I’m working with a high-conflict couple. Both feel unseen, unappreciated and unacknowledged for their efforts. Both feel the other belittles their contributions.
This is common amongst divorcing people and the primary reason intimate relationships breakdown.
People crave recognition and just might seek it elsewhere if they don’t get it at home. It’s a challenge in intimate relationships because we’re all incredibly fragile.
When I say, “the kitchen’s a mess.” I’m stating a fact, but my husband hears it as, “Why haven’t you cleaned it? You lazy SOB.”
In fact, he’s been known to perceive my statement as an accusation, as if I said, “You never do anything round here,” So, he responds “but I do a lot around the house. I just bought the groceries, folded the laundry.” If I’m talking about the kitchen I’d say, “I wasn’t talking about the groceries or laundry.”
It’s hard to ignore what you hear as an accusation and refrain from defensiveness. However, looping back is a great start. “You’re right, it’s true the kitchen’s a mess.” Then, generate options. “Do either of us have time to clean it or we could do it together? Would you prefer to load the dishwasher or clear the counters? Or should we let it fester till the weekend, like we did when we started dating?” Adding a touch of humor never goes astray.
Rachel chats with Stephanie Genkin, CFP, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst & Certified Financial Therapist. She works with clients in the divorce process helping them divide assets and understand how their expenses and future plans may need an adjustment as a result of the dissolution of the marriage.
Rachel interviews Beverly Price, owner of Her Empowered Divorce, a resource of support for separated, divorcing & divorced women. Beverly is a divorce coach, pre-mediation coach, women’s empowerment Coach, podcast host, radio show host, speaker & domestic violence advocate.
The starting point for divorce negotiations is to divide debt 50/50. This would not include debt racked up because of an addiction, gambling disorder, fancy dinners with a paramour. So the presumption that debt is joint can be questioned, depending on what the debt arose from. Lost a week’s pay gambling? That debt is yours. Dental bills and groceries? You’re sharing that.
Generally, mortgages stay with the house. A spouse gets the house, they would also get the mortgage. If the couple is selling the house, they pay off the mortgage and then split the remaining proceeds of the sale – equally, most often.
Responsibility for debt: Technically, credit cards are held by one person. Even if you are a cardholder on the account, the bills are only in your name, and you are the one that the credit card company will go after. However, if you are getting divorced, then the courts would have the authority to distribute the responsibility as they see fit.
To protect yourself, you and your partner can enter into a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement to clarify that debt in your name is yours, and theirs is theirs. Or you could say (in a prenup) that you will divide debt accrued during the marriage proportionally based on your incomes. (So if one partner earned $100k and the other earned $50k, the debt would be divided 2/3 – 1/3.)
The #1 thing I recommend is – know what’s going on in your household! Look at the monthly statement – forward it to your ex, after circling all the things you expect them to chip in for.
If credit card debt starts accruing, it’s hard to get out from under it, because the interest they charge is so high. You might have a chance to change it, restructure it – move it to 0% interest offers to keep interest charges from piling up – find a debt restructuring company, which will negotiate with your creditors, lower the balance owed and put you on a payment plan.
If you have retirement assets, maybe you can take a loan against them to pay off credit card debt. Those loans are great – you pay interest to yourself.
You can nip it in the bud – but only if you know about it. Some of the worst debt-divorce stories I have seen were where one partner accumulated debt that the other did not know about. Nothing like thinking, “great we’re selling our house for $1,300,000,” only to discover that your share will be $200,000 because there is debt that you only learned about at the closing.
You can also protect yourself with a postnuptial agreement. I worked with a couple whose only area of conflict was money, and they were debating whether to stay married. We negotiated the terms of a postnuptial agreement in which they agreed that any debt would belong to the person whose name is on the debt – and would belong solely to that spouse. Even if you’re already married, you can negotiate who will own what. Just be sure to put it in writing.
In mediation, we work to make space to have conversations that you have not been able to have on your own, which can help you to have closure, and to move forward without needing to keep rehashing the past.
People get into the worst fights when what they are fighting about is not what they are really fighting about…
I am working with a couple who have an extremely (and unusually) hostile and embittered post-divorce relationship. I am working with them as a parenting coordinator, not a mediator. This means that I was appointed by the court and have the power to make decisions if there is a time-sensitive matter pending. Usually, during mediation, I don’t have the power to make decisions (and why should I? Those are not my kids).
I had a call yesterday from Josh, who is working with his wife in mediation, with another mediator. Josh called to ask me about being his reviewing attorney, and wanted to get my take on a couple of things.
Josh and his wife, Becka, were having conflicts over who would move out of their house. They had separated bedrooms months ago (Josh has been sleeping on the couch,) and have put a schedule in place for caring for their children, so that each took turns making dinner, being on homework duty – and having nights ‘off,’ just as they will do when they separate. But they are both still residing in the house.
It is a challenge, in many relationships, to communicate your needs in a way that doesn’t come across as slamming your partner. I see men who feel decimated by the woman’s criticism – when I think the woman is trying to say, “I need this, and I would like to tell you about my needs, so that we can figure out a way for you to meet them, and I will be happy, and you will be happy.”
I had a depressing mediation session today. A session like today’s makes me realize that mediation is an opportunity. But everyone is not able to take that opportunity.
The center of this couple’s conflicts revolve around their children.
Most couples I see fight. But when I mention their kids, I get smiles, and proud stories of how well the children are doing – or stories about concerns for the children, and how to shield them from parental conflict – Continue reading “are there winners & losers?”