It’s better to give than to receive. We say it a lot around the holiday season, and while some people might think it’s corny or cliché, there’s definitely truth to it. Seeing the face of a child light up, when he or she is opening a present you’ve selected, is one of the best things about the holidays.
It’s a good time of year to think about being generous of spirit as well as with gifts. If you’re currently undergoing a divorce, you might think about how you can extend the spirit of giving to your soon-to-be-ex, in order to make the divorce go more smoothly.
When we work with people divorcing in collaborative law or mediation, where the focus is on negotiation rather than litigation, we ask them at the outset what’s most important to them in the settlement. Perhaps the person we’re working with wants to keep the house, or wants a specific parenting schedule, or wants to make sure a retirement fund is left intact when dividing up the assets. It helps us to know what to keep off the table in a negotiation, and once we know what a person values most, we’ll make sure that’s part of the decree before we sign off on it.
But that also lets us know what’s less important to the person we’re working with – and therefore, what could be given up in order to make a settlement work out. If there’s something important to the other party that doesn’t matter as much to the person we’re working with, such as a parcel of land that’s part of the marital estate, it might be worth it to give that up to get the house or the parenting schedule or whatever else the person we’re working with values most.
There’s a parable we use in divorce negotiations involving an orange. Two people want the same orange – one wants the fruit for its juice, and one wants the peel for baking. It would be perceived as fair and equal to just divide the orange in two and give half to each person. But in this particular situation, the best solution for both of us isn’t the most obvious one – it requires talking to both parties to understand what division would make them happy.
Giving doesn’t have to just be about assets and schedules, either – the gift of a positive, solution-oriented attitude can make a divorce less hurtful than it has to be. It’s natural, in the emotional cauldron of a divorce, to want to lash out and express anger and resentment.
But it’s two different things to want to do it and to actually do it. By releasing those feelings in therapy, and coming into divorce negotiations with a goal of making it as professional and pleasant as possible for everyone, you’ll help yourself, you’ll help any children involved, and you’ll possibly get a more agreeable soon-to-be-ex in the process.