Anger, sadness, and confusion are emotions that resonate with many going through a divorce.

You are not alone in this experience, and these feelings are not unique to you. However, remaining in what feels like a constant crisis or panic state is not required of a person going through a divorce. Indeed, remaining in a state of hyper-emotion is counterproductive and harmful to your health. What can you do?

In the 3rd Century BC Greek and Roman Philosophers developed the Stoic school of thought. A philosophy that maximizes positive emotions, reduces negative emotions, and helps individuals hone their virtues of character. The practice of Stoicism can be a tremendous aid to someone overcoming an obstacle such as divorce. Tim Ferris, a well-known podcast host and author, describes Stoicism as “the ideal operating system for thriving in high stress environments.”

Stoicism is comprised of four virtues:

  • Practical Wisdom – the ability to navigate complex situations in a logical, informed, and calm manner
  • Temperance – the exercise of self-restraint and moderation in all aspects of life
  • Justice – treating others with fairness even when they have done wrong
  • Courage – facing daily challenges with clarity and integrity

Marcus Aurelius, one of the most famous Stoics, wrote, “impediment to action advances action, what stands in the way becomes the way.”

In exercising the four Stoic virtues through your divorce, the process is no longer a thing of dread. No one gets married expecting a divorce, but this new impediment is showing you a new direction and path.

While you proceed forward in your divorce, see the process as a step toward a more positive future instead of focusing on the negative connotations that frequently come to mind when you navigate a divorce. In exercising this positivity while your going through a divorce process, you will find that you feel calmer and can act rationally.

Stoicism is not just a set of beliefs; it is a way of life that focuses on practice and training. Here are a few Stoic exercises that will allow you to reduce negative emotions:

 

  1. Expect the Worst Out of People – In his Meditations, Marcus Aurelius wrote,

 

Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All of the ignorance of real good and ill … I can neither be harmed by any of them, for no man will involve me in wrong, nor can I be angry with my kinsman or hate him; for we have come into the world to work together …

 

On its face, Marcus Aurelius’ advice seems pessimistic. However, when you expect the worst out of your estranged husband or wife, you will be better equipped to make calmer and more collected decisions when the worst actually presents itself. It is a matter of expectations.

 

  1. Ego is the Enemy – ask yourself what your motivation is as you make decisions in your divorce. Are you acting out of arrogance or humility as you proceed? The Stoic, Epictetus, once wrote, “it is impossible to learn that which you already know.” Ego is toxic to all stages of divorce.

 

  1. Maintain your Moral Compass – if you are not acting in accordance with your moral compass, you will be unhappy no matter the endeavor. Act on what you believe is right. If that means you are fighting for more time with the children, maintain your code and act on it.

 

  1. Act for the Good of Community – as you make decisions, keep in mind how they affect those around you. How will your children accept this outcome? How will your family? How will your now ex-spouse, or his family?

 

Finally, maintain a fluid approach to divorce. A Stoic anticipates adverse outcomes and prepares for them. Like playing baseball, preparing for all outcomes of the next pitch allows for a quick and strategic response, allowing you to glide through the unpleasant unscathed. Staying fluid, you will find yourself pleasantly surprised when your expectations are exceeded, and the unpleasant scenarios you prepared for never manifest.

Setting your goals and intentions at the beginning of the day, reflecting at the end of the day, and meditating and journaling throughout the day are just a few habits that can assist your progression in the Stoic philosophy. The goal is to maximize your positive emotions, reduce your negative emotions and act on the four cardinal virtues. When you approach your divorce with a Stoic frame of mind you will be able to navigate this stressful event with less anxiety and more clarity.

 

 

man meditating
  1. Expect the Worst Out of People – In his Meditations, Marcus Aurelius wrote,

 

Say to yourself in the early morning: I shall meet today ungrateful, violent, treacherous, envious, uncharitable men. All of the ignorance of real good and ill … I can neither be harmed by any of them, for no man will involve me in wrong, nor can I be angry with my kinsman or hate him; for we have come into the world to work together …

 

On its face, Marcus Aurelius’ advice seems pessimistic. However, when you expect the worst out of your estranged husband or wife, you will be better equipped to make calmer and more collected decisions when the worst actually presents itself. It is a matter of expectations.

 

  1. Ego is the Enemy – ask yourself what your motivation is as you make decisions in your divorce. Are you acting out of arrogance or humility as you proceed? The Stoic, Epictetus, once wrote, “it is impossible to learn that which you already know.” Ego is toxic to all stages of divorce.

 

  1. Maintain your Moral Compass – if you are not acting in accordance with your moral compass, you will be unhappy no matter the endeavor. Act on what you believe is right. If that means you are fighting for more time with the children, maintain your code and act on it.

 

  1. Act for the Good of Community – as you make decisions, keep in mind how they affect those around you. How will your children accept this outcome? How will your family? How will your now ex-spouse, or his family?

 

Finally, maintain a fluid approach to divorce. A Stoic anticipates adverse outcomes and prepares for them. Like playing baseball, preparing for all outcomes of the next pitch allows for a quick and strategic response, allowing you to glide through the unpleasant unscathed. Staying fluid, you will find yourself pleasantly surprised when your expectations are exceeded, and the unpleasant scenarios you prepared for never manifest.

Setting your goals and intentions at the beginning of the day, reflecting at the end of the day, and meditating and journaling throughout the day are just a few habits that can assist your progression in the Stoic philosophy. The goal is to maximize your positive emotions, reduce your negative emotions and act on the four cardinal virtues. When you approach your divorce with a Stoic frame of mind you will be able to navigate this stressful event with less anxiety and more clarity.

 

 

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Life is full of peaks and valleys. My team and I meet people when they are suffering in an emotional valley and facing the prospect of climbing their own personal Mt. Everest. We sort through their baggage, help them plan their journey and guide them to the summit.

I specialize in divorces involving complex property valuations, including closely-held businesses, family partnerships, & trust interests, parental relocation or high-conflict custody disputes, and catastrophic personal injuries, including ski accidents.

As the managing partner of Kalamaya | Goscha, I lead an innovative and ambitious law firm that pushes the boundaries to discover new frontiers in family law, personal injuries, and criminal defense in Colorado. I also co-host Divorce at Altitude: A Podcast on Colorado Family Law.

In my free time, I enjoy skiing, fly-fishing, mountain biking, and traveling across the West in my Sprinter van with my wife and two young kids

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P.S. Want more tools and resources to stay positive during a divorce? Download my Free Divorce Survive & Thrive Kit below!

 

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DISCLAIMER: The commentary, advice, and opinions from Gabrielle Hartley are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice or mental health services. You should contact an attorney and/or mental health professional in your state to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. 

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