Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate. When people think of divorce they don’t typically think of two people coming together and being friendly, generous and considerate to one another. To the contrary, a more typical expectation is that they be at war with one another and their treatment of one another should be anything but kind. Today’s blog explores the role of kindness in helping couples maneuver through the difficult challenges of divorce and to aid in making the best of a hard situation. The circumstances that have resulted in the couple seeking divorce in the first place can often get in the way of kindling kind interaction while working through the divorce. The same is true in life. Whatever crumby things might get in the way, there are big benefits to finding a way to approach conflict with kindness and respect.
There is a lot to unpack in this definition of kindness. It might be a lot to ask to be friendly, generous and considerate when getting divorce. Let’s tackle them one at a time.
Friendliness Friendliness is the quality of behaving in a pleasant and kind way to someone. Divorce is not generally a pleasant subject and, as mentioned earlier, often the circumstances surrounding the breakdown of the marriage place spouses in a position where they might not be feeling very friendly to each other. Friendly can be as simple as committing to treating one another with civility and decency. When couples litigate their divorce the nature of the proceedings promote attacking and criticizing the other spouse in an effort to convince the Judge to make a favorable ruling. In mediation where couples need to work together to reach agreement, attacking and criticizing often pushes the couple further apart, thus frustrating settlement.
As a mediator I expect couples to treat one another with decency and respect. It might be a lot to ask for them to additionally be friendly with one another but I have witnessed many mediations where couples are just that, and it goes a long way in making the work of the divorce manageable, and much easier. Being kind and pleasant is a choice that we each can make. When one spouse takes a friendly approach the other tends to follow. Divorce doesn’t have to be a battle and choosing to be friendly through the process really does go a long way in moving more quickly to practical solutions. As they say, a drop of honey gathers more flies than a gallon of gall.
Generosity Generosity can be a very complicated word in divorce. Generosity resides on the edge of being taken advantage of. If one spouse is generously giving and the other is generously taking, the end result can be unfairly one-sided. In divorce mediation it is essential that both spouses get educated, both spouses stand on equal footing possessing all necessary information, and that each spouse be in a position to treat themselves as fairly as they are treating the other spouse. The most effective mediations I have overseen involve reciprocal generosity where both spouses are giving and receiving, as well as making concessions and receiving concessions from the other. Generosity can be as simple as striving to treat one another fairly rather than trying to get one up on the other spouse. When couples take a generous approach there is a lot more space to fashion a solution that is best for all involved.
Consideration When I think of consideration I think of thoughtfulness. In a litigated divorce we think of each spouse looking out for themselves and looking to win to the detriment of the other spouse. That is a far cry from this notion of being considerate and thoughtful to the other spouse from whom you are about to divorce. Why not be thoughtful and considerate? We can be thoughtful about the other while we are also being thoughtful about ourselves and our own needs. In a previous blog I shared about the intentions that I bring into my divorce work. One of my important strivings in my work is a wish to make sure both spouses are okay coming out the other side of the divorce. Being considerate in divorce can be as simple as wanting to be treated fairly and being okay with the other spouse being treated fairly as well. Being able to be considerate can allow a couple to work as a team to fashion a practical, thoughtful and fair solution to their divorce.
Since choosing to call my business “A Healthy Divorce” I have heard many people chuckle and question if such a thing really exists. Having participated in over 1,000 mediations I can safely say that not only is it possible, but for most couples it should be an expectation. I take it one step further and propose that the norm in divorce should be kindness and not acrimony, thoughtlessness, disdain and loathing. Why not work together to make the best of a bad situation? If you have children together they will benefit nearly as much as the two of you. We can be angry and upset and disappointed with one another yet still choose to be civil and respectful. The reward for being able to do so is a smoother road to a solution and an easier transition to whatever comes next in your life.