Divorce negotiations are treacherous territory. Not only are partners faced with lack of legal knowledge and disagreement about what entails a “fair” agreement, but they are also confronted with waves of intense emotions that too often disrupt discussion and lead to impulsive decisions or a breakdown of the process.
Skilled attorneys who prioritize efficiency and productivity can help drive the negotiation process in a positive direction; overly aggressive lawyers can hinder it. Mediators and collaborative attorneys usually nurture negotiations by encouraging effective communication and discouraging adversarial tactics between partners.
However, no matter what method is used, emotional reactivity is the darkest demon in divorce negotiations. All it takes is a comment about her affair with the neighbor, or a remark about his inability to get that promotion at work, and an infectious negative energy begins to consume the room. Suddenly, any progress that has been made is a spirit of cooperation is rendered null.
Emotions are an inherent part of the divorce process. Divorce is a huge loss, even if you propose it, and it is natural that various emotions surface over time. Denial, blame, anger, and sadness – just to name a few – all creep their heads in, taking us by surprise and often derailing our best intentions. It’s important to know your triggers and become aware of when you are most subject to letting your emotions manifest in an unhelpful way.
At the same time, these very emotions must be honored as part of the necessary process of grief. If we don’t pay attention to our emotions, they just get bigger and start to swallow us, stalling healing that needs to occur. As it is often said, “What we resist, persists…” The key is finding a safe place to express, release and have feelings acknowledged and validated. Support groups, therapists, and close friends and family can be great resources for this very purpose.
But when it comes to divorce negotiations, leave your little black bag of emotions outside the conference room door. Or on the front porch of your ex’s house. Or in the car when meeting him or her at another location.
This is a very effective visual tool for conducting yourself with clarity and dignity when trying to reach common ground on your divorce agreement. Before you know it you are treating the divorce more like a business deal than a horror story, and this is how it must be done.
Give it a try yourself! The next time you are planning to talk with your ex regarding divorce negotiations or other touchy subjects surrounding your relationship, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and listen closely to all the negative emotions that rise up in your heart, mind and body.
Then, imagine yourself grasping each of them with your hands and transferring them into a little black bag next to you. Name each emotion as you place it in your bag: anger, resentment, frustration, sadness, rage, annoyance, etc. After you have emptied yourself of these toxic emotions, pretend to zip up the bag, and then put it aside. In doing so, you are honoring your emotions, but putting them in their proper place. Onward!