Recipe for a happy divorce

Recipe for a happy divorce
True cliche: Simple things bring happiness.

Maintaining happiness (or some semblance of it) through your divorce might not be as difficult as you think. According to scientists, the following things make us happy:

  1. Virtues: Our sense of wisdom, justice, compassion for others,
  2. Gratitude: Appreciating what we have and expressing it to ourselves and others,
  3. Savoring: Enjoying the moment and taking time to smell the roses,
  4. Engagement: Being in our activities for the experience of it (“being in the zone”),
  5. Living a meaningful life: Doing things for others and helping others.

Studies of the Danish (the happiest people on earth) show that low expectations also make us happy. If our expectations are low, then we become happy when things go unexpectedly well. Also, Denmark’s social safety net ensures people the basic necessities of life.

How can you go through a “happy” divorce?

  1. Remember that you are in control of the things that make you happy (see 1-5 above).
  2. Approach the divorce—and the associated child-custody, division of property, maintenance issues—with realistic expectations.
  3. Reach an agreement with your spouse and litigate as few things as possible.  This will save you money and—like the Danish—you won’t have to worry about the basic necessities of life.

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  • Posted June 22, 2011


    Being happy in divorce. That’s a novel concept! I agree with you that keeping your expectations low would work. As the attorney it’s difficult to lower expectations of a client who wants to hire you to win. But those are the clients who can be the most unhappy during the proceedings. Anyway, good post.

  • Posted August 28, 2011

    Denise Trevino

    This is great advice. I practice law in California. Watching parties litigate to the bitter end is painful. Their fight is expensive not only financially but emotionally as well.

  • Posted March 25, 2013

    Thomas J. Hill

    All in all this is good life advice. However, most people – divorcing or not – do not know HOW to implement the steps you describe, even if they agree with them in principle. Add in the circumstances leading to the divorce, and you have angry and hurt people trying to learn to implement a mindset change. Many people are in it to win it, as they say. They let themselves be motivated by revenge, hurt, anger, a desire to lay blame, or a sense of entitlement. Most break ups happen for complex reasons, and most of those reasons involved both spouses. It is easy to forget that in the heat of battle. It is easy to think he/she owes you something for all those years. Being more Zen-like, and understanding that people make mistakes and causing them pain or loss will not undo the mistakes, is a key to an amicable divorce. Attorneys helping people through divorces might do well to coach clients in this mindset rather than the “take them for everything they have” mindset.

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