In my Rhode Island Divorce article called "Divorcing with Dignity"
I alluded to the fact that when you divorce your spouse you have a
better chance of doing so amicably with both spouses retaining their
dignity rather than arguing, fighting and bickering at each other
simply by retaining your power as the client to direct the focus of
The title of that divorce article was to call to your attention as a
divorcing party that there is more than one aspect to a divorce.
Divorcing with Dignity focused its emphasis on the damage that can be
done when emotions are triggered in one (or both) of the spouses and
your case suddenly spirals out of control because either one or both of
you are in a reactive rather than a responsive state of mind.
A reactive state of mind is present when a person simply
reacts to something that is done or said by another person based solely
on the emotions he or she feels about what has been said or done by
A responsive state of mind is present when a person rationally
processes what has been said or done by their spouse (which may or may
not trigger strong emotions that urge you to react) and logically
thinks through the situation in context.
In a reactive state in a divorce situation such as the one outlined
in my article "Divorcing with Dignity" the spouse who was served with
the Divorce Complaint immediately saw the words "sole custody" and
became emotional. The spouse that was served might have interpreted
that in several ways based upon a gut emotional reaction. The spouse
that was served might have thought that "sole custody" meant that thee
other spouse wanted to take away his or her rights. Or, the spouse
that was served might have thought that the spouse who filed the
divorce action lied and had no intention of being reasonable. Or, the
spouse that was served might have thought it implied he or she was
somehow incompetent or incapable of having custody.
Whatever the spouse who was served with the Divorce Complaint
interpreted the request for "sole custody" to mean, that spouse's
response was from a reactive state of mind. The spouse did not take
time to rationally process what was contained in the Divorce
Complaint. Rather, the spouse reacted emotionally and made statements
to the other spouse in anger that may have been interpreted as threats,
a lack of reasonableness, a lack of trust, an unwillingness to allow
the spouse to explain and even as an accusation that the spouse filing
the divorce was a liar.
Imagine now what happens in this case if the spouse who filed the
divorce complaint and trusted the lawyer, also adopts a reactive state
and becomes hurt and/or furious because the spouse wasn't even given
the opportunity to explain that the words "sole custody" were put in
the Divorce Complaint by the attorney who does so as a standard
practice. The spouse who filed for divorce might not feel so amicable
anymore. He or she might now be angry and furious that an explanation
should have been allowed.
Now the spouse who was served may have triggered emotions in the
spouse who filed the divorce to enter into a reactive state of mind as
well. Now, both parties are emotional, mistrusting of one another and
animosity has been created which may prevent you from amicably settling
the divorce at all.
Regrettably I've seen this happen on many occasions and in some
instances despite the best legal or mental health counseling you can't
undo the damage that has been done or reverse the reactive states
because they have gained too much momentum in the minds of one or both
or the spouses.
So what are the consequences?
One or both spouses are likely to be in emotional states that make
them uncomfortable in some way. It is almost certain that the spouses
aren't in an emotional state that bears any resemblance to
"happiness". This emotional discomfort causes the mind to be
distracted and takes a toll on your body both emotionally and
physically. Some medical professionals even believe that extended
stressful situations such as divorce can lead to shortened lifespans as
well as early greying, hairloss, nervous conditions and may trigger
anxiety, panic disorders and even chronic clinical depression.
Once spouses begin to make reactive decisions in a divorce
situation, there is a good chance that one or both spouses may continue
that pattern and continue making reactive decisions.
What if we have children?
If you have children, especially if they live with you and are below their teen year, those children may
- Feel and absorb the tension between the spouses,
- May receive less love, care or attention from one or both spouses
as they tend to focus more of their energies on the emotion war with
their spouse in the divorce,
- They may feel or take the backlash of their parent's (s') emotions
since as human beings we often misplace and misdirect our feelings and
emotions and lash out at the people closest to us even though they are
not the cause of these emotions,
- Be traumatized emotionally just by the possibility of losing a parent in their home environment,
- Become alienated from one of their parents if one parent has left
the household and the other parent's misdirected emotions cause that
parent to say and do things that foster in the child(ren) the idea that
the other parent does not love them, does not care about them and has
So what can you do to ease your divorce?
