A few weeks ago, I attended an online conference called “How to Win At Divorce.” This seemed like a strange proposition. After all, what does it mean to “win” at divorce?? Honestly, I thought the presentations would all be about how to get as much out of your ex as possible, positioning them as the enemy. Thankfully, that’s not what they did. But it made me really think about the question.
(Ok, I just asked Chat GPT how to win at divorce and they didn’t even hallucinate an answer. It told me to get a legal professional and to take care of my mental well-being. Smile.)
I take my answer from a business book called by John Spence. I’ve used the suggestions in this book to run small non-profits and I’ve used them
in my own life. John frames them in terms of running a company, but I’ve adapted them here for individuals. The answers should be short, simple and easy to remember.
- A mission statement that answers the questions: “What is the task in front of me (or what am I offering)? Who will it help? How does it help them? Why am I doing this?”
- A vision statement that answers, “How will the world be a better place in 20 (or 5 or 10) years if I achieve my mission?”
- A values statement that tells you what are the core beliefs or guiding principles that will determine your behavior as you move forward.
So for someone who is getting divorced, it might look like this: My mission is to get divorced in a way that will support my kids and myself so we have a nice place to live, can live within our budget and I can co-parent cooperatively with my ex. My vision is to be at my child’s wedding in 20 years with my new partner, my ex and my ex’s new partner and my kids, and for us all to celebrate together, knowing that we did a really good job. My values are to treat my ex and myself with dignity, to be honest and transparent, to keep the kids out of the middle of the conflict, and to help them feel nurtured and loved throughout this process.
The beauty of figuring this out ahead of time is that you can use the answers as your benchmark for all the millions of little decisions you have to make going forward. For instance, if you are trying to decide whether you can afford to stay in the house, you can match it against your statements above. Will it be a nice place to live? Will you live within your budget? Of course, we don’t always act in accordance with our values. So if you end up in a screaming match with your ex in front of the kids, which can happen from time to time (smile), you can remind yourself that it’s not consistent with your stated values and try to figure out a way for that not to happen next time.
Of course, this is easier said than done. The hard part is making the time and figuring out the answers to those big questions in the first place. But this, I believe, is the key to knowing how to win at divorce. Or, for that matter, anything else you want to achieve.