Making assumptions leads to misunderstandings, distrust and poor communication, and increases difficulty in obtaining an agreement. A couple falling in love assumes the best of each other. (For example: He had a good reason for being late.) A couple divorcing assumes the worst. (For example: He was late because he doesn’t care about the children.) Assuming and then reacting to what you believe is true creates drama when no drama is needed. Similar to this is believing your spouse reads minds. Hinting, crying, throwing temper tantrums and gossiping are not substitutes for clearly expressed requests, goals, intentions and concerns. Instead, ask questions and communicate clearly.

5. Always do your best. Don Miguel Ruiz states in his book The Four Agreements that under any circumstance, always do your best. Your best will ebb and flow and vary. Regardless of quality, always do your best. Keep your commitments. If you find you need to change a commitment, let those to whom it was made know at the earliest opportunity. This builds trust, improves communication and allows for agreements.

Taking the high road helps build trust, minimizes anxiety and fear, and allows for productive negotiation and ultimately, creation of custom-made solutions for the divorcing couple and their children.

If you would like more information, please contact Kris Algert at gbafamilylaw.com or 512.518.0172.

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