TO LISTEN TO EPISODE 19, CLICK HERE.
Hi, everyone, and thank you so much for tuning in to The Divorce Field Guide. My name is Ani Mason, and I am a divorce lawyer and mediator, and I’m also the creator of this podcast.
Today, we are in Episode 19 and we’re going to be talking about some pro tips, some tips and strategies, to help you optimize your divorce negotiation and optimize the outcome of your divorce negotiation.
The first thing I want to say is that I’m going to share these tips with you directly, but if you are working with an attorney in your divorce process, whether it be in a mediation process and you have a consulting attorney outside the room helping you, or you’re in a collaborative process and have a collaborative attorney, or you have a litigator helping you, all of those roles for an attorney involve that person helping you negotiate in the best and most effective way possible. So please, you know, take all these tips in and process them for yourself but just know that helping you negotiate effectively is one of the main jobs of your attorney.
If you are in a mediation, and you are not working with any attorneys outside the mediation during the process, or even to review your final agreement, then you will be implementing these negotiation strategies on your own, and that’s fine too.
NEGOTIATION TIPS: BASIC + RELATIONSHIP-FOCUSED
I’m going to break the tips that I give you up into roughly two categories.
The first category that I will talk with you about is negotiation tips and strategies, just generally. Not specific to divorce, not specific to negotiating or being in conflict with an intimate partner.
And the second category of tips and insights and strategies I’m going to share with you is really more focused on the specific challenges that you face when you are negotiating with and/or in conflict with an intimate partner or spouse, a significant other, an ex.
BASIC NEGOTIATION TIP #1: PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE
Starting off with basic negotiation tips, the first one that I’m going to start with, which is going to be quite boring but is absolutely critical, is preparation.
This is not the first time that I’ve mentioned the importance of preparing for your negotiation. Just to give a little bit of context, this comes from one of my favorite resources on negotiation which I mentioned in Episode 2, which is the book Bargaining for Advantage.
One of the biggest takeaways and take-homes for me from that book was that most people have the perception that there are born negotiators. There are people who are just really awesome at negotiation, and they do well in negotiation and the rest of us just do poorly. The author debunks that myth and says, in reality, people who do well in negotiation are people who prepare for their negotiation, and people who do not do well are people, generally speaking, who do not prepare for their negotiation.
So in a lot of ways, well, that’s a blessing and a curse. Because it means that, to a certain extent, the outcome of your negotiation, or how well your negotiation goes, is in your hands. It’s in your control.
You don’t have to have some innate talent for negotiation that you are either born with or you were not born with. You have control over whether or not you will put in the time and the work and the sweat and the tears to really optimally preparing, not just for what negotiation process to choose (mediation, collaborative law, litigation), but then, as you are going through that process, preparing for each meeting.
So, of course, there are caveats to this, but generally speaking, the degree and quality of your preparation for your negotiation at the beginning, in the middle and at the end is going to have an outsized impact on the ultimate result of your negotiation.
I just want to acknowledge that, you know, a divorce negotiation, not a fun thing to prepare for. It’s not a fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon, preparing for your mediation session on Monday. But, if you can bear in mind the outsize significance that it does have on your ultimate settlement agreement, and on your life going forward, it is really worth your time and your effort to put in some hours preparing.
And, to come back to the idea of your attorney as a partner in this process, if you’re working with one, if you’re lost for how to prepare for your negotiation, look to your attorney. Ask them for assistance. Or even ask your mediator.
Your mediator should be able to give you some helpful guidance in terms of, what are the things that you would recommend that we each think about on our own, and put in place and have prepared before our next session? That can be really helpful to do that, or to get that guidance and to do that work, whether from your mediator or your attorney.
Another component of preparation that I know some people find helpful is working off of lists and keeping things in writing.
That could be a list of things that are important to you to cover, or questions that you have that are really areas that you don’t understand and need clarification of. It could be a list of the documents that you need to do homework on and produce and share with your spouse. I could list many other things. It could be a list of, on a particular topic, the interests that you think are important to you related to that topic and that are important to your spouse related to that topic.
