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Divorcing: Battle of Roses or Gavels?

» Mental Health Library » Disorders & Conditions » Relational Problems » Featured Article

By Dr. Laurel A. Sills, Licensed Psychologist

Dr. Laurel A. Sills, Licensed Psychologist

Making the decision to leave a marital relationship is very difficult for most people. Aside from letting go of the promise to stay together "through better or worse, sickness and health,” one has to face losing the family unit as it has been, losing marital assets and learning to be alone.

In the best of circumstances, the husband and wife both will override their emotional hurt with sound intellectual reasoning. Each partner recognizes that being with someone either whom does not love you as a spouse or whom you do not love fully is not healthy emotionally for either partner or for your children. No matter how much pain divorce causes, the truth is that if the marriage cannot be brought back to a respectful, loving, faithful commitment, it may be best to dissolve the marriage.

Unfortunately, even though the truth nags at them, many people allow their egos to get in the way of settling the divorce amicably. Vindictiveness, power plays, stubborn resistance, and playing games to hold onto the other as long as possible often blind people to certain facts that are obvious to most. For example, as couples fight through a divorce to make it "fair,” they often cut their own noses to spite their face. Trying to hurt the other or get as much out of them as possible, typically backfires.

In the movie, "War of the Roses,” the hurt each partner felt got lost under heaps of vengeful anger. Obsessing about how to get under the skin of your ex-to-be only keeps you stuck and tied to your spouse. The desire to avoid facing having to make major life changes and accept losses keeps many people turning to divorce lawyers and the courts in an attempt to "right” the wrongs. Since no lawyer or judge knows the real truth, his word against hers and vice versa can be a long process in deciding who gets what assets. The longer the legal battle continues, there is no justice. Lifelong savings go down the drain to pay attorney fees and court costs, shrinking the money pot for both partners.

There are many good family law attorneys who recognize integrity over making an extra buck in working with divorcing couples. They understand that prolonging the fight only hurts both partners, despite filling their own pocket books with hourly fees. Unfortunately, there are plenty more out there who are glad to keep your emotions stirring since strengthening your commitment to fighting just keeps their earnings coming.

In the long haul, the most important thing we have is our integrity, our sense of fairness and facing the truth of being congruent with feelings and behaviors. Both partners are entitled to a fair shake. So are their children. But all too often, the war of the roses and gavels just breaks people of all assets; personal and financial. The battles may be won, but the war is lost for all involved. The more bitterness, the more fighting, the more legal fees, the pot of assets just gets diminished so that the partners have little left to divide for themselves.

This happens over and over again. Couples need to work towards accepting reality. They need to prevent their hurts from sabotaging their rational thinking. They need to think ahead and be smart together to make the divorce less painful financially and emotionally to all involved. Shortsightedness only helps the lawyers who don’t have the integrity to advise you that prolonging the legal fight only makes you and your spouse lose in the long run. They know that the more you return to court, the more they rack up collectible fees. Guess what? Who pays for these fees? You and your spouse do!

I suggest that you carefully select attorneys who want you to divorce with the least amount of injury as possible, including your pocket book for legal fees. Also, get help from mental health professionals to separate your emotional wishes from your actions if those wishes are going to be detrimental to you in the long run. Spending all of your energy on fighting only keeps you stuck personally, unable to let go and move on with a potentially healthier life.

Mediation at the start can be very helpful. It will never feel completely fair to either partner. There will be no "winning.” Keep in mind that both partners will be ahead by getting out of a no-win situation in the quickest, least financially draining way. Spend your energy and time on being honest with yourself. Introspect on what you did to add to the marital demise. Don’t look to blame yourself or your partner. Take responsibility for your errors of omission and commission. Clean up your own house, so to speak, rather than focusing on how your partner needs to do so. Talk to your children and your partner and attempt to divorce with as much dignity as possible.

Don’t let the rose thorns stick you or the gavels pound you into the ground!

About the Author...

Dr. Laurel A. Sills is a licensed clinical psychologist in West Bloomfield, Michigan who sees mainly adults for couple or individual short-term therapy. Dr. Sills is EMDR II trained and does short-term therapy in addition to Life Coaching.

Last Update: 9/17/2008

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