A lot of divorcing couples express a desire to “take the high road” during divorce and the collaborative divorce process supports the couple in this desire. Often a spouse will fall short due to divorce being transactional (“I give you this if you give me that”) and emotional (“you hurt me” or “I am afraid”) and the friction this causes.
Taking the high road:
1. Allows you to be the good guy;
2. Preserves dignity and is respectful to your spouse;
3. Benefits your children;
4. Results in a more satisfying, mutually beneficial agreement; and,
5. Costs less.
In a collaborative divorce, couples are encouraged to take the high road. To do this, we collaborative professionals advise clients to:
Choosing the high road is an affirmative choice, not something that happens by accident. It is a choice you have to make repeatedly throughout the divorce process.
2. Tell the truth.
Telling the truth creates an atmosphere of trust. Trust improves communication. Improved communication allows for productive negotiations and agreements. Lies, silence, evasiveness, ambiguity, and vagueness contribute to anxiety, anger and fear; communication deteriorates and negotiated agreements become more difficult. Justifying less than the truth is not “cushioning the blow” or “sparing feelings” or “protecting your spouse”—it is the opposite.
Tell the truth in the kindest way possible. Yes–“I don’t like the shirt you are wearing”. No–“you look like a slob in that shirt”.
3. Avoid taking things personally.
Imagine you and your spouse on a trail circling a lake. You walk and your spouse bikes. Your sights and experiences while walking are different than your spouse’s sights and experiences while biking. You are on the same path but have different experiences and perspectives of the lake and trail. Your marriage is the same—you and your spouse have been on the same path experiencing it differently. Your decisions, goals, fears, and ideas are unique to each of you. Trying to convince your spouse that his/her experience and perspective are flawed creates an expensive and endless cycle not conducive to negotiated agreements.
4. Abstain from assumptions.
Making assumptions leads to misunderstandings, distrust, poor communication and increases difficulty in obtaining an agreement. A couple falling in love assumes the best of each other (i.e., he had a good reason for being late). A couple divorcing assumes the worst (i.e., he was late because he doesn’t care about the children). Assuming and then reacting to what you believe is true creates drama where no drama is needed.
Similar to this is believing your spouse reads minds. Hinting, crying, throwing temper tantrums, and gossiping are not substitutes for clearly expressed requests, goals, intentions, and concerns. Instead, ask questions and communicate clearly.
5. Always do your best.
Don Miguel Ruiz states in his book The Four Agreements under any circumstance always do your best. Your best will ebb and flow and vary; regardless of quality always do your best. Keep your commitments; if you find you need to change a commitment, let those to whom it was made know at the earliest opportunity. This builds trust, improves communication, and allows for agreements.