Separating facts from feelings brings about acceptance in divorce — a process that helps the clients free themselves from the burden of emotions.
By Jeff Malone and Kalyn Block, Integrative Life Coaches
Family law is intended to create clarity, equity, and justice for divorcing parties. However, in many cases, the divorce process leaves one or both parties feeling hurt, a victim, or incomplete. In early childhood, our parents teach us to look for who is right and who is wrong in an argument. Our schools and workplaces continue to emphasize the right/wrong paradigm. In looking for one person is right and the other is wrong in divorce, we cannot get clarity – because it doesn’t exist – and it also leaves the parties stuck in distress over perceived inequity and injustice.
What is missing in most divorces is the most basic of resolutions: acceptance. The law doesn’t require parties to agree with and accept a verdict, merely to comply with it – and most lawyers are not trained to help their clients find emotional acceptance during the process and at the resolution of a divorce. The law is the law and you must live with whatever the law says. If it were that simple, no one would walk away frustrated and incomplete from a divorce, feeling they were not only wronged, but also misrepresented by their attorney.
Legal training does not teach the power that comes from understanding what true emotional acceptance is and what it can do to mitigate and minimize the emotional damage of divorce. So what is it that legal professionals must know about the psychological term “acceptance”?
Craving for High Ground and Acceptance in Divorce
In its simplest form, acceptance means feeling that everything is as it is should be. Sticking to the facts and not the meanings that get attached to the facts by both parties can lead to true acceptance. We as humans view the facts of any situation through the lenses of our beliefs and experiences, attaching meaning to those facts to fit our expectations and what we believe is right. When we have two parties who have diametrically opposed positions on something, it is the difference in expectations and beliefs about the issue – not the issue itself – that prevents them from reaching a resolution acceptable to both of them. It is. When we expect something to go one way and it doesn’t, it can be very hard to accept. The disappointment of our unfulfilled expectation is compounded by the power of an intimate relationship gone wrong. In a disagreement with someone we once loved, we crave the high ground.
So the lawyer’s job needs to go beyond the tenants of the law and into working with the client (either directly or through a trained professional) to reset client expectations in line with reality and to build a case for acceptance of the facts of the divorce – not on what we made the facts mean to the client.
Acceptance in Divorce Means Separating Facts From Feelings
One useful strategy is to have the client write out their divorce story in all its emotional drama and righteousness; when it is complete, ask them to highlight the facts and only the facts. This is a very simple and clear way for clients to separate the facts from their interpretations and feelings about the facts. This has a twofold benefit of showing them where they attached meanings to the facts, and how they mistook their interpretations for the facts themselves, thereby distorting reality. Also, it teaches clients that they have the power to reinterpret the meanings they attached to the facts, freeing them from the emotional drama.
It is important as an attorney to maintain some sense of connection to the client without getting pulled into their emotional drama. Doing the above divorce/story exercise can drag you into a client’s drama if you aren’t clear about separating facts from interpretations or don’t have strong professional boundaries. Referring clients to a trained divorce coach can expedite this process and pave the way for a realistic settlement. Acceptance can free a divorce of its dramatic second and third acts, and free the legal professional from the burden of broken hearts and unmet expectations.
Jeff Malone was the CEO of the Ford Institute for Transformational Training. In this capacity, he co-developed the Healing Your Heart Training (formerly known as “Spiritual Divorce”), based on Debbie Ford’s critically acclaimed book Spiritual Divorce. A Master Integrative Coach, Jeff has helped literally thousands of people with their relationship issues; he teaches and lectures around the world on this methodology.
Kalyn Block is a Certified Integrative Coach who supports clients through personal transformation and helps provide the foundation, tools, and support from which clients can gain deeper access to inner wisdom and strength to make lasting life changes. For more information, visit her website: http://itsuptoyouintegrativecoaching.com
Managing clients’ psychological responses to divorce and child custody disputes involves managing their emotional reactions at all stages of the process.