Who’s Got Anxiety?
Anxiety: painful uneasiness over an impending ill; a state of uneasiness and apprehension about future uncertainties
—American Heritage Dictionary
Divorce is about loss. It threatens what we value the most – our family, our cash flow, our standard of living, our future, our stability, even the way we feel about ourselves. To say that anxiety is inevitable in divorce is putting it mildly. Divorce is pure stress, pure agony.
How could we not feel strong emotion – anxiety, created by fear and doubt – when we don’t know the answers to crucial questions such as these?
Will we have to sell the house?
Will the kids have to switch schools?
Will I have to move, and where will I go?
What will I be able to afford?
What will I do for a living?
Who will hire me?
What if I lose my job?
How will I pay my bills?
How will I pay support and still be able to live?
Will I be able to afford health insurance?
What if my income drops next year?
Anxiety prevents us from communicating effectively because it freezes our mind in the closed position and makes it hard for us to get our point across. Anxiety also prevents us from comprehending what we need to comprehend when others speak.
What can we do to mitigate our very understandable anxiety?
The best way is to avoid arguing with our spouse. Non-confrontational communication with our soon-to-be-ex can go a long way toward reducing their anxiety before it can gain any momentum. And, if we reduce theirs, we reduce ours. We win the war if we can prevent it from starting.
By taking the lead and refusing to respond to arguing with more arguing, we may inspire our spouse to follow suit. Does that guarantee they will reciprocate? No, but firing away at them with both barrels does guarantee they’ll fire right back.
Arguing is always futile. It’s a waste of breath, and it just makes our partner dig in deeper.
Nine times out of ten, an argument ends with each of the contestants more firmly convinced than ever that he or she is absolutely right.
—Dale Carnegie (1888-1955)
Anxiety in divorce arises out of perfectly reasonable concerns that people have about their family, financial security or entitlement. The best chance we have at reducing our spouse’s anxiety is to be as reasonable as we can when addressing their worries. No has one ever told us how vital this is.
Imagine how many of us have unwittingly caused our own divorce disasters by not knowing to show respect for our partner’s beliefs and concerns. Instead, we did what our culture told us to do: We immediately challenged their viewpoint and tried to talk them into accepting ours.
Once again, the key to a civilized divorce is to treat your soon-to-be ex with respect and understanding. He or she might just respond in kind. If they don’t, you’re still ahead of the game because there is no downside to being the first one to act responsibly.