In a typical divorce negotiation, there’s so much material that you are covering, there are so many documents and different areas of conversation and negotiation, it can be hard to keep track of them all just in your mind without some assistance from something written down.
So that is my encouragement to you to really look at preparation as one of the keys to success in your divorce negotiation.
BASIC NEGOTIATION TIP #2: GET CLARITY FIRST. THEN, NEGOTIATE.
Another thing I want to raise that I see come up a lot is when people are at the outset of their negotiation process – again, in whatever process they’re working in – the instinct is often to jump right into resolution or proposals for resolution. What are we doing with our parenting schedule? How are we dividing the retirement accounts? What are we doing about your business or my business? And so on and so forth.
I want to encourage you, before you go there – and I understand the temptation to go there – but, before you jump to a discussion or a negotiation between differing proposals of how to resolve your entire divorce, I strongly encourage you to clarify, to get utmost clarity on, what it is you’re talking about.
So one example might be, if one of the spouses has a private equity investment, or an investment in a small restaurant concept, or something that is slightly less common than a 401(k) or just a checking account, you want to confirm, not only, what was invested, when was the investment made, in whose name is the interest held, what’s the nature of the interest? But also, you want to confirm some basic questions like, is this a transferrable interest? Could the spouse who holds the interest in his or her name choose to, if you agreed, transfer it to the other spouse, put it in their name? Does it have to remain in one spouse’s name?
Or, a very simple example would be talking about the marital home or the marital apartment and having very different senses of what it would sell for or what the fair market value is. If you and your spouse have completely different thinking about what your home or your apartment might sell for, that can be influencing your discussions in an unhelpful way, in an unproductive way. And so maybe you can’t get to a place where you agree on what the value of the home is. However, in trying to clarify the underlying facts about this asset, you will at least clarify for yourselves that you have a disagreement there. And that can help you make some sense of why you’re coming out in such different places, if you are, around proposals related to the home.
The important take-home is, first things first and don’t leapfrog over the important part in the process of solidifying – clarifying and solidifying and agreeing on, where possible – the basic facts of your negotiation. The facts about all of your assets, the facts about all of your debts. If future inheritances or interests in trusts are an issue, clarifying facts about those. Clarifying facts about your children’s schedule, or school schedule, or whatever is relevant for you.
That really can go a long way to helping you avoid having unnecessary confusion and conflict.
BASIC NEGOTIATION TIP #3: FOCUS ON UNDERLYING INTERESTS + INCENTIVES
Another tip, another classic negotiation tip, you may have heard this before, is to focus on interests rather than positions.
So, the classic story that distinguishes between interests and positions is of two kids fighting over an orange and they both want the whole orange. Or lemon. Then, the mom or the dad has the insight to ask them, “Why do you want the entire citrus fruit (lemon, orange, maybe lime)?” And it turns out that one kid wants it because they want to have the rind for – I don’t know what you use rind for but – to make it into some sort of dessert, and the other kid wants the whole orange to make orange juice, so they just want the juice.
In that example, the positions of each kid in that story were, “I want the orange.” “No, I want the orange.” But, if you dig down beneath their position to what their interest is: Why do you want the orange? What are you going to do with it? What are your plans for it? What’s important to you about it? If they have differing interests and/or interests that are compatible with one another, you can come up with a creative solution.
So, when you are proposing resolutions or settlement options or anything in your negotiation, I encourage you to frame it in a way that best responds to your spouse’s interests – that you understand to be their interests, that you anticipate or intuit to be their interests – and less in a way that frames what you’re proposing as what you deserve or what is fair to you.
Oftentimes, in a divorce negotiation, you are not highly persuaded by your spouse’s perspective of what he or she is entitled to, what’s fair to them, what makes sense in their subjective perspective of the world. So that probably makes sense to you, maybe resonates with you.
But, if you flip the tables, same goes for them.
So, it’s very natural to express something to your spouse in a negotiation by saying, “Look, this is fair because – for instance – I should stay in the home because I did so much more of the work to design the home and I care about it more, and…[substitute in XYZ reasons].”
That may be persuasive to your spouse, and it may not be. And if it’s not (and I would anticipate that it might not be), you want to be mindful about trying to frame what you are suggesting or what you want in a way that is as acknowledging of your spouse’s interests as it is of your interests and your own sense of fairness.
