There’s nothing more difficult than a divorce process that just won’t end. The time, energy and money spent. The feelings hurt. The damage to relationships. It’s a fate every divorcing couple wishes to avoid—and yet some fall prey to it. Why?
Among those couples, there are a few common threads that emerge. Being aware of these will tell you what to look out for in yourself, and will help you readjust as needed—so that you can settle your divorce and move on with your life.
If you find yourself in a divorce process that is dragging on much longer than you would wish, consider whether your expectations may fall into any of the three categories below. If so, you may find that you can move your divorce process along more successfully by making a few shifts in your own perspective.
None of the mistakes I mention below are behavioral. There are certainly mistakes of behavior in divorce, but they’re easier to spot (e.g., lying about your income), and thus less insidious. My focus here is on ways of thinking about the divorce—call them mistakes of mindsets, or unrealistic expectations—because they can be harder to detect than an action or behavior, and they harm the person thinking or holding them by setting them up for disappointment and making resolution unbearably slow.
First is an expectation of compensation, i.e., that those things that were out of balance during your marriage can be balanced by your divorce settlement. If you were the one within your relationship dynamic who was always making sacrifices, you’re probably ready for that to change, and you may be looking to your spouse to make more of the sacrifices in your settlement negotiation. Understandably so! But an uneven or unfair dynamic in your relationship history can only be shifted going forward. Hoping to make up for it in your settlement agreement runs the risk of prolonging your negotiation process and costing you more money and heartache.
Second is an expectation of breakthrough, i.e., that your divorce process or settlement will enable you to get through to your spouse and get him or her to change the behaviors that were problematic during the marriage. Divorce often follows a long history of wishing for a change in the other person’s behavior that never materialized. If your spouse’s failure to plan ahead drove you crazy during your marriage, you may want a co-parenting plan that will teach him or her to plan by making no room for last-minute flexibility. This kind of arrangement is unlikely to fly with your spouse (who doesn’t like to plan ahead!), which will usually mean prolonging your divorce. It’s not easy to accept that a change you wished for may never materialize, but it often quickens your route to settlement.
If you find yourself in a divorce process that is dragging on much longer than you would wish, or are at the outset of a divorce that you wish to resolve as quickly as possible, consider whether your expectations may fall into any of the three categories above. If so, you may find that you can move your divorce process along more successfully by making a few shifts in your own perspective.