Be Fair To Yourself As You Divorce
All’s fair in love and war, so the saying goes. But what about when you divorce? What counts as ‘fair’ in the eyes of the divorce courts? And how can you keep arrangements as fair as possible? We’ll explore the legal perspective further in future blogs. But to ensure you are as smart as you can be in divorce we need to start with the foundations. You need to know how to be fair to yourself as you divorce.
What’s fair anyway?
You can’t pick fairness up and examine it. It’s not like a puppy you can stroke, or an interesting rock on the beach. Fairness is harder to understand – we all see it differently. Which means it’s a trigger point for disputes.
We all have opinions about what’s fair, and what isn’t. And when it comes to divorce and fairness, emotions can boil over. The truth is there’s no single legal or moral definition of fairness. There are some legal principles, which we’ll get into in a future blog, but’s it’s open to interpretation. By the courts and by each of us. So the most important thing is to get clear on how to be fair to ourselves.
Focus on what matters
If you dive into the whys and wherefores of fairness you’re going to lose years off your life. Figuring out what’s fair and what isn’t in the grand scheme of things is a job for moral philosophers. And they’ve been at it for millennia.
So, ask yourself: do you want to spend months gnashing your teeth about how your soon-to-be-ex is behaving? Do you want to lose sleep over whether they get to keep the Magimix?
I’m not saying give it all up for the sake of a quiet life. Far from it – more on that later. What I am saying is you need to get clear on what matters to you most. And keep that front and centre. Don’t get sucked into ego-driven power games.
Your divorce is a perfect time to return to your values. Our values tell us about the ways in which we want to live. Both what we’re aiming for and how we want to get there. There’s no getting away from the fact that divorce is stressful – perhaps the most stressful experience you’ll ever have. And life-changing, too. So what better time to reconnect with what’s important to you in life?
Get clear on your values
How exactly do you know what your values are? If you’ve spent years taking care of everyone else’s needs this can be a tough question to answer. And if you’re the sort of person who just likes to get on with things it can feel like a waste of time to sit pondering life.
But, trust me, you need to spend time with this. It’s the foundation for everything else. Once you know what your values are they act as a compass. They help you make decisions. And making values-driven decisions brings self-confidence and fulfilment – even when those decisions are hard. Maybe you’ve wanted to talk to your spouse about your marriage for some time. And you realise that honesty is one of your guiding values. Or that freedom is. When you have that knowledge it gives you the strength to have the difficult conversations rather than keep shying away.
So, to get clearer on your values, go and find your notebook and write down these questions:
- When did I feel most proud of myself? (Choose a maximum of three)
- What times have I been happiest?
- When have I felt hurt or upset?
Do the work
Once you have the answers to each of those questions, I want you to think about what lies underneath. This will give you an insight into the value guiding you. For example, maybe you felt proud when you got a promotion at work. And, once you’ve thought about it, you realise that’s because you value the hard work you put in to be good at your job. Or maybe the underpinning value is courage – you were nervous about putting yourself forward and are proud of yourself for being brave.
Do this for all three questions. The happiness one is easy to understand – the times we are happy often show us what’s important in life. Maybe you recall a wonderful family holiday and know you value time to connect with loved ones. Or maybe you recall a weekend entirely alone doing what you love, and see that you value peace.
The third question can be tricky. But difficult times are powerful insights into our values. We hurt because we care. So if you were upset because a friend let you down, it can indicate you value loyalty, or trustworthiness. Or if you were upset because your soon-to-be-ex lied, it shows you value honesty.
Spend some time with these questions and come up with five values you want to live by. Then write those five down and stick them to the wall in each room of your house.
Your values compass
Now you have your own values compass. It will be an indispensible guide as you navigate divorce. And it will help you be fair to yourself. Because it means you will always prioritise the choices that are important to you. And other people’s definitions of fairness don’t need to get in the way.
I’m not saying ignore everyone else. Of course, listen, respect, and empathise as your friends offer advice or your soon-to-be-ex shares their point of view. But you have your values to turn to every time now. They are both your safe place to stand and your guide to the future.
Watch your self-talk
Values are an important tool for knowing what’s fair for you during divorce. But they’re not the only tools you need to have handy. Many of my clients are pros at negative self-talk. Because they are good and kind people! But you need to be good and kind to yourself too. Otherwise, it’s just not fair!
So, to be fair to yourself as you divorce, pledge to watch your inner critic. And believe me, your inner critic is there for life. We all have them and they are going nowhere. But you don’t have to pass them the steering wheel.
It can be hard to start trusting yourself and treating yourself with kindness if you’ve spent years mentally putting yourself down. All I’m asking is that you start to notice. Every time you tell yourself, “I’m no good with money” or “I’m so stupid for putting up with him for so long”, just notice it.
And notice yourself noticing. If you can, say out loud “Oh, that’s my inner critic coming out to play again.” It will help you realise all the times you are being unfair to yourself. And you would never say those things to a friend, would you? So you need to realise it’s not ok to say them to yourself either.
Don’t be tempted to walk away
Finally, let’s talk about fairness when it comes to financial and child arrangements. Many of my clients have been tempted to throw in the towel and “let them have it all – it’s not worth the hassle.”
Believe me, it is worth the hassle. You are worth holding on for what you want and need, and your future self will thank you for it. Letting your soon-to-be-ex call all the shots might mean you get the divorce process over faster with. But then you have the rest of your life ahead of you. It’s going to be a lot tougher to live that life if you’re penniless. Or if the arrangements for children are unrealistic.
So be fair to your future self as you divorce. Think about the rest of your life and what’s important. Pretend you are representing your future self and her needs. And fight for her.
Let’s do it together!
Sometimes we can’t see the wood for the trees. We need other people to act as a mirror. That’s where I come in. I can help you work through your decisions, get to grips with your values and step into divorce as the confident, capable woman that you are.
Not sure how I can help? Book in a free chat and find out.
Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is the author of the Amazon best selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self-study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com