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David’s Divorce Dictionary: F is for Feelings

Definition: Feelings are emotional engines that can propel clients down rocky and dangerous dead-end roads.

When I told her of my separation after 24 years of marriage, my rabbi cautioned me that “for the next year your emotions are going to be an out-of-body experience.” She was right. In divorce, feelings take on a life of their own. They rise, they fall, they burst out, they whirl furiously, they paralyze, they compel, and they trespass everywhere.

Divorce professionals must work with, around and through their clients’ feelings. Intense feelings can be deafening. We must remember that the advice we give and the information we provide may not be well-heard when a client’s emotions are running high.

What feelings must we recognize and help clients overcome? Here’s a partial list:

  • Fear
  • Spite
  • Sadness
  • Attachment
  • Defeat
  • Hatred
  • Grief
  • Emptiness
  • Blame
  • Desperation
  • Neediness
  • Guilt
  • Embarrassment
  • Loneliness
  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Insecurity
  • Indecisiveness
  • Loss
  • Shame
  • Abandonment
  • Injustice
  • Cynicism
  • Worthlessness

How can we ever expect clients to conduct the business of divorce under such a dark cloud? If emotions have cast a pall of darkness over their thought processes, it is best that the cloud passes before important decisions are made. Remember that time heals and empathy soothes. Divorce professionals should utilize both of these tools to ensure their clients make considered decisions that result in a positive divorce outcome.

How can lawyers and mediators advance emotional healing? It’s really quite simple. Slow it down: the divorce process does not need to race ahead at breakneck speed. We can encourage clients to apply the brakes to the legal or settlement process and allow their feelings to settle down. Bring it out: We should encourage clients to share their feelings. When they do we must listen actively and respond with empathy.

What’s the Takeaway? By leveraging the healing power of time and empathy, divorce professionals can help bring the out-of-body emotional experiences of clients back down to earth. As we advise clients, teach them that decision-making sourced from the rational mind will lead to the fullest recovery – emotionally and financially.