If marriage is the coming together of two people into one home and family, then divorce is the splitting of that home and family into two separate entities across two separate people. Try to break down the words “home and family” and everything they mean: How do you cleanly cut that cake into separate, equal, and servable pieces? There is money, property, children, pets, and the day-to-day intricacies involving all of the above. Then, there are the major emotional themes around the experience of dismantling and gracefully releasing a home, a family, a relationship, an attachment. In short, divorce is a multifaceted life transition for all parties involved, and it should be treated as such. Each person should take a holistic approach with a well-equipped team: One professional for each aspect of your life and your divorce.
This is Collaborative Divorce. A fully-staffed divorce team of mental health professionals, coaches, child specialists, divorce-certified financial planners or CPAs, and two collaborative divorce lawyers selected by the divorcing spouses. Imagine you as a bowling ball barreling down the lane toward the pins. Choosing collaborative divorce is like engaging the lane bumpers. In divorce, veering off a straight path is inevitable, but your team will always be there to bump you back in line and keep you moving forward.
In any divorce, it is important to take what we call “the high road”. The high road might look different from situation to situation, but it foundationally involves staying grounded in reality, maintaining emotional composure, choosing maturity, diligently following through on tasks and commitments, open and thorough communication, staying in touch with values, and being flexible and functional even in crisis mode. The key is endurance in the face of challenge. Sometimes, the high road is simply biting the bullet and being the bigger person. But no matter what, the high road is about self-awareness and that of others, ESPECIALLY in conflict. What are you feeling and how is that affecting your thoughts and behavior? Try to answer those questions for the other person, too and your perspective might just change.
Choosing to take the high road is not a one time choice. It is a choice that you have the power to make from moment to moment, and it is a personal choice that you can make regardless of the behavior of others. However, you can certainly choose to start off on the high road with the expectation that you will absolutely fall off and the intention to always get back on (and the acknowledgment that you have the power to do so). Communicate this intention to your partner together, build a mission on top of it. A mission to get through this amicably, to act with the future in mind, to honor what once was even though it is no longer, and to be forgiving: of the failure of marriage, and even the failures to come as you navigate divorce.
Surely this is something that is much easier for me to write than it is for people to practice. But negotiations will go much smoother and the focus will remain forward if each of you is bolstered with your own team, stocked with valuable players. And remember that these two teams are not opposing, but working together to facilitate the best possible outcomes for the both of you.