Radical Acceptance: A Key to Getting Through Your Divorce

I recently had a client tell me that the concept of “Radical Acceptance” is what gets her through her days. She was given this article by her therapist, and it has made all the difference in the world for her psychological well being through her divorce (just in case you are wondering whether having a therapist to talk to during a divorce actually helps, here is your proof). As you can read in the article, the term refers to the idea that when there are things in our lives that we cannot change, then the best response is to simply accept that they are our reality and move forward accordingly.  Further, when we resist realities in our life, we only increase our suffering brought on by those things.  In a divorce setting, this resistance, in my experience, frequently takes some of the following forms:
  • Denial, i.e. an unfounded hope that your spouse will change their mind.
  • Avoidance, i.e. an inability or refusal to think about or take action regarding the separation or divorce.
  • Repression, i.e. being unable to identify or express any emotion about the separation or divorce.
  • Delaying, i.e. dragging out the divorce negotiation process in order to maintain a connection with your spouse and delay the inevitable change in the nature of your relationship with your spouse after divorce.
  • Obstructing, i.e. making unreasonable demands and pursuing unrealistic avenues in negotiations in a conscious or unconscious attempt to prevent the divorce from moving forward.
As I understand the concept, every minute that you continue to live in the “unreality” that your divorce is not happening is a minute that you are not living in and enjoying your new life and future.  It is, in essence, not just a wasted minute, but a minute spent in an unnecessary purgatory.  A purgatory that you have the power to leave on your own accord. But aside from emotional suffering, failing to accept the reality of your divorce frequently leads to skyrocketing legal fees, much longer resolution periods, extended suffering for children, financial losses, and high opportunity costs.  I have had cases where a client’s (mine or another party) refusal to accept the reality of the divorce has easily doubled the cost and time required to resolve their case.  And, I’ve had cases where it led to one party deciding that they needed to go to court to get a resolution, even when that was the last thing that they wanted to do.  I have had cases where market changes, interest rates, housing supply changes and employment market changes during delays in a case due to one party’s inability to accept the reality of the divorce made things much harder (and more expensive) to resolve.  I fear that I am about to have cases where one party’s inability to confront the reality of their divorce will cause their resolution to move into 2019, and they will lose the tax benefits of alimony payments that expire at the end of this year. It is important to acknowledge that divorce is one of the hardest things that you can go through in life.  There is no way around that.  But, it doesn’t need to be any harder than absolutely necessary. One of the main reasons that I chose to focus my career on collaborative divorce instead of litigation and adversarial modes of divorce is that I abhor unnecessary suffering for clients and families in divorce and do not want to be a reason for it or a part of it.  It is all too frequent, and so much of that suffering is unnecessary.  I have not found a better way to avoid that unnecessary suffering than collaborative divorce.  But a legal process, no matter how well designed and executed, can only go so far towards reducing the unnecessary suffering in divorce.  Ultimately, perhaps the primary way to save yourself suffering is to simply accept the reality and move forward. If you’re interested in learning more about the idea of radical acceptance and how to use it to help you through your divorce, you can read books on the idea (I recommend libraries and local bookstores like Quail Ridge Books) or just ask a therapist about it.  It will likely save you and your family a lot of unnecessary suffering, money, and time.

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