This month, we share a blog post Communication: The Big Divorce Challenge, presented by FamilyKind associate and divorce coach, Rich Heller.
Men and women have different approaches to divorce, and one might say to life. Very often it’s these differences that drive the divorce, and make it go on and on and on… In order to have a less expensive divorce both financially and emotionally, these approaches need to somehow to be bridged.
Speaking in broad generalizations, men tend to be more goal-oriented in their divorce process, they want to know how to do it, what’s the best way to do it, how can they do it quickly, and how can they move on with their lives. Women tend to be more relationally-focused in their divorce. They want to move through their feelings and do it with the support of others who have been through it as well as their existing network of support. This is not to say that men don’t have feelings or relationships, or that women don’t have goals because that is certainly not the case. Men are loaded with feelings and women certainly use goals, it’s really just a matter of what they focus on more.
When we are dating, these tendencies tend to balance out more. We are getting to know each other, falling in love with one another, seeing each other’s strengths and weaknesses as well as who we can be, dream and create together. In the romance stage men tend to be more relational and women can lean towards goals more, there is a great deal of communication and a meeting of the minds. Then we get married and the game changes!
By definition marriage is a huge commitment and anytime an individual takes on a huge commitment it changes the individual and how they operate. Right from the get go, the relationship is altered! The relationship continues to change as the couple falls into a routine, and especially once they have children, which is the ultimate routine developer.
Slowly over time, we move from romance to routine, from the other person being the most important person in the world to them being another facet of our daily lives and often not on the top of the list. On the top of the list is making money to feed the family, the actual feeding and care of the family, maintenance and care of the household, and these often at the expense of personal care. Last on the list is the marriage itself. One day we wake up and don’t know who’s on the other side of the bed, it looks like the person we married but they act like a complete stranger. Suddenly we find themselves experiencing the marriage as if we are two people who are at best living parallel lives, and perhaps even on divergent ones. This is usually where we call the attorneys and begin the process of divorce. We look at this person who was to be our life partner and see an enemy. Some of us see our worst nightmare of an enemy, some of us see an enemy that we can negotiate with.
It is at this point that the different operating systems kick in, men want out quickly so they can move on with their lives, while women want to make sure that their children are secure and their own future is not in danger. These different orientations lead to warfare of one kind or another. The question is does it have to be this way?
At any point in the divorce process, it is possible to break through this impasse. Imagine being able to communicate with the mother or father of your children so that they hear you, or even understand you? Once this bridge of communication is built everything can get smoother. Once you understand one another you can make clear decisions about which direction you’re going to move. Worst case is that you get that they won’t change, so you know how best to mitigate their impact. At best, you may even achieve some commonality and agreement about what’s best for the children.
Once the focus becomes a shared higher good — like the children — it becomes easier to get on the same page and move forward. From this place there is less arguing, from this place expenses become lower, from this place the lawyers are less necessary in the decision-making process and simply articulate what you both want.
Getting to this place requires accepting that first, if your not already there, it’s unlikely that you’ll get there on your own. You’re probably going to need some help. Could be coaching, therapy, counseling, or maybe a pastor or rabbi — someone to help you both learn to listen to one another, speak each other’s language, understand one another, and identify common ground where you can work together instead of at odds with each other. You’re going to need to work with someone who not only has experience but also has a system.
What about the cost? How are you going to pay for the help? The fact is the upfront cost of the right help is so much less than the cost of not doing so. Not only are we talking about reduced legal fees, and less time working through the divorce process, but we’re talking about less emotional and psychological scarring to both of you and your children. We’re also talking about laying down the groundwork for working together as parents in the future once you’re divorced. Let’s get real. Once you’re divorced, you still need to work together if you have children in the picture. If you have this basis, you won’t be going back to court once the divorce is complete.
The first step is to reach out for help, if you don’t know the right person or if you’re not sure, call FamilyKind, that’s exactly what this organization was created for, to help people find their way through the divorce process in the least painful manner possible. FamilyKind works on a sliding scale to make the process affordable.