If you’re like me, you’ve been awaiting the end of 2020 as if when midnight comes, everything will be better. Emotionally, I want to believe that. Logically, I know it’s not true.
And yet, January is the month for resolutions. For starting anew with a clean slate. And that optimistic way we start the new year is a good thing.
Whether you’re a fan of making resolutions or not, now is as good a time as any to think about what you want for your next 12 months. How will you prepare for what your new year will bring?
Decide what you want your life to look like for the next 12 months. ____________________________________________________________________________________________
Whether you’re just starting the divorce process or in the thick of it, we’ve got 3 questions to ask yourself as you prepare for the year ahead. The answers just may hold the key to achieving the year you want, at least as far as your divorce goes.
1. What kind of divorce do you want to have?
This might seem obvious - maybe you know you want a “good divorce.” Or maybe you’re so shocked and overwhelmed that you haven’t put much thought into the divorce process at all.
There are all kinds of divorces. Some are DIY, where the spouses sit down at the kitchen table and work out all the details privately. Some include a team of lawyers, CPAs, and parent coordinators. Some are peaceful and amicable; some are rough as all get out. Some are quick; some are slow and drawn out. If you don’t know what kind of divorce you want, you run the risk of other people deciding for you - your soon-to-be-ex, your lawyer, maybe even your own family.
Once you know, let your actions be guided by your decision from start to finish. Your decision can influence things like how and when you tell your spouse you want a divorce. Or whether you sit down with him to personally deliver the papers you filed, or have a process server show up at his work.
2. How do you want to behave during the process?
This question naturally follows the first, as the type of divorce you want will have some influence over how you behave during it. But how you choose to behave goes much deeper than that. After all, having a quick divorce doesn’t necessarily make it amicable, nor does having a drawn out divorce mean it’s a hostile one. No matter what kind of divorce process you want, or need, you can choose to behave in a way you feel good about. You can be the kind of person that makes you proud to look at in the mirror every morning.
The person you choose to be has nothing to do with the person your spouse chooses to be. You can’t control that. You can’t control what kind of lawyer he hires, or if he’s going to be nice or nasty through the process. But you can decide how you want to behave, no matter what situation you face.
Again, let that decision be your guidepost. Who you choose to be can influence how you share the news with people in your mutual circle. It can guide how you treat him when he calls to speak to the kids.
But what if you’re in the middle of your divorce, and you’re not so thrilled with how you’ve handled things so far? It’s never too late to be the person you want to be. If you’ve handled yourself in a way you aren’t proud of, own up to it. If you’ve allowed yourself to be treated in a way that’s not ok anymore, own that too. The great thing about a new year is we get a mental re-start.
3. What is your #1 divorce priority?
Divorce involves so many decisions. And the choices you make have a direct impact on your finances, emotional wellbeing, physical health, your children, and so much more. Because of this, it’s likely there are a lot of competing interests at play.
With all these things to think about, have you stopped to figure out your biggest priority? If you’re not sure what I mean, it’s the thing you want and need above all else. The thing that’s absolutely not negotiable. If you haven’t done it yet, now’s the time.
Like making a new years’ resolution, achieving the priority in your divorce will mean sacrifice in other areas. If your new years’ resolution is to lose 10 pounds, that probably means skipping or at least cutting back on the nightly dessert. You can’t have both at the same time, right? We understand this trade-off when it comes to things like weight loss, but not always when it comes to divorce.
If your #1 priority is getting a quick settlement so you can move on with your live peacefully, then you might have to give up on getting the very best financial settlement possible. Conversely, if having enough money to live a certain way is your #1 priority, then you might not also be able to have a quick and easy settlement. Neither priority is right or wrong. It’s about what’s most important to you. Could be that you want both - a great settlement, and quick and easy. It’s understandable, but if that’s not the likely outcome for you, you’ve got to make a choice.
If you don’t know your #1 priority, you could end up spinning your wheels and stressing yourself out more in the process.
Asking this question has helped me in the past few weeks as I navigate the end to a personal challenge. There were two things that felt really important to me, and I was spending a lot of my time and energy on them. It took me months to realize that they were in conflict with each other. I’d been so focused on achieving both outcomes, I hadn’t seen that it wasn’t possible. Once I did some soul searching, I got clear which was truly my #1 priority.
The amazing thing about setting your priority is that, once you do, an option you didn’t know existed might open up to you. Or maybe it was already there but you couldn’t see it because your focus was out of alignment. For me, within days of deciding my #1 priority, a choice was presented to me that hadn’t been before. Had I still been focused on both goals, I may never have seen it as the opportunity it was.
Once you decide your priority, you can evaluate all the decisions you’ll face through that lens. I’m certainly not pushing for you to throw in the towel. I am encouraging you to take the time to figure out what’s most important. Once you do, commit to it. Write it down and read it every day. Each time something happens that frustrates you, or prompts you to make a decision, remind yourself of it. Then act as the person who holds that priority would act.