And I don’t mean to subjugate your interests to your spouse’s. I don’t think that that’s a good negotiation tactic at all. I think you should come from a place of trying to achieve overall fairness for both of you, and certainly should frame what you’re proposing in terms of overall fairness. But a little can go a long way to acknowledging your spouse’s perspective, your spouse’s preferences, your spouse’s reality, their subjective take on their reality, in proposing a resolution that you want.
And I want to add one more piece which is that it’s not – this is not just about language or framing your proposal to your spouse or your spouse’s attorney in a way that is acknowledging of and aware of their interests and their subjective sense of fairness. But it goes deeper.
It’s also about how you strategize about what is going to work in your negotiation. With every decision that you're making, you really want to consider not just whether something works for you, which of course is critical, but you also want to consider, not only does it work for your spouse, but what kind of incentives does it set up for your spouse. Does it incentivize them in a way that is beneficial to you?
I think it’s a natural for everybody going through a negotiation to be asking themselves, “How does this decision impact me?” and understandably to not be laser-focused on how a particular decision or agreement, temporary or long-term, impacts their spouse.
But, if you are still on the negotiation process, how something impacts your spouse is going to impact you as well. And you may give it low value, or you may give it a high value or somewhere in between, but you don’t want to be blind to it and never consider it as part of your negotiation.
BASIC NEGOTIATION TIP #4: CONCRETIZE
Another tip that I want to share with you which is sort of a different – it’s a different take or quite different from our focus on underlying interests in negotiation – is the suggestion that sometimes you actually want to get more concrete.
What do I mean by that? I just spoke about how you can optimize your negotiation, your outcomes, by trying to not just understand what is your spouse or what are you proposing, specifically, what’s the specific solution you’re proposing, but what’s the underlying interest, what’s the value, what’s the problem you’re trying to solve for, and letting that guide your thinking and your proposals and negotiation. So, that is important.
But sometimes, you are having a conflict on a theoretical level, or in principle – let’s say around co-parenting. One parent is saying that to them it’s incredibly important that the kids have a stable place to live, and they’re not making frequent transitions. And the other parent is saying that they want to minimize the amount of time that the children are away from each parent, which typically means more transitions (not necessarily, but often).
Sometimes, for instance, in a conflict around schedule, parenting schedule, it helps to concretize what is actually the difference between what each of you would be proposing? So Parent A, what schedule is your ideal? And you draw it up on the board, and you see exactly who is with the kids when. Parent B, what is your ideal schedule?
Oftentimes, you will realize that the difference between the schedules, even though the philosophical differences may seem very entrenched and opposed to one another, the actual difference is, you know, two evenings a month or something like that.
Of course, this applies in the financial context as well. For example, maybe one of you feels like it’s absolutely unfair to share debts accrued during the marriage related to a parent’s schooling, you know, parent’s education and training. And the other parent feels like, “But, clearly that was a debt we incurred during the marriage and it’s got to be shared.” What’s the amount of debt you're talking about? Is it a $200,000 student loan or a $10,000 student loan? That can make a big difference, and it can help loosen some of that sort of the entrenched nature of your different stances on a particular subject.
And that’s not always the key that unravels or unknots the conflict between you. But it can be, it can plant a seed that actually this conflict is maybe not as huge as it feels. Conflicts on the level of parenting philosophy, or around finances (for instance, a sense of entitlement and contribution, and who did what in the relationship, and who is entitled to what), can feel irreconcilable. Because, you know, you have different subjective experiences of your relationship or of what your kids need, and that’s par for the course. Married couples have that.
So, you don’t want to get so stuck going beneath your positions and understanding your interests, and even beneath that, i.e., what is the philosophy that’s driving you to care about this thing, that you spend 10 sessions on something that, actually, the difference is $10,000.
Another way to, and I don’t know if this is necessarily to concretize, but to fill in some helpful details about a conflict in negotiation that can sometimes help you move through a conflict, is also to specify, is this an issue right now, or is this something that won’t be an issue for ten years? Will this always be an issue, or will it be an issue for one year, and then it’s just not going to be an issue going past that?
