When You Still Love the Crumb

One of the toughest challenges about divorce is taking care of yourself and protecting yourself, even while you are still deeply and hopelessly in love with the person who’s divorcing you. It’s painful, tragic, and debilitating.

And sometimes literally sickening. Samantha knew she needed to divorce Harry. She had recently discovered that over their six-year marriage Harry had systematically stolen more than $30,000 — her life savings. All trust was gone, and there was no question they needed to divorce.

That didn’t mean Samantha didn’t have feelings for Harry, though. While Harry signed the divorce papers, Samantha retched in my parking lot. She simply could not deal with the fact that her marriage was ending.

So what do you do when you still love the person you’re divorcing? First, you need to express your feelings of love. Try to find a counselor, if you can afford one. Use your rabbi or minister if one is available to you. Do you have that special kind of friend who can listen and love you without telling you what to do? If you do, this is the time to use them. Print this sheet and hand it to them if you need to.

If you don’t have anybody who will just listen, and probably even if you do, I recommend journaling. Write down your feelings, even if you know they’re unrealistic or Quixotic. This is not for anybody but you. Merely the act of writing down or expressing your feelings can help you deal with them in a more healthy way.

I hope this goes without saying, but resist the urge to have sex with your STBX.

Now beyond that, what can you do? Perhaps the easiest trap for you to fall into in divorce is to try to win back your spouse by showing how generous you are. You give him or her everything. You demand nothing. You are generous to a fault.

This never works. Don’t do it.

I know of no case where anyone has won back his or her spouse by being generous in divorce negotiations. What I can tell you about is case after case like that of Laura and George. When George announced his intention to leave Laura after 27 years of marriage, she was devastated. Hoping to demonstrate to George that he would be foolish to leave her, Laura asked for only a small portion of the wealth of the marriage and agreed to waive alimony even though her attorney told her a judge would probably award it. In a final futile, pitiful attempt to show George how wonderful she was, Laura agreed for the children to live with him. George held her in contempt, took all she offered, and left. By the time she came to see me several years later, Laura viewed herself as a patsy and regretted her foolish generosity.

Love and negotiations don’t mix. If you’re negotiating a divorce with someone you love, stop. Get some help. This is where it’s critical that you think strategically. Your spouse who is leaving you is keeping his or her focus on the money. If you can’t, make sure you’re getting advice from someone who is.