“I just want it over,” he said. I remember he’d been insistent he get the earliest available appointment. When asked whether he had been referred to a specific attorney he said, “Yes. But just get me in. I need someone now.”
There were no allegations of intimate partner abuse, of bank accounts being emptied or credit cards being maxed out. No dispute about who would remain in the marital home. No children. Unlike most who consult about divorce, Jason wasn’t interested in sharing his story of his fifteen year marriage or why its end appeared imminent. He’d barely taken his seat before he blurted, “How fast can we get this done?”
The dark circles under his eyes hinted at some sleepless nights. The weight on his shoulders created a subtle slouch under his sweatshirt. His words were few, spoken with the intensity of a man on an urgent mission to take care of some dirty business.
While some people initiate divorce because they see it as the only pathway to the life they hope for. Others don’t want their marriage to end, but have no choice. Either way, no one wants to go through a divorce experience, let alone prolong the pain of it.
Overpowering emotions can inspire impatience with the process of divorce. Our guilt may induce us to give away everything only to live with regret for years to come. Our rage may result in remorse about being punitive toward our former partner rather than doing the right thing. Our shame may prompt a race to a rapid resolution solely to reduce the period spent saying, “I’m going through a divorce.”
Divorce involves discomfort, a time of uncertainty, and extraordinary vulnerability. It can be exhaustive and expensive. Who wouldn’t want to wrap it up sooner rather than later? When a few weeks into the process Jason said, “I can’t wait,” I explained why I hoped he would.
Depression can impact decision-making. Sadness is normal during divorce, and depression not uncommon. When depressed, our judgement can be impaired. Divorce demands a lot of decision-making, some of which can impact your life for years. Allow time to be clear.
Less energy means more time. You are a partner in the process with your lawyer. Providing information, answering questions, and making choices all take energy. You may simultaneously be navigating a new apartment, living with less in your checking account, and helping your child adjust to a new neighborhood. Forward progress may happen more slowly than usual. Allow time to take care of what’s important.
Lack of complete information. You won’t have control of the speed of system. Your spouse, their attorney, the judge, court calendars, and witnesses can all impact the pace at which the process proceeds. By rushing, you may not have the time for gathering or analyzing critical information about anything from the value of a home to the tax consequences of an investment account. Allow time to become knowledgeable.
A limited perspective. When we are buried under stacks of seemingly endless challenges, it is hard to have perspective. Surrounded by a circle of uncertainty, it’s difficult to see beyond fears and to get a glimpse of your possible great future. Moving beyond our myopic view of all that’s messy can take a while. Allow yourself time to gain perspective.
As you cope with the ache of the wait or the slowness of the pace, notice that you have already moved forward by taking your first or your next small step, and give yourself a generous dose of self-compassion to sustain you while you wait just a while.