Continuing in this series with Kathleen Christensen, she talked previously about the collaborative divorce she and her ex negotiated. Looking back, she says that process had a benefit that she didn’t recognize at the time. Here’s what she told me.
We were really building the relationship for the future. We were building a healthy relationship and a foundation. I think a lot of people are able to go into divorce and come to an agreement fairly easily. We didn’t go in that way at all. At the same time, I’ve come to see the traditional system as enabling unhealthy behaviors, like trying to hide assets or just looking out for yourself. With a collaborative divorce while you could still theoretically hide assets, you go in agreeing you’re going to be honest with each other.
It felt safe to be honest about everything because of the framework that was around us and because we weren’t being enabled by a ‘you deserve this, get what you can’ approach. My lawyer did go over what would happen in a typical court case, what were the rights and what were the formulas but there wasn’t any just get as much time with your daughter as you can and just get all the money you can.
I was talking about the collaborative divorce process with a friend and I was painting this glowing picture. She said,
‘Yeah but it was really hard at first wasn’t it?’
And she’s right. It wasn’t wonderful at first. It was really kind of awful to be trying to work this stuff out together when we were not making decisions together at all. We had to work really hard at it but it changed our thinking and since we made all the decisions we’re more invested in the decisions. It takes away the self-interest.
The Divorce Coach Says
I love Kathleen’s perspective – I had not thought of divorce negotiations as the foundation for your future relationship with your ex. When I was going through my divorce I always felt the process was bringing out the worst in both my ex and I. Even though I was trying to approach the settlement from the perspective of what was best for the children and what would be equitable for my ex and me, I found it didn’t help much when I was figuring out how I would finish college and start a new career.
I suspect for most people, it’s much easier to be combative when you’re shielded by your attorney, so the four-way meetings might be intimidating but at the same time, I can see the benefit of hearing your ex’s rationale and arguments on issues. If, as Kathleen says, it’s a safe place to be honest, and you can come to an agreement, then I can also see how acceptance would be part of the process and that could lead to a more productive relationship with your ex going forward.
Was there something you did during your divorce that helped you build the foundation for your relationship with your ex? If you’re facing divorce now, have you considered a collaborative divorce?