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The Best Advice for Surviving Divorce: Remember the Serenity Prayer!

When divorcing clients get upset, I find it is most often due to things they cannot control, such as the behavior or choices of their ex-spouse.  The best counsel I have found in those situations is to encourage clients to work on the items they have control over, and to find ways to make peace with the things they cannot control.  This advice is essentially stolen from the serenity prayer:


The things you cannot change:

In a divorce case, you do not have control over what your spouse does.  You can ask the court to make orders that limit or direct certain behavior, but those orders are still only pieces of paper.  Violations of those orders will have consequences, but that process can still be time consuming and often frustrating for clients.  When that frustration takes hold, it is important to remember that you do not control what other people do, but you do control your reaction to what they do.

Courage to change the things you can:

When you want to react to the problems your ex is creating with their behavior, have the courage to respond appropriately and take the high road.  Too often frustration over bad behavior leads to more bad behavior between spouses.  Especially in cases with children this feedback cycle can be destructive.  Having the courage to be the better person, even when it is hurtful to your pride or frustrating, will ultimately help you find more peace with a bad situation because you are taking control over the things you can change: your own behavior.

And may you be granted the Wisdom to know the difference:

When you are unsure of how you should act or react in your divorce case, take advantage of the wisdom of others and the resources available to you.  Attorneys, counselors, and family support are all people that can help provide you with perspective on your actions and reactions.  It is understandable given the grief involved in ending a marriage that spouses will often react emotionally at first.  But taking the time to understand those emotions, and seeking objective assistance when needed, will provide you with the wisdom to separate out frustration over things you cannot control from decisions about how you should proceed with the things you can change.

You may not expect an attorney to advise you to pray when you're frustrated with your divorce case, but I have found that the Serenity Prayer extends beyond religion and if you prefer a secular version there are some similar words provided by Mother Goose:

For every ailment under the sun
There is a remedy, or there is none;
If there be one, try to find it;
If there be none, never mind it.


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