Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post’s Divorce section as part of our regular contributions to their site. Keep checking back for more Sudden Bachelor on Huff Post.
A lesson I took away from my two divorces: learn to flip the accepted wisdom, no matter how accepted or instinctive it is. Socratic wisdom is the best and hardest kind: knowing what you don’t know. Try hard to choose that over accepted or instinctive choices. Here’s a start:
• Accepted wisdom: Get the best lawyer you can afford and come out swinging, especially if your spouse did something bad like cheat or lie.
• Real wisdom: mediate, mediate, mediate. No matter how aggrieved you are you will feel worse if you drag yourself down into bitter expensive litigation to ‘punish’ your spouse.
• Accepted wisdom: You must get the best divorce deal you can.
• Real wisdom. Overpay. Overgive. As long as you don’t seriously impair your ability to live, good will between spouses especially with kids involved, and avoiding the emotional turmoil of a protracted battle, is worth more than any money or possessions you would take away by haggling hard.
• Accepted wisdom: My pride has been crushed, screw that $%#% I’m mad as hell and I’m going to ride that puppy– because I have no choice.
• Real wisdom: Be more Gandhi than Genghis. Yes your anger is like a freight train if infidelity or other misbehavior is involved, and yes no words and no logic can right that any more than words or logic would have stopped you from loving and marrying the wrong person. But the scorched earth battle you need to fight is against your own instincts, not against your ex. You will be happier for it.
• Accepted wisdom: Divorce is failure and one or both of you should be ashamed of yourselves.
• Real Wisdom: Divorce is evolution. Whatever makes us think we can correctly make lifetime choices like marriage or career when we are, like, babies, even at 30? Without experience of being married the Catch 22 is it’s real hard to choose who to be married to. Admit life is trial and error, move on, evolve. Heresy I know but facts are stubborn things.
• Accepted Wisdom: The kids will get used to it, and are arguably better off without experiencing and ultimately modeling a bad marriage.
• Real wisdom: The kids will hate it. Even in extreme cases of spousal abuse the shattered marriage shatters their sense of stability and home. Does this mitigate against divorce? Yes but ultimately you have to make a very tough decision, whether to put your life and happiness before theirs, it’s that simple and heartbreaking. It’s not wrong to choose that. Just be aware that you will have to put a ton of effort into making your kids feel even marginally ok about it.
What I’m saying in a word is: flip flopping is a bad thing in politics, not necessarily in divorce. If you find a way to flip your natural reaction and the accepted wisdom about divorce as you go through it, you have a better shot at ending up, if not overjoyed, at least not destroyed.