So, if you're feeling really stuck on the level of interests and values and philosophies, sometimes that can be the key to unlocking yourselves from more of a conflict of perspective, which can be hard to resolve in a negotiation.
BASIC NEGOTIATION TIP #5: COMPROMISE IS A REQUIREMENT
My next tip is an oldie but a goodie. You’ve probably heard this as well. But that is that you will have to compromise as part of your negotiation in order for it to be successful.
I’m sure you’ve heard that before, and it probably seems like a no-brainer. I think that the idea that you will have to compromise as part of your negotiation is one of those things that is very clear in theory, and it can be very confusing and difficult to apply to your specific situation.
When you're standing in your own shoes and having to assess a particular compromise, you can feel this real cognitive dissonance of holding, “Yes, ok, I know that in a negotiation it’s not going to work if I– I’m not going to get everything I want. But, at the same time, this particular issue does not feel like the issue I can compromise on.
What I want to share with you is an observation that, generally speaking, what I see, is that where people have a very high level of emotional pain, discomfort, sometimes a high level of conflict around their relationship and their breakup, the level of pain and discomfort that they will feel making the necessary compromises that they have to make in order to settle, is going to be often in direct proportion to that.
For example, if you have a couple where the relationship itself was not acutely painful for either of them, and it’s just, you know, it wasn’t the right fit, and they both kind of accept that, and the breakup itself is not acutely painful or causing acute discomfort in either of them, whether it be anger or sadness or fear or resentment, betrayal or any of those emotions or all of them, it is generally easier for those people to identify the areas where they need to compromise and to accept that compromise.
Where the level of pain and discomfort, anger or sadness, you name it, around either the relationship and/or the breakup is high or acute, it is generally more difficult for those people to identify the areas in which they need to accept a compromise or let go of a particular topic.
And so I think if you find yourself in the latter group, if you observe that your experience of your divorce and of your relationship, or the latter part of your relationship, and/or your spouse, is so acutely negative, you want to be on double, triple alert that you may be having a harder time seeing where the right areas for compromise are, and you may need to access more support, either from your attorney in doing that, from your mediator in doing that, to present the facts of your case and ask for more of a neutral take on what would be good areas of compromise, or present an area that you’re very stuck on and ask for more neutral feedback as to what would be a range of appropriate compromise.
And just try to hold that meta self-awareness in a way that if your divorce feels awful, and the end of the relationship felt awful, and the dynamics are extremely complex and intense and acute, compromise is going to be a lot harder, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not absolutely integral to your reaching a settlement that works for both of you. Because it is. It’s just harder.
BASIC NEGOTIATION TIP #6: EXPECT UNCONSCIOUS BIAS
The last thing I want to share is a tip around unconscious bias. This comes from another favorite negotiation resource of mine, which is a book called Difficult Conversations.
There are a couple of segments of that book that really stood out for me, but this one above all else, which was this negotiation study at Harvard Business School [24:28] where they had the exact same fact pattern, I think it was a description of maybe a parcel of real estate or a building. They give the exact same fact pattern to the class, and they split the class up into two halves, buyers and sellers.
The instruction was not, “What would you start off negotiating with? What’s your ideal outcome here? What would be your opening offer or opening bid?” They gave them the instruction to come back and relay privately what they truly thought a fair price would be, a sale price would be.
What they found was that people who were the buyers, potential buyers, tended to skew 30% down on the price. Of course, if they’re buying, they would want the price to be lower. And the sellers, who want the price to be higher, tended to skew about 30% up.
So, if $1.00 is exactly fair, the sellers thought $1.30 was exactly fair, middle of the road, and the buyers thought that $0.70 was exactly fair, middle of the road.
So you can see the challenge that this sets up for you.
What I want to encourage you to remind yourself of, both when you feel like what your spouse is proposing is outrageous and when you feel like what you’re proposing is just fair, the minimum of what would be a fair distribution of parenting time or assets, there’s bias here.
