Fear is a strong emotion. It can motivate you to action or it can paralyze you. Fear is an emotional experience, but it has physical effects on your body. In the evolutionary sense, fear was necessary. A scared animal usually flees, fights or freezes.
Most people are no longer afraid of being mauled by a bear or devoured by a lion (although I confess that both seem quite unpleasant). These days, we are afraid of financial insecurity, not being accepted, having a health scare or being embarrassed. Most of all, we fear the unknown and the unfamiliar. Even a seasoned lawyer gets a bit anxious going into an unfamiliar courthouse.
Couples faced with possible separation and divorce are scared, and rightly so. This is unfamiliar territory filled with words and concepts they do not understand. Strong emotions accompany every discussion of money, property and the children. Fear in this situation is to be expected. The question is whether you fight, flee or freeze. Or, perhaps there is another way to approach your fears.
First, take stock of your resources. What tools do you have to help you through this scary situation? Well, you can work at eliminating some of the fear of the unknown by educating yourself. Talk to a lawyer about what to expect. Be honest about your fears. Just talking about the fears diminishes their power. Talking to a therapist or a member of the clergy may help. Accept the assistance of friends and family. However, be cautious of those who encourage you to throw gasoline on the already smoldering fire.
Second, remind yourself that there is a way out of this fearful situation. It won’t last forever and there are good times ahead. Ask the lawyer what you can do to help him or her assist you. Take charge of your own financial welfare. Educate yourself about the issues that need to be addressed going forward. Just doing something, taking some action, will distract you from the fear.
Third, consider a path that does not involve fighting, fleeing or freezing. Fighting in this setting generally means litigation, which brings its own set of fears to the table. Fleeing will not get you where you want to go. Freezing means you do nothing and ignore the problem. Marital problems usually do not vanish simply because you refuse to look at them. Consider a collaborative model of resolving these issues with your spouse. With collaborative family law, you and your attorney work together with your spouse and his attorney to resolve these thorny issues in a way that allows you both to move on without the trauma of a court battle. Hopefully, you will be able to salvage enough of your relationship to co-parent your children in a kind and nurturing way. Finally, if your children see their parents facing their fears and dealing with each other in a respectful and constructive way, you will send a valuable life lesson to your children about courage, respect and empathy.