Divorcing people have a variety of goals. Some are looking to escape a toxic relationship or a spouse that has been physically or financially unfaithful. Others are bored with their lives and looking for a fresh start. Still, others are simply looking for happiness away from their spouse. Regardless of the origin or motivation behind a divorce, many look to the divorce process to achieve emotional justice. They believe the divorce itself can be used to remedy all of the pain and indignity they suffered at the hands of an insensitive or abusive spouse. But this quest is unfortunately futile. When your house is on fire, don’t run after the arsonist, use your energy to put out the fire.
A divorce rarely provides the therapeutic release many hurt people crave. While it is true that one naturally wants to make his or her spouse accountable for bad conduct, courts do not weigh people’s moral failings when dividing property or determining maintenance. Using the court system to punish the punisher is expensive and usually counterproductive. Judges are looking to resolve cases based on legal factors that don’t include how your spouse treated you during the marriage. Pursuing a course of conduct designed to tell that story is expensive both emotionally and financially. And it certainly doesn’t improve your chances of a successful result.
A very wise woman (my wife) once suggested that all divorce litigants should be given 15 minutes with the judge at the beginning of each case to tell the judge about the whole catastrophe of their marriage. This would allow people to purge the poison early on and then be able to get down to the business of deciding parenting issues and dividing property. What a brilliant suggestion. Unfortunately, our courts have neither the time or resources to indulge this type of therapeutic intervention.
So what can people do who believe they need emotional justice?
Counseling. Consider counseling as a way to make sense of the divorce. A counselor can help you focus on a new start rather than obsessing on past mistakes or wrongs. As an added benefit, counseling helps you learn what attracted you to your spouse in the first place and helps you avoid making the same mistake with new relationships.
Journaling. Buy a journal. Use your journal to vent and give context to all of the swirling emotions you are encountering. Don’t hold back; just get it out on paper. There is something very healing about a regular journaling practice.
Get over it. Don’t dwell on it. People in a divorce love to talk about it to anyone and everyone who will listen. Your friends and family, of course, will listen because they love you, but eventually, they will tire of the drama. Don’t be a victim. O.K. so you were wronged; life is not fair. Focusing daily on how unfair life is will not make you feel better.
Gratitude. Instead of focusing on the need to get even or pay back your spouse, focus on your blessings. Taking stock daily of the many things you are grateful for gives you a different perspective on your circumstances. Be happy about what you have, not what was taken from you.
Forgiveness. Sometimes the best way to achieve emotional justice is through forgiveness. Forgiveness is not easy, particularly when we felt emotionally tortured by someone we once loved. But being the bigger person can be a healthy way to achieve a new and better life.
We naturally want to get even when we are hurt. But there are terrible consequences when we seek revenge in a court proceeding. Sometimes the quest for payback isn’t even conscious. It becomes internalized and prompted without awareness. Be aware of your feelings and neutralize them through proper thinking and proper conduct. Hiring a lawyer who is an assassin may feel good at first, but won’t ultimately make you feel better. Use your lawyer to solve problems, not to pursue the unattainable emotional justice you might crave.
Success is the best revenge. If you really want an effective payback: be happy, be strong, and move your life forward in a positive way.
Attorney Steven Peskind is recognized as one of the top attorneys in the nation. Throughout his career, he has been trusted by politicians, judges, professionals, business owners, and business executives (as well as their spouses) to discretely and professionally represent them in family law matters. He can be contacted at (630)444-0701 or firstname.lastname@example.org