We all have bias in our own favor, and as much as we attorneys try to really counsel our clients in a way that is neutral, even while we are acting as advocates for them, attorneys are just as biased as you are. So, the feedback you’re getting from your attorney is not neutral, generally speaking. It just isn’t.
So, it’s not a specific actionable tip I’m giving you with this information, but I say it to normalize some of the experience that I think almost everyone has, at least some point in their negotiation, which is, “What an absolutely ridiculous offer you just made. You’re not even acting in good faith.” Or, “I cannot believe that this offer that I just made, which is just the absolute minimum acceptable of what is fair is being rejected or picked apart.”
I caution you – I encourage you to assume good faith, be savvy, don’t be naïve, but assume good faith unless you really are proven otherwise. Just know that within a certain range, you and your spouse, in good faith, are going to genuinely disagree on what is fair.
Part of the challenge of figuring out a resolution is finding a way to settle on something that feels fair to both of you, which can seem impossible. But, with a little bit of compromise and a lot of perspective on some of the pitfalls of negotiation process – and specifically, our own unconscious biases in our favor – you can, with your attorney’s assistance or with your mediator’s assistance, lead yourself through the process successfully.
So I want to shift now to talking about some more tips, but more from a psychological or an interpersonal relationship perspective. I do that because, as I said at the outset of this episode, I do that because I know that negotiations between spouses and significant others are some of the hardest negotiations, because there is so much emotional history and emotion tied up in the entire process of negotiating a settlement.
It's not easy to navigate your way through those waters. I want to flag for you a couple of stumbling blocks. My tips are really stumbling blocks that I want to advise you of and help you avoid.
RELATIONSHIP NEGOTiATION TIP #1: DON’T OVER-CAMPAIGN
The first one is to really push hard for any particular outcome or process.
You may be saying, “Well that’s insane. I’m not agnostic on what the outcome of my divorce is, so of course I’m going to be pushing for what I want.” Fine. I’m not discouraging you from doing everything in your power to achieve the best possible resolution of your divorce for you.
What I’m saying is that there are different ways in which you can do that, and one of the ways that I see that’s very ineffective is to mount a crusade on a particular issue or in favor of a particular process.
Let me take the process first. You may very much want to do mediation to resolve your divorce, and your spouse may be uncomfortable with that, tentative about it, not sure. Maybe collaborative would be better. Maybe they want to hire a litigator.
What you do not want to do is to advocate with your spouse day and night that mediation is the only way to go. They’ve got to do mediation. There’s no reason to be concerned about mediation because XYZ and it works, because ABC.
Say it once, and let it be.
You can’t control a process you’re in. You have one of two votes, and both people have to opt in to a settlement process – again, other than litigation – for it to happen. I have not seen it be effective where one spouse is really lobbing the other to participate in a particular process.
So, make your preference known, but do it with a light touch. You can explain why you think it would be the process that’s most advantageous for both of you, most effective in your case, and then let your spouse have their opinion on it and try to hold that neutrally.
In terms of specific outcome (e.g., I really want to stay in the house. I really want to sell the house. I really want to co-own the house and sell it later), whatever outcome you want, same deal. You do not want to frame what you’re asking for as the most absolutely critical thing. You cannot imagine having another opinion on it. It’s a crusade. It’s something that you won’t accept any other resolution for it, You won’t entertain any other options for it. It must be this way, whatever that way is.
By the way, all of that may be true. You may know, “Okay, we’re in a mediation process, but if my spouse is not willing to let me stay in the home, I’m not going to be comfortable signing the settlement to sell the home. I would rather go to court and try my luck to stay in the home than agree to sell it.” Fine. That’s fine. You can know that and you can make that known by your spouse, but you want to do it in an effective way.
What I have seen be effective is to be calm and clear, but not overbearing and berating, or so intense in your insistence on a particular outcome that – it’s almost that it – not incentivizes your spouse to disagree with you, but it gives them something very clear to oppose.
If you are mounting a crusade for a particular result, it makes it very easy for your spouse to know exactly which counter-crusade to mount, and you don’t want that.
You really want to walk this fine line of staying clear about what your bottom lines are, or clear about what your ideal outcome is, but to do everything in your power to hold that as lightly as possible and with as neutral and open an energy as possible.
