When I was in my late teens and early adulthood, I thought I had it “all figured out.” Who didn’t? But then when I did have doubts, I would become terribly upset because I HAD to make a decision quick! or else – of course – “the world would come to an end!”
When I asked my grandfather, an “older and wiser” man in his early seventies to help me decide, his answer usually was “Il est urgent de ne rien faire!” meaning “It is urgent to do nothing!” Well, doing nothing and being in limbo made me almost more annoyed than his answer and the calm tone in which he delivered it. Nothing could be worse for me than doing NOTHING!
But as I became “older and wiser,” I realized that quite often, that is exactly what we need to do. Nothing. The world does not come to an end if we do not make an immediate decision. In fact, time often helps ideas fall into place. The mere fact of letting things sit for a while, following some brainstorming, often leads us to making the right decision. This self-awareness, or to use the word of the day “mindfulness,” can be very helpful in finding the proper answers.
In my practice, I receive calls from people considering separation or divorce who frequently have this sense of urgency:
- I need to move money out of an account before my spouse does “something.”
- I need to move out of this house and rent another place because we can’t stay one more minute under the same roof.
- I need to tell the kids now.
Although I am tempted to quote my grandfather, I repeat his words silently to myself and try to convey why none of these actions should be done with haste. The urgency is mostly dictated by strong emotional reactions and may need a little time, reflection and discussion. While some people often have been contemplating the idea of a separation for a long time before finally taking action and making the first step, they may not have properly thought out a plan, or one party may have a one-sided plan which he or she thinks would be fine for both!
While I am not saying “do not move out” or “do not tell the kids,” I am saying to both parties, come in together, let’s all talk about it and prepare the best way to handle all of your concerns.
I remember one couple in particular who came to mediate their divorce. They both felt that the husband should move out “yesterday.” At the first session, the wife wanted to know when he was moving out, but at this point, they had not discussed or planned the how, the where, the children or their finances.
It took several weeks and quite a bit of patience on both their parts, but they did work together and figure it all out. On the scheduled moving-out date, though sad and difficult, they both recognized they were so much better prepared.
No matter what urgent decision you need to make, listen to my grandfather’s advice: do nothing. Not quite yet at least. Take a step back, look at your options, and make a well-thought-out decision before taking action.
If you remember a time in your life when you were faced with a situation that seemed urgent at first, but then, with some time and thought, worked itself out, please feel free to share it with us in the comment box below.
jennifer safian. divorce and family mediator divorce and family mediation upper east side of manhattan (nyc) new york, ny (212) 472-8626 email@example.com connect on