A Tangled Mess - Separating Emotions from Decision-Making in Divorce

by Cat J. Zavis December 03, 2013

As we are all aware, clients’ emotional pains interfere with and drive their decision-making and this can wreak havoc in clients’ lives and the divorce process.  When clients are emotionally traumatized (which most clients usually are – or at least one of them is!) it can be difficult, if not impossible, to separate their emotional needs from the legal and financial decisions that need to be made. 

There are many ways to support clients to see that it is important to distinguish between their emotions and the legal and financial decisions that need to be made.  Of course, this can be particularly challenging when the decisions that need to be made have to do with parenting since so much of parenting is, in fact, emotional.

Recently I was talking with a client about her divorce and she was explaining that she was upset because she wanted to keep the family home (her kids were no longer living at home, although one was in college so presumably would come home in the summer). We talked about how hard it can be to separate our emotional attachments to things from wise financial decisions.  I then shared the following story.  I shared with the client how we get attached to particular aspects and things. I explained that I knew of a client who moved out of the family home there was one thing in particular that she felt really attached to in the home – her window seat (yes, it was “her” window seat since she designed it and sat in it everyday).  When she moved into her own house she had a window seat built into the house.  

Drawing on that story, I suggested that in addition to talking to a mortgage broker to assess whether she could keep the house and whether it made financial sense to do so that she also go into her house and while there explore what it is about the house that she is emotionally connected to.  What are the parts, aspects or energies of the house that make her happy, help her feel at home and safe? And then see which of those she could recreate somewhere else. What would it feel like to do that? Does it seem plausible?  

We discussed how doing this would free her from her emotional attachment to the house so that her decision whether or not to keep the house would be grounded both in her emotional needs as well as in her financial needs.  Once she separates the financial decision from the emotional decision she has more freedom to make the best overall decision.

When she left my office she felt empowered to gather the information (information she was afraid to gather previously) and to explore what is it about the house that is so emotionally important to her and to see how she can incorporate those into her life regardless of where she lives.

I look forward to hearing from others how they navigate these sticky waters!

Comments (3) -

12/14/2013 12:28:14 PM #

Cat, thank you for this wonderful idea!

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12/15/2013 9:55:23 AM #

This is great Cat! It helps us all to be mindful of what our clients are 'really' fighting about...Many are just not ready to let go. In addition, I speak with my clients about the notion of letting go, and how doing so opens up space for new beginnings. Not an easy concept to grasp! Thank you for starting this conversation. Randy

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12/23/2013 3:59:13 PM #

Thanks Susan and Randy for your comments. Glad to know my post was helpful.

View my profile on www.collaborativepractice.com

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