I recently had a conversation with an attorney who once practiced family law, and who now shifted the focus of their law practice to a different legal specialization. When I asked what precipitated this shift, the attorney responded that they had become disenchanted with what the divorce process can do to people. We both then shared our observations with one another that high conflict situations, especially divorce, can bring out the absolute worst sides in people.
Divorce situations are flooded with so many complex emotions, and when we are experiencing both the overwhelm of such a profound change and transition in our lives, in addition to all of the intense emotions that go along with the end of a significant relationship, we are not thinking and functioning at our best. Because we are vulnerable and our minds are overwhelmed with having to process the myriad of intense emotions, we are left feeling extremely vulnerable, and can make certain decisions that under other circumstances, may not be the most rational, or make the most sense.
During the divorce process, it is also not uncommon to either make certain demands or concessions that are based purely on emotional, rather than rational reasoning. These types of decisions can have serious long-term consequences both for you and others in your life, especially your children.
I am sure you know many people, possibly even yourself, who felt hurt and victimized by something that their ex-spouse allegedly did to them, and then want to use the divorce process to “exact their revenge,” or “get-even.” Friends and family loyal to you and your interests may inevitably urge you to “punish” your spouse by seeking to “get everything,” leaving your soon-to-be ex, with nothing, even though the law, depending on the state where you live, might state otherwise.
Communication would be non-existent, as the only communication that would be taking place would be between the two lawyers, who, by the very nature of their profession can certainly intensify the vitriol, if that is what their client wants them to do. The divorcing parties would spend ten’s, sometimes hundred’s of thousands of dollars, attempting to “get their revenge” on their spouse. They may engage in all sorts of verbal wars with each other through e-mail, social media platforms, friends, family, or worse their children.
The experience of divorce can certainly take many things away from you. But the one thing that divorce absolutely cannot take away from you, unless you allow it, is your personal integrity, and highest sense of self. Integrity is a foundation upon which other qualities such as respect, dignity, and trust are built upon. Philip Brooks once said that; “character is made in the small moments of our lives,” and Josh Weston, former CEO of Automatic Data Processing, Inc. says; “I’ve always tried to live with the following simple rule: ‘Don’t do what you wouldn’t feel comfortable reading about in the newspapers the next day.”
During difficult times of conflict, especially that of divorce, ask yourself the following questions, while looking at yourself squarely in the eyes through the mirror:
1. Am I exemplifying the same set of values with my spouse during the divorce process as I am with my friends, family, children, and co-workers?
2. Am I able to quickly admit, and take responsibility for what I contributed towards the destruction of the relationship without being urged to do so by a third party?
3. Am I operating with an unchanged moral and ethical standard when making all decisions, or do particular circumstances determine the standards by which I will live by?
4. When I have something to say about my spouse, am I talking to them or about them?
5. Who else am I accountable to, for what I think, say, and do?
It is quite likely that during the divorce process, you will experience many changes in the relationships that you have with certain people. You will likely lose certain relationships, and gain others. However, the best and most loyal friend that you will have during this challenging and overwhelming experience is your own integrity. It will never betray you.
If you maintain a strong connection to it, your integrity will keep your priorities straight, and when tempted to go astray, it will help you stay on course. When being the object of accusations and verbal assaults by your spouse, your integrity will help you maintain the high-road, even if your spouse is traveling the low road. Your integrity will also help you accept what has happened in your marriage, learn from it, and continue growing as a person.
Abraham Lincoln once stated, “When I lay down the reins of this administration, I want to have one friend left. And that friend is inside myself.”
When your divorce concludes, will you want the same for yourself?