The Power of the Positive Approach

It’s officially November and in 24 days it will be Thanksgiving. Historically, Thanksgiving is the day to give thanks for a good harvest, and to rejoice together after much hard work with the rest of the community. Today, many people also like to give thanks for the things and people who are appreciated in their lives.

In contested divorce and child custody matters, it is rare to hear anyone ever say thank you to their estranged spouse and/or the other parent.  In a time of conflict and animosity it is difficult to think about being thankful to the other person who is currently the bane of your existence. This is understandable; however, imagine how the course of litigation might change if both parties stopped – thought about one thing the other person has done for which he or she is appreciative – and then said “thank you.” The thank you could be for being a good parent or for being a good provider, it does not matter.  The point is, most people can think of at least one positive thing their soon-to-be former spouse or other parent has done for which they are thankful. Then the most difficult part is expressing that to the other person.

After litigating family matters for more than 17 years, here are a few tips I have discovered which might help to defuse some of the conflict in your family law dispute and move events toward closure:

  1. Saying “thank you” to the other person can of course be said at any time.  However, saying “thank you” is best done early – before positions become intractable and listening has ceased.
  2. Leaving the financial discussions to the lawyers, if both parties have legal representation.
  3. Communicating with each other and, if you and the other person have children, being the best parents possible.  Your kids need you to be your best for them during what is no less than an upheaval in their lives.
  4. Seeking mediation or collaborative divorce.  These processes will keep the anger and animosity at a reduced level while both sides work productively toward a mutually beneficial resolution to the matter.
  5. Reminding yourself that life goes on.  Work with professionals to fully grieve for the loss of the marriage or relationship so that you can move toward achieving a new life.  Having a bright outlook for the future helps to keep the current conflict in perspective.
  6. Remembering….you both loved each other at some point in the past.  While circumstances change, usually people do not.  Try to recall what you loved about the other person.  Keeping that in mind may just help to smooth out some of the toughest difficulties.

This is the time of year to give thanks.  Maybe taking the time to say “thank you” to your estranged spouse and/or parent of your children, and making the effort to be more positive about resolving issues and moving to the future, will make a difference.