I think that, to the extent you can say, ”Look, to me, what makes the most sense is for me to stay in the house for these reasons. Blah, blah, blah. I definitely understand your concerns. You think it’s not affordable, and I could see how it’s a stretch. You feel like now’s the time to get out of the market, and it’s going to lose value, and I understand that concern as well. I understand where you’re coming from, and I come out in a different place.”
So it’s without denying the validity of your spouse’s different opinion or refusing to entertain what they’re saying. You can entertain it and acknowledge it and still say, “We see this really differently. I hear that, from your perspective, XYZ, and I, on the other hand, am thinking ABC, and I’m coming out in a different place. So, this is still an issue that we need to work through.”
With the assistance of your attorney or your mediator, hopefully, you can be thoughtful enough about the negotiation strategy you put together that you will ultimately get to stay in the home, sell the home, whatever your preference is about the particular issue in question.
I have not seen it be very effective to get extremely intense and entrenched on an issue, and to articulate it in that way to your spouse. That is probably the least convincing way that you could frame your preference on a particular issue.
I think it’s really, really helpful to do your best to frame things as advantageously for yourself as possible, and that involves not getting extremely entrenched or mounting a crusade. And it involves making space to entertain your spouse’s different position and not dismiss it while still holding as valid your own different position and not dismiss that, either.
I have a couple of other observations around specific goals that people can bring into a divorce negotiation that, from my perspective, will not be successful. And, to the extent that you expend energy trying to attain them, you are often wasting that energy and you are not instilling good will in your spouse, whom you want to work with you to resolve the negotiation in a way that is acceptable to you.
Let me flag a couple of them for you.
RELATIONSHIP NEGOTIATION TIP #2: DON’T SEEK COMPENSATION
One of the goals that I see some people come into a divorce negotiation with sometimes is a goal of compensation.
What I mean by that is, some dynamic or dynamics in your relationship as a married couple, or as a couple, did not work for you. They were really, really frustrating, disappointing, angering, upsetting, you name it. And you are going through the divorce process in part because you are done with that. You don’t have more tolerance for it, and you’re mad that it happened in the first place, and/or sad, and you want your agreement, which is a forward-focused document, to make up for what you endured in the past.
The problem with that is that, often times, you and your spouse will have extremely different perspectives on what was unfair or what was dysfunctional, what didn’t work, what was painful about your history, and you will not see eye to eye on, for instance, the feeling of one parent that they did the lion’s share of the parenting work. And they’re done with it, and going forward, the other parent can deal with all communications with the school and setting up all medical appointments and doing 100% of it because the first 10 years were on the other parent’s shoulders.
Well, that’s great if you can agree to it, but often times, what happens is the other parent has a totally different experience of what your history was. They don’t share your perspective, and they have their own perspective about how you contributed to the end of the relationship, and are almost never on the same page with you in terms of wanting to find a way to compensate you in the agreement going forward for what happened in the past.
RELATIONSHIP NEGOTIATION TIP #3: DON’T SEEK PUNISHMENT
Somewhat related to that is the idea of punishment for things that happened in your relationship.
Whereas compensation might be, you know, I was always the one who accommodated your preferences, and now in our divorce, I’m done accommodating, and you have to accommodate all my preferences because I accommodated yours for 15 years.
With punishment, and in some ways, it’s also balancing of the scale in the eyes of one of the spouses, where your relationship, either ended in a way that was particularly painful, or growing out of a transgression or betrayal of a spouse, or where there were things that happened during your relationship along those lines, many people come into the divorce feeling like, “This is not a neutral break up. This is a break up that happened because of one person, and I’m not comfortable with a settlement that is neutral, that for instance, that splits our property 50-50. Why would we do that when one spouse cheated on the other spouse, for instance?”
So I want to say that I really understand as a human being coming from that perspective. And it is almost never going to be effective. It’s almost never going to happen, for two reasons.
