Divorce can be a crazy-making process. When a couple separates, each partner is likely to experience a variety of urges, emotions and anxiety. People often lash out at each other, failing to taste their words before they say them, and the whole thing can become one big ugly snowball. While such an outcome is the reality for many, it doesn’t have to be that way.
My GOOD Divorce™ Philosophy suggests that it’s possible to move through the process in a healthy and respectful manner by setting appropriate Goals, Observing without judging, considering Options before acting and maintaining one’s Dignity. For now, let’s focus on Observation…
Consider this scenario (or a similar one in your own life): You’ve recently taken the kids to their other parent and you receive a text message from your ex to say that you forgot to pack something and now your child is upset with you. For extra burn, your ex includes a snide comment about your parenting abilities. The natural reaction, of course, is to fire off a heated response. But what if, instead, you took a deep breath, sat back and observed the situation?
Observe your emotions. Do you feel anger towards your ex? Perhaps you feel guilty and ashamed for forgetting the item. Maybe you feel defensive. Do you feel compassion for your child? Do you feel compassion for your ex? How about compassion for yourself?
Observe your body. Are you clenching your jaw? Your fists? Is there a pit in your stomach? How’s your breathing?
Let’s say you’re furious. How dare your ex suggest you’re a bad parent? You’re not the one who forgot the passes for the amusement park! Your mind is racing. Your jaw is clenched and you’re holding your breath.
Keep observing, and notice how your thoughts and physical sensations change with awareness. Are you feeling slightly more relaxed after noticing how tense you were?
Observe your ex and the situation.What was said? If the exchange took place in person, what body language was exhibited? What tone was used?
Don’t make assumptions or judgments based on your observations, because that’s how snowballs get started. At this stage of the game, your job is simply to notice all the facets of the event without attaching to anything in particular.
The goal of observing is to give yourself a moment to calm down and take in more information. Rather than indulging a knee-jerk reaction, you’re setting yourself up to choose a mindful response to the trigger. And the latter option generally yields a more productive outcome.
Give this tactic a try the next time you disagree with your ex, or even the next time you discuss your divorce with a friend. Step backwards, out of the moment. Tune in to the situation and just watch. You’ll likely notice a change in your stress level and response.