Control & Divorce
It’s common to experience a feeling of loss of control of the situation during a divorce. And, when something bad happens, it’s natural to start to assign blame. Often this means viewing yourself as someone acted upon by other people, systems, or circumstances.
For example, maybe you think:
- My divorce is taking too long because my husband is controlling.
- I can’t have the parenting plan because the court system is terrible.
- I can’t decide whether to take the settlement proposal because I’m overwhelmed and have too much going on. I don’t know why my lawyer won’t just tell me what to do.
You know intellectually that thinking like this won’t get you anywhere, but in times of stress (ahem, divorce) you find yourself falling into the trap. Well, today we will share an approach that can help you bring up the nose.
First, we will learn about “locus of control” — a psychological concept that looks at how much a person thinks they can control how things in their life turn out. Then, we will show you how to use what we learn to help you regain control over your divorce (and your life).
Locus of Control & Divorce
Locus of control refers to how much power you feel over your own life. Your locus of control can be internal or external.
Internal Locus of Control
A person with an internal locus of control credits themselves (and takes responsibility for) what unfolds. For example, they may think:
- My divorce is taking longer than I thought, but I’m willing to invest more time to increase the likelihood of achieving more financial security in the future.
- I’m willing to continue pushing for the parenting plan I think is best for the kids despite the inevitable bumps.
- I will settle my divorce now rather than risk having a judge who doesn’t know us decide. It may not be the very most I might have won at trial, but I know I won’t regret keeping control over decisions about my future.
External Locus of Control
A person with an external locus of control uses outside forces to explain things. For example, they may think:
- I can’t do anything about how long my divorce takes; all these people just drag their feet and don’t do their jobs.
- I will put it in fate’s hands and let the judge decide.
Dealing With Obstacles in Your Divorce
Some people own everything that happens, good or bad. Other people always look around to find an explanation for what occurred. Most of us are a mix of the two.
And it’s true — there are both internal and external obstacles that impact your divorce. However, these are speed bumps, not dead ends. While some of them might be totally out of your control (like how the state of Connecticut views relocating out of state, who your spouse hires for an attorney, and whether your ex agrees to mediate), there are so many aspects of your divorce (like whether you reach an agreement, how you react to a settlement proposal, or choosing to take positions the court will view as reasonable) that are in your control.
Focus on What You Can Control in Divorce
So what should you do?
Focus on what you can control, and make the most of it.
- For example, maybe your lawyer tells you the court isn’t likely to rule that you can keep all your retirement funds. Given this reality, what settlement proposal could resolve your divorce, avoid a trial, and still give you a secure financial future?
- Or, maybe your ex hasn’t turned in overdue discovery. Maybe you work with your lawyer to find another way to get the information you need so that you can continue to move forward rather than engage in the distraction of a battle over who was supposed to do what by when. After all, your ex’s lack of follow-through is one of the reasons you’re getting divorced in the first place.
You control your reactions to the obstacles. If you really look at the opportunities around you and focus on your goals for the future, you’ll discover creative ways to keep moving forward toward them.
You Are An Active Participant in Your Divorce
You are the active participant in your divorce. It’s time to own that.
Make a list of what’s not in your power. (We mean it. Get a pen.)
Now, look at that list of obstacles and ask yourself: “How can I control these things I think are uncontrollable?”
If you genuinely can’t control them, let them go.
If you can, figure out how to move your locus of control inward, and then take action. (Like tell your lawyer to move forward with her suggestion that we subpoena your ex’s employer for his paystubs rather than not doing anything other than get increasingly frustrated.)
The next time you feel yourself playing the blame game — blaming your ex, your lawyer, the system, or even your own lawyer! — stop. Pull out the list, and focus on changing what you can.
Learning how to find and focus on the things in your control won’t just help you in your divorce. It will help you throughout your life, especially in times of stress.
If we can be of assistance, please contact us.