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September 20, 2020

How to Drama-Proof Your Divorce, According to a Family Lawyer

Did you ever notice how some people seem to go through life happy and content no matter what’s going on, even if they’re in the middle of a divorce? Then, there are those other folks (you know who you are) who get derailed when even the slightest thing goes wrong, like finding out the milk in the fridge has expired just as they’re about to pour their morning coffee, setting the entire day in motion.

As a member of the latter group like I once was, I know how easily situations can spiral out of control, all depending on your reaction. Consider if that situation is a life-changing event like a divorce, and you may very well be on the verge of becoming your own worst enemy. My guess is you don’t need another.  

If you’re beginning the divorce process, you and your spouse will find out real soon what rattles you and what doesn’t. To prevent small problems from becoming big problems day in and day out, and turning what can be an amicable divorce into a high-conflict divorce filled with drama, here are five principles to adopt into your life today.

Make no sudden moves. 

So there you are, facing news you didn’t know about before. It could be anything from hearing a friend has been talking about you behind your back to learning you’re not getting a promotion at work to finding out that your significant other has emptied your bank account. 

In each of these scenarios, you’re likely to be upset, and your first instinct will be to react. Don’t. When you respond hastily, chances are, your problems will snowball fast. 

There is an exception, and that is to hit the pause button. It’s the only sudden move you should ever make. Next, take a step back to figure out what you’re looking at because, most likely, your situation will look different once you’re calm. 

Decide if you’re facing an obstacle or a roadblock. 

When you encounter a roadblock, you must backtrack to find an alternate route to your destination. When you meet an obstacle, you must figure out a way to get around it. The thought processes are different, but the end goal should remain the same, and that’s to keep moving forward.

Whether you get tangled up in your problems or roll with them has little to do with the label. Those committed to staying the course trust their instincts to find another way instead of banging their head into a proverbial brick wall or giving up when something — or someone — stands in their way. Who are you?

Look away. 

During childhood, most of us were probably told by some nasty kid with braces to mind our own beeswax. We thought that kid was a jerk then, but in hindsight, they were probably right when it came down to us creating ill will and drama simply because we stuck our nose into a situation where it didn’t belong.

At times, we can develop an inflated sense of our own importance. When we do, we conclude that it’s OK to inject ourselves into other people’s lives, including our soon-to-be ex’s, and offer our two cents because our opinion is so “valuable.” 

What we’re doing, in reality, is meddling, which may hurt the very people (we say) we’re trying to help, particularly our children, creating more drama in our lives — and theirs — as a result. And then let’s not forget the soon-to-be-ex who loves to suck us in and does simply because we let them.

It may not be easy to look away, but sometimes, it’s the best choice for everyone in the long run. It doesn’t make you self-centered but, instead, someone who exercises self-care.

Don’t be afraid to say, “Not for me.” 

Most of us grow up told never to quit, which is an admirable rule to follow. But like all rules, there are exceptions. There exist circumstances where it’s better to say, “Not for me,” than to keep smiling in the face of a situation causing us harm. 

Trust your instincts, establish your boundaries, and bring balance back to your life by cutting your losses. It’s better to amputate a dead limb than to leave it attached and allow it to infect the rest of your body. 

For me, that meant forming an exit strategy from my marriage and filing for divorce soon afterward. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Take things day by day. 

When you do this, you’re taking a wait and see approach. It’s often easier said than done. It may feel natural to try controlling the universe by creating a long-term plan. But the truth is, unexpected events will arise, and, at some point, you’ll lose control. 

People who don’t accept this as truth tend to be unhappy and unable to cope with small life problems. People who take this as absolute truth may likewise feel helpless and out of control. Again, finding balance is the key. 

Taking things day by day means you become the master of your fate. You accept that you don’t know what tomorrow will bring while allowing yourself to make the most of today. And as I’ve found, it’s a much less problematic way to live.

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Elise Buie, Esq.  |  Contribution: 145