Your partner has asked for a divorce and this great void called the future you didn’t expect is swallowing you up.
You feel like every part of your life is crumbling. There are more questions than answers.
Perhaps the most important task at hand is that long list of decisions that will shape your future. The choices we make can have far reaching implications.
There are ten progressive steps to getting your decision making house in order. You want to make the best decisions for yourself and your family.
Identify the problems that require a decision. There may be many depending on how traumatic the divorce, or there may only be a few. Whatever the number, it is safe to say that they are all important. These problems can involve any number of issues including–children, finances and housing.
Write down each problem as you see it. Be as specific as you can. For example, if you are looking at shared custody think of the whole picture. Consider every aspect – before and after school child care if they are young, holiday traditions, and anything else that goes with your children and family.
Clarifying your thoughts and ordering the problems requiring a decision from most important to least important will bring some relief and clarity. Either it will be the feeling of finally taking charge of your future or you will identify there are fewer problems than you thought. Whichever way it goes, there will be a certain sense of moving forward.
Identify the choices you have for each problem. For each one there is probably more than one choice as a solution. Using child care as an example, consider the benefits of flexibility with your former spouse. Try to put aside the intense emotion we so often feel and do what is the very best for your children. Give these choices some consideration and again order them from most agreeable to least agreeable.
Once you have identified the choices for each problem, identify the consequences, if any, for each choice. Again order these from least intrusive to most intrusive. This is where this decision making process might start to come unglued a bit. The choices and consequences might be at odds somewhat. Try to balance them to the best of your ability.
Again child custody is often the place where compromise and consequences come into play. Clearly defining the issues means there is a better chance for a positive outcome for all.
This one requires a bit of personal assessment. How do the consequences line up with your values? Consider the values most important to you. Stability, security, fulfilment, love and family are just a few that may be in your list. Can you accept some consequences but not others? We do so much soul searching during separation and divorce. However, the tendency is to be very hard ourselves. Take some time with this one.
This step is an extension of step 4 and ties into our feelings toward the consequences. We may be able to accept a consequence but if it affects our feelings in a negative way then that can be an added challenge. A less than ideal living arrangement may have been a consequence but if it affects our mood for its dreariness or location then the situation has been further compromised.
There may be some decisions that require more information before you can decide. Finances are certainly one area that require a fair amount of information gathering. For example, a budget needs to be considered that may include housing affordability, a car or transit expenses, and after school care. There are any number of expenses and some of them you may be handling for the first time.
Think of advisers as your friends. Banking personnel that have been helpful in the past might be able to guide you through some of your budgetary requirements. A friendly estate agent can help you look at living options. There might be a self-help group of recently divorced that meet in your area. These people are at different stages in the process and can often offer help based on their experience.
Make some decisions and see how they fit. If some decisions don’t work then be prepared to alter your decisions.
Assessment of decisions is very important. During separation and divorce our minds are muddled with emotion. That is why whenever possible take as much time as you need to make some decisions. Then step back and look at the results of those decisions.
Assess in the immediate aftermath of a decision and then reassess a few months later. How is it all working for you? Unless you have made some long term financial commitment, any decision can be altered or changed completely.
Organizing our decision making is a steadying force in the tumultuous separation and divorce process.
ABOUT LINDA SIMPSON
“I take strength from your calm, your honesty, and the hope you give me for my future.” Cheryl
Linda is a fresh voice in the divorce advice world. She offers a pragmatic, common sense approach to life after divorce issues based on over twenty years surviving and thriving following a very traumatic divorce.
As a single parent, her sons are an enormous source of joy in her life. She is a loving mother and grandmother to four delightful grandchildren.
She holds a degree from the University of Waterloo with concentrations in sociology and philosophy and guidance counselling certification from Queen’s University.
She is an accredited trainer for The Peace Education Foundation, a leader in conflict resolution training. The institute is ‘dedicated to educating children and adults in the dynamics of conflict resolution and promoting peacemaking skills in home, schools, and community.’
In a long and successful teaching career, she also served as a counsellor and workshop facilitator for SEL (social emotional learning) programming and The Peace Education Foundation throughout her school and school district and was a frequent conference presenter for SUNY Potsdam Faculty of Education USA.
She writes for The Divorce Magazine UK and her blog is seen regularly on Huffington Post Canada where the focus is life after divorce and parenting issues.
She is a writer and poet and is presently at work on a book based on her divorce experience.