David’s Divorce Dictionary: N is for Negativity
Definition: The voluntary state of mind onto which debilitating feelings glomp: fear, despair, sorrow, aggression, defensiveness, regression, disillusionment, repression, confusion, resentment, procrastination, cynicism, fury, anxiety, self-righteousness, shortsightedness (and many many more).
When going through divorce it’s natural and easy to go negative. Negativity can provide a self-stabilizing force when one’s world is turned upside down. Negative thoughts and comments can be used as an attack weapon, as a defense shield, and as a supportive crutch. But it’s usefulness wears down over time. Inevitably, as Bob Dylan observed, “gravity fails and negativity don’t pull you through.”
Intense, prolonged negativity is ultimately an agent of one’s self-abuse.
Attachment to negativity in divorce costs people extraordinary amounts of money. It prevents clear thinking about effective strategies, fair settlements, and appropriate negotiation techniques. It leads people to take hostile actions against their spouse, which usually stimulates reciprocal hostilities. It drags one into expensive and repetitive high-stress proceedings such as restraining order hearings, temporary orders contests, complaints for contempt, excessive depositions, and trials.
Negativity can also cost money by creating a dysfunctional relationship with one’s attorney or mediator. A good attorney or mediator will work to help clients see the big picture and make rational business decisions, saving money and avoiding prolonged stress. A client locked in negativity tends to argue with their attorney, resist responsible advice, and rack up legal costs fighting with one’s own teammate.
There are personal tolls to pay as well. Excessive negativity often results in mental and physical ailments (depression, ulcers, high blood pressure), abuse of alcohol or drugs, alienation from family and friends, and an inability to work productively.
It is incredibly difficult not become negative in a divorce situation. Hiring experienced, responsible, and ethical professionals is crucial to avoiding the impacts of negative thinking.
Select an attorney or a mediator who will help frame litigation or settlement negotiation outcomes in objective terms — who does not recommend tactics or positioning based on the client’s negative feelings. Playing the divorce game with a well-balanced attitude produces the best outcomes at the lowest cost.
What’s the Takeaway? Social science has proven that optimistic people tend to outlive pessimistic people. To survive a divorce relatively intact, eschew negativity. If you cannot, seek help from a therapist or divorce coach to rebalance perspective. And believe the sage advice of Bob Dylan — negativity won’t see you through.
If you have any questions or comments about this article or suggestions for future topics, please feel free to contact me.