Divorce Advice: Civilized divorce is possible | Saint Paul, Minnesota

Divorce without the war

An outrageous and bitter divorce battle over material possessions is portrayed in the 1989 film, The War of the Roses, costarring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. 

After nearly twenty years of marriage where Mr. Rose throws himself into building a successful career while Mrs. Rose loses herself in raising two children and creating a lavish home, the wife realizes that she has had enough.  Despite his controlling, self-centered, and generally dismissive behavior toward her, the husband cannot understand what he has done to earn her contempt.

As the adversarial divorce battle progresses, the couple begins spiting and humiliating each other in every way possible, even in front of friends and potential business clients. Both begin destroying the house, furniture, expensive collectables, an antique automobile, etc.  Mutual retaliation escalates the battle until ultimately they both die as victims of a falling chandelier.  That’s the plot; now let’s look for the moral.

The narrator in the story, a lawyer played by Danny Devito, shares some wisdom along the way.

“There is no winning in this [adversarial divorce process], there are only degrees of losing.”

The movie lawyer speaks the truth at this point.  Once the parties and their lawyers engage in an adversarial battle, there is no hope for a win/win and even a win/lose becomes elusive.  This route nearly always creates a lose/lose situation for people who need to establish a workable relationship as co-parents.

Unfortunately, the biggest losers in an adversarial divorce are the children.  Studies have shown that it is the intensity and the duration of conflict between the parents that damages the children.  The key to saving your kids lots of pain is to learn to manage your own emotions and to choose a divorce process that avoids the war mentality.  It is possible to “step over” all that powerful negative emotion and to choose to make good decisions together for the sake of the kids. 

“Civilized divorce is a contradiction in terms…”

If one is talking about the traditional adversarial process this statement from the movie might be true, but there are now better options.   Both divorce mediation and the collaborative divorce process offer an option for a civilized divorce.   Please check out these options instead of calling a lawyer, serving papers, and launching a war.  For more information please see my website or call and schedule a complimentary one-hour consultation.

In a moment of redemption at the end of the movie, a potential divorce client hears the story about the embattled Rose family and chooses to go home to his wife to ‘settle their differences properly’.

Some couples are capable of doing the hard work with a marriage therapist over a significant period of time and change their relationship to be happier and healthier.   That is great.  But there are also times when in order to be healthy, one or both of the people must remove themselves from a dysfunctional relationship and start over.  At such times the advice from this movie would be:

“The all-important thing is to get you through this as quickly and cleanly as possible so you can get on with rebuilding your life…”

That means, run from the adversarial process that fosters lengthy divorce wars and choose a better path forward.  When the best (or only) alternative is the end of a marriage, look carefully at your options by learning how divorce mediation or a collaborative divorce process can help you avoid the war by building bridges across the chasm of conflict. 

You don’t need to have a “war of the Roses” just because you are getting a divorce, let Dorman Mediation show you a better way.  Contact us today for a free one-hour consultation to understand all your options and their implications.

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