As the title suggests . . . Adopt a Responsive State of Mind!
How can I adopt a Responsive State of Mind?
- Realize that you are the only one that can control your emotions.
Your emotions are merely feelings that you attribute you any given
situation based upon your interpretation of what you have seen and
heard. Reactive people don't think. They believe there is only one
interpretation for each thing that is done, end of story. This is not
correct. Each person is an individual and we all have different
opinions and different perspectives. There may be many interpretations
and possibly even many "truths" about what a certain event or statement
- Accept that you must control your emotions if you are to
remain in a responsive state and make good decisions to ease your
stress and focus your divorce in a positive direction.
- No matter what your spouse says or does as your divorce progresses take TIME to THINK about what has been said or done. No
doubt you've heard the saying "Cooler heads prevail." Take it to heart
because it is true. Emotions are neither good nor bad, however, they
have the tendency to throw us off balance and cloud our judgment. With
clouded judgment you cannot expect to make good decisions for your
life, your children, your assets or your divorce. Each time an event
occurs or something is said by your spouse and it triggers an emotion
that urges you to react . . . DON'T! Take 60 seconds minimum
and take a quiet, slow deep breath and think about where your spouse is
coming from. Think about what he or she might be feeling. Think about
how your spouse might be misinterpreting something. Think about
whether your spouse said one thing but really meant something totally
different. When it is time to respond, think about whether your
response will take your divorce and your family relationships in the
direction you would like to see them go. Consider if there is any way
you can see things from your spouse's point of view and whether what
you say will cause your spouse to continue to be reactive or more
Now, this may seem quite a bit of work for you to do to
help your divorce and your family relationships if you're feeling
pressured and you're feeling like you only have 60 seconds to work
with. Trust me when I tell you that you can do it.
How do I know this? I've seen people do it and talked
to them about it. You see you have one of the greatest supercomputers
with you every moment of every day. It's your brain. Even as fast as
they make computers today a computer may react as fast as 1/1000th of a
second if it has a simple function to perform and it is in good shape
and not clogged with errors and programs, etc... Yet the nerve
conduction velocity of commands to and within the human brain is
reputed to be 1/100,000th of a second. At any given moment your brain
may be processing more than 100,000 commands and functions just so you
can blink, type or even walk and chew gum at the same time. Your
brain is more than capable of handling 10 or 20 questions in 60
seconds. If you feel you can't respond properly in 60 seconds then
remain calm and take as much time as you can. Your divorce, your
mediation, your settlement agreement or anything else in your divorce
is not a race to the finish. Give yourself a break and do yourself a
favor. Take the time you need in order to remain in a responsive state
and take your divorce in a positive direction.
Only you and your spouse have the power to truly ease your divorce.
Trust me . . . adopt a responsive state of mind in your life and for your divorce.
control of your emotions. Do not allow yourself be ruled by them
and demand of yourself that you will take time to logically think over
each and every action you take or each and every action you instruct
your attorney to take in your divorce.
Christopher A. Pearsall, Esquire
PEARSALL LAW ASSOCIATES
571 Pontiac Avenue
Cranston, RI 02910
Phone: (401) 354-2369
Attorney Pearsall's practice is focused almost exclusively in the areas of Divorce and Family law.
CALL (401) 354-2369 now to schedule for your low-cost, no obligation legal consultation!
NOTE: The postings on this website are NOT legal advice, DO NOT
create an attorney/client relationship and are NOT a substitute for a
detailed consultation with an attorney experienced in the state where
you have your legal issue. This site is based on Rhode Island and is
presented for the convenience of the internet public.
* The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers in the general
practice of law and has no procedure for recognition of specialty in
any area of law.
Copyright 2008 - Christopher A. Pearsall and Pearsall Law Associates (All Rights Reserved.)