Emotions are high. Tensions are flaring. You can’t even have privacy in your bathroom long enough to color your own hair. If you’re still living with your soon-to-be ex during this quarantine, we’re sending you a little prayer. 🙏🙏🙏
And if you’ve already separated/divorced, this time brings its own stressors. From custody exchanges, to court closings, to your ex’s lawyer insisting a home appraiser needs to come inside your home this week. It’s just too much.
With all that’s going on, trying to figure out what’s next in your life right now can feel damn near impossible.
If you’re feeling stressed about making a decision, you need to hear this!
It’s never a good idea to make a big decision when you’re under significant stress.
We've talked about the importance of slowing down. And it can be especially unwise to make a big decision while in the middle of, oh say, a worldwide pandemic.
Experts say stress affects the brain and increases the likelihood of making risky decisions. Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) proved this theory using mice, a maze, and chocolate milk. The longer the mice were subjected to stress, the more frequently they choose to enter the “riskier” maze (the one full of blinding lights) as opposed to the “safer” maze. To quote from MIT News,“when the animals are stressed, these circuit dynamics shift and the cortical neurons fire too late to inhibit the striosomes, which then become overexcited. This results in abnormal decision making.”
That’s scientific speak for saying that being under ongoing stress can cause you to make impulsive, risky, and/or irrational decisions. Not what we want for you, friend!
Let’s look at 3 big decisions you might be facing right now. If you’re under increased stress 🙋♀️, we suggest you consider not making them at all right now. But if you really can’t wait and need to decide now, we address how to best do that below.
1. Deciding whether to separate.
Fact: Being under the same roof 24-7 with another human can be rough. Even some happy marriages are suffering under the strain of too much togetherness.
Maybe you were already contemplating a split. Or possibly this quarantine is bringing out disagreements and concerns about each other you didn’t know existed. Do you find yourself seriously contemplating divorce now?
If statistics from China about the increased divorce rate immediately following their quarantine are any indication, this is a really tough time for many couples.
If this is you, know that you’re far from alone. But also know, it’s possible this feeling will pass. When I got married, a friend gave me this advice: know the difference between a marriage issue (i.e. he doesn’t support me) and a roommate issue (i.e. he leaves dirty dishes in the sink). If you’re not sure which it is, here’s one way to check: if you weren’t stuck together like glue right now, would this issue feel like as big of a deal?
2. Deciding whether to settle your case.
Even though court access is restricted, many couples are moving forward with remote mediations and trying other ways to settle their divorce case. And while settling is often the best option, trying to make those kinds of decisions while the world is turned on its head can be especially challenging.
If you already have the information you need to make a good decision, super.
But if you’re lacking info, or the constant stress you’re under right now makes decision-making feel even tougher, your body might be telling you to slow down.
3. Deciding whether to sell your house.
One of the biggest decisions in divorce is whether to keep or sell the house. And that decision - which is emotional under typical circumstances - may be even harder to make right now.
The market is changing daily, so the value of your house today may not be the value of your house tomorrow. Selling a house means letting people you don’t know in it. And you’d have to figure out where to move and how to do that safely. If that’s enough to make your head spin, slow down.
If you’re facing these or any other potentially life-changing decisions, proceed with caution. But if you’re feeling rushed or pressured (or like me, are the kind of person who just likes making decisions quickly), ask yourself this:
· Do I have to make this decision now? The answer is probably no. You don’t have to decide whether to divorce now. If you’re not the one who wants out, ask your spouse if he’d be willing to wait a few weeks. With the courts closed to all but the most urgent matters, nothing is happening quickly anyway. If this time passes, and either of you still feel that’s the right decision, you can deal with it then.
· How can I best make a smart decision? If you have to make a decision, we want you to make a smart, empowered one. One of the ways to do that is to arm yourself with the info you need before deciding. This means gathering data, seeking advice, and weighing the pros and cons. It also means not rushing. Doing these things helps slow your brain down, so your decision can come from a place of informed knowledge, not panic or worry.
· Is there an intermediate step I can take? Think about what smaller actions steps you can take now that don’t require the full commitment of the larger decision. If you’re considering divorce, can you sleep in separate bedrooms or agree to give each other some “alone” time during the day? If you’re deciding whether to sell your house, what about asking an agent to put together a market assessment? (That doesn’t require anyone to come inside your house). Or can you commit to selling the house, but not listing it until the world has returned to normal?
· If we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic, is this the decision I would still make? This one’s critical. Before saying “yes” or “no” to anything, picture yourself making this decision 3 months ago. Or 6 months from now. Would you make the same choice? Can you even answer that question? If the answer to either of those is no, consider hitting the pause button before you do something you may regret later.
Whether to choose to decide right now or not, give yourself the time and space to do it wisely. Even if that time and space comes from locking yourself in your bathroom and not coming out until you have to. You have more say in this than you may realize. In the end, the mice who chose the safer maze still got some chocolate milk.