YOU BETTER THINK
So begin the lyrics to one of Aretha Franklin’s biggest hits. Was a great song and is good advice to any of you contemplating getting a divorce. As human beings we are not mere creatures of instinct, driven by unreasoning passion. We have the capacity for thoughtfulness. And if you’re seriously considering divorce, then thoughtfulness is one of your greatest assets.
As is your capacity to imagine the future. You can look ahead and literally see yourself as you might appear four or five years hence.
If you want to get divorced then you really ought to think about it, and imagine how life will be. Why?
- First, divorce is a huge game-changer. It will affect every facet of your life. Financial, physical, emotional and social. You may have to move, you could lose friends and have less money, and maybe even enjoy less free time.
- Second, the effects of a divorce will hang around for a long, long time. Probably for years if not decades. Women, especially, often never recover financially from a divorce. And parents – moms and dads – lose out on big chunks of their children’s lives. Time that can’t be recalled.
- Third, for some people divorce is about getting away from a situation they deem to be toxic or dysfunctional. A spouse who is unfaithful. A marriage which is without love. For them, divorce is a matter of addition by subtraction. Until they learn that the best journeys are towards a goal rather than away from a problem.
- Finally, divorce is failure. Our society is built on competing and winning. We celebrate our winners. Losers? Not so much. Divorce is one of the biggest failures possible to have because it’s not the job you didn’t get. Or the deal you couldn’t close. It’s about you, personally, and how you came up short. Ouch!
So, think long and hard about divorce before you jump into that particular mud puddle. Try to imagine your “new” life. How to go about that? Here are some hints and tips:
- Prepare a post-divorce budget. Look at your income (job and child support or alimony) and your monthly expenses. Will you have enough money to get from the first of the month to the last? If not, how will you cover the gap – take a second (or third) job? Win the lottery?
- Where will you live? Can you afford to stay in your home? How will a move affect your kids? Your job?
- How will you manage if you are alone? If you have kids, how will you take care of them when they’re with you? Use your imagination and actually see yourself move through an entire day with them.
- Reach out to people whom you can trust for advice – your pastor or rabbi, a trusted family friend or a counselor. Don’t start this without sounding out the people who matter in your life.
- And consider how this will affect your children. What most children of divorce want more than anything is for mom and dad to stay together. Yours are likely to want that, too.
- Are you prepared to lose friends? Maybe have to change churches? Lose shared family history?
Be thoughtful about why you want to be divorced, and go easy on the “It’s all his or her fault” stuff. Divorce is a two-way street. One spouse is almost never 100% responsible for it. Accept your share. Apologize for it, make amends and then move on.
Keep in mind that no marriage is perfect. Many that hit the shoals of divorce could, with a little better seamanship, have been piloted into calmer, less dangerous waters. Don’t too easily give up on the potential that your marriage can be kept afloat.
And as Aretha sang, “You better think about what you’re trying to do to me.” Good and timeless advice for all you prospective divorced persons out there.
Grace and peace.