Divorce doesn’t have to be a war. A mindful and healthy divorce is possible.
Parents who practice mindfulness during their divorce experience less fighting, lower stress, and more beneficial divorce agreements. Most importantly, a mindful approach better protects children from psychological harm and creates healthier co-parenting relationships.
Our experience helping spouses through divorce mediation—a process where a neutral mediator helps spouses reach agreements out of court—provides unique insight into how parents attain the most favorable outcomes. Mindfulness, rather than a combative mindset, allows parents to be thoughtful, strategic, and remain in control of their future. Even when conflict is high and mistrust runs deep, spouses are capable of being mindful.
True — divorcing mindfully is easier said than done. Being “in the moment” can be very painful. Self-awareness is often overcome by feelings of anger, sadness and fear. Parents can become so overwhelmed that they lose sight of who they are, what they need, and even what is best for their children.
Our “Mindful Approach to Divorce” may help guide you toward a better outcome.
1 | Take a seat at the mediation table. Your divorce environment can be calm, respectful, and supported. Choosing divorce mediation allows you to avoid the emotional turmoil that litigation in court causes, and allows you to focus on what is important to you.
2 | Set time boundaries. Setting boundaries around when you think about or discuss your divorce will help you stay in the moment reduces stress. Designate specific times for exploring your thoughts and feelings, developing proposals to resolve issues, and time for venting.
3 | Recognize feelings. Mindfulness is noticing your feelings as they come. Acknowledging that, “I am angry right now,” is the first step toward moving through that anger. Mindfulness is also accepting that you cannot change another person’s feelings—this is beyond your control. However, you can respectfully listen and acknowledge that they have been heard.
4 | Notice your wants, needs, and deeper “why” of each issue. Fear of the unknown causes anxiety. What will happen with your assets, debts, spousal support and your children? What you want is a position. “I want $500.” Why you want it, is an interest. “Because I need to make my $500 car payment.” When spouses only communicate their positions, conflict ensues. Expressing your underlying interests re-focuses you both on problem-solving. Payment from one to the other may not be agreeable, but direct payment to the auto lender could be a compromise.
5 | Be kind to yourself, and to your spouse. Embrace self-compassion during your divorce. People often gravitate towards self-blame and judgment. Mindfully recognize your pain, and soften around those feelings. Kindness with yourself can lead to kindness toward your spouse, which can benefit the quality of your agreements, and improve your co-parenting relationship.