The day I officially became separated, I was faced with a
million choices. While none of them were easy, some
were more obvious to decide than others; guess I need a
lawyer now; who can I call to get a referral; guess this
means we’re not going to the cottage tonight as planned…
One in particular I wasn’t sure how to handle:
do I move through this process quick as I can or do I slow
it down and inch along?
It may seem like a funny question to ask yourself, but the
reality of it is that when you are plunged headfirst into
monumental life changes there are two immediate reactions.
One is to close up, withdraw and back away from the danger
for a time. And the other is to plunge forward and tackle
immediately what has to be handled. That good ole fight or
flight response you always hear about in times of stress.
And make no bones about it, this is one of the most stressful
times in your life.
What can further complicate your
decision-making process is if you are new to the concept;
if your partner is the one who has
presented the idea and you are hearing about it for the first time.
Or if you even had an inkling, you may still not be thinking,
“yup, divorce is the way to go, right here, right now.”
Just as there are two sides to every marriage and divorce,
there are two sides to every decision. As I have taught in
crisis and issues communications courses through the years,
you don’t want to be caught reacting; you want to respond.
The difference is having something thrown at you and
immediately jumping into the fray and reacting, often before
you have all the facts and understand completely what you
are facing. Responding means that you have considered
what is in front of you and evaluated the options and then
made an educated, informed decision about the choice
you are making.
Choosing between reacting and responding can be difficult,
especially if someone else is pressuring you to make a choice,
ideally the one they want.
So, my house and cottage did not immediately go up for sale
even though I recognized that my marriage was in fact over
and that ownership of these properties needed to be considered.
I hired a lawyer and figured out what my first steps needed to be.
And I allowed myself a month and a half to sort through the initial
divorce details. And I recognize now that my separation and divorce
actually moved through quite quickly compared to most that I
The flip side of this is what I have heard from the lawyer of a client
recently: my client is now paying for decisions made, or actually
not made, at the beginning of their process. The consequence of
going too slow is hurting them today.
It’s human nature to want to hide our heads and pretend the bad
stuff isn’t really happening;
that you can deal with the situation tomorrow.
It’s especially difficult to deal with when you feel as
low and vulnerable as you do. And it doesn’t matter what
side of the divorce equation you are on – it’s still a difficult
time with lots of emotions involved.
The reality of it is the nasty stuff will still be there tomorrow. And the
next day, and next month and next year. And the longer it goes on,
the harder and more difficult it becomes. I know of one person who
has become frozen with the decisions and nine years later is still
no further ahead.
Change is hard. Recognizing that life has changed forever is hard.
So, if you find yourself facing change and can’t imagine how to deal
with it, remind yourself that you are not alone and that there are
people – family, friends, and experts – that can help you to deal
with the details and the change.