One, your spouse probably doesn’t share your perspective. So, in the example I’m using, where one spouse was unfaithful, the spouse who was cheated on can often feel like, “How does our agreement take into consideration the fact that my spouse cheated on me? Because this is not a neutral breakup. It was caused by her or by him.” Well, the other spouse may have a very different sense of what led to the infidelity, and led to the breakup, and may not see themselves as deserving any sort of punishment at all. Sometimes they may see themselves as the victim. So, it’s unlikely that they would agree to a punitive settlement.
And even in those rare situations where both spouses agree and see eye to eye that the behavior, the decisions or the inaction or whatever, of one spouse is to blame for the break-up, oftentimes, most often, both spouses will be working in some capacity with an attorney – even with a mediation, they’ll be consulting with attorneys outside mediation – and it’s rare that that spouse, after consulting with an attorney, that they will be getting any kind of advice that encourages them to accept the punitive settlement. In almost no circumstances, if you go to court, is the court weighing in on who is the bad actor, or whether there was a bad actor, in a relationship, and adjusting parenting or finances in response to that. It’s extremely rare.
And so again, even if your spouse is okay with it, which they probably won’t be, that is with the punitive settlement, their lawyer will almost certainly dissuade them from accepting a punitive settlement.
RELATIONSHIP NEGOTIATION TIP #4: DON’T SEEK BREAKTHROUGH
So the last component of these unobtainable relationship goals that can get expressed in a divorce negotiation, get expressed in and can kind of stall or thwart a divorce negotiation, is a wish to, a goal of, breakthrough, of finally getting through to your ex, to get them to understand things from your perspective, whether it be around parenting, around your individual relationship, around finances, around going back to work, working with kids, staying home, whatever the subject is.
Oftentimes, with longstanding subjects or new subjects that you do not see eye to eye on, your divorce negotiation will not be an effective place to get your spouse to understand and share your perspective. At best, what you can hope for is, that your spouse understands and acknowledges your different perspective while continuing to hold their own different perspective. That’s the best you can hope for in a divorce negotiation.
It is exceedingly rare for spouses to strongly disagree on something, to have very different subjective perspectives, and through the divorce negotiation, for one of the spouses to relinquish their own subjective perspective and adopt the other spouse’s perspective or a portion of their perspective. If it didn’t happen in your relationship, it’s all the more unlikely to happen in your divorce.
And so you really want to be careful and watch yourself closely, if you find that you’re trying to get through to your spouse, convince them, explain to them why, repeat the reasons why, you feel a certain way, a certain outcome is fair or whatever, and they’re coming back with their own reasons why that’s ridiculous. You don’t want to burn a lot of time in that space because it is burning goodwill between you, which is an important part, a very useful part, of reaching a settlement, and it’s not likely to lead anywhere.
RELATIONSHIP NEGOTIATION TIP #5: GIVE IT TIME
The final thing I want to highlight as a tip or a suggestion, something that I’ve noticed over time with couples in divorce negotiation processes, is that time does a lot to improve your negotiation.
I can’t say that that’s in every case across the board, but in the vast majority of cases, things become easier as time passes. Some of the emotional intensity that’s present in an early breakup lessens. People who were not in favor of a breakup can begin to see a life for themselves outside of the relationship and feel more accepting of some of the changes and compromises they will have to sign on to to move the divorce process forward.
And I know that for most people going through a divorce, “Have patience. It takes time,” is the last thing you want to hear. But as with many things, it didn’t take you – you know, your relationship was most likely not two months long. It’s probably going to take more than two months to unravel it and to untangle your intertwined lives. And it’s not – because the subject of a divorce negotiation being as important as it is, your finances, your kids, and many things that you hold dear to – you don’t want to shortchange it and rush it.
And oftentimes, when people are stuck around what feels like a really intractable conflict, time will loosen it up enough and give each person enough wiggle room or space to come up with a solution, a compromise solution, that works for them. So, sometimes when nothing else is working in your negotiation, giving it a little bit of time, waiting for things to calm down, giving it a little bit of space, even though you want to be done yesterday, which is understandable, can help immensely in the negotiation.
So, that is it for our episode on pro tips in your divorce negotiation. I hope it was helpful for you.
Next up, we will be in Episode 20 and we are going to be answering a series of listener questions. And we’ve got some great ones. So, definitely tune in for that next episode, and I will forward to speaking with you then.