Avoid Self-Justification For A Smoother Divorce
by Dr. James E. Walton, Ph.D., LMFT
PeacefulDivorceLA.com, North Hollywood, California
The majority of couples who end up getting divorced experience a gradual drift away from each other over the course of their relationship. It usually comes on slowly and gradually through a pattern of blaming the other and self-justification for their actions. Each individual is so focused on what the
other is doing wrong, they are unaware of how they have contributed to the discord that is present in their relationship themselves. They actually blind themselves to their part by justifying their own attitudes and ways of doing things.
In doing so, they become more stubborn and convinced they are right and the other is wrong. As they go down this pathway, each individual is less and less willing to consider the other’s perspective.
As time progresses, the couple becomes so polarized that each feels intensely self-righteous in their perspective of being right that they lose all sense of empathy for the other.
Self-justification is the culprit that blocks us from looking at our part contributing to what is going wrong in the communication. Self-justification keeps us from feeling the uncomfortable feelings that come with owning some of the responsibility for miscommunication. Most people do not like to experience those uncomfortable feelings so they will do whatever they can to avoid them. One way we avoid responsibility for those feelings is by denying that we have them. Another way we avoid responsibility for those feelings is to justify our behavior. Once we justify our behavior, we are able to tell ourselves that we are not responsible; it is the other person who is responsible. In doing so, we actually lose our power over the situation because we shuffle responsibility, and control, off to the other person.
To stop the natural tendency to self-justify, we must be willing to tolerate the uncomfortable feelings that come with recognizing the responsibility for our part of the discord. Sometimes, it means just being willing to sit with those feelings and allow them to process through us.
To challenge self-justification, ask yourself, “Is there a possibility I could be wrong?” or “Is there another way I could look at this?” Then, be willing to tolerate the possible discomfort that comes from entertaining a different perspective. You may come to see that the anger you have been receiving from the other is actually a mask that hides a tremendous amount of suffering he or she has been going through.
Once you have been able to recognize some part of the responsibility in the break down of communication, making an apology for your part can go a long way to improve the communication. In doing so, you open an avenue for better communication with the other person. The discomfort will subside and give way to a more honest relationship.
This is also true in negotiating agreements during the course of a divorce. You may find that the process of owning your part of a disagreement, being willing to tolerate the discomfort that comes with owing it, recognizing the other person’s pain and making an apology for your part in it, will open the doors for a more cooperative agreement.
This is where a licensed, qualified coach can assist you in handling your communications to improve your effectiveness and reduce the tensions during the negotiation process of your divorce. Family Divorce Solutions includes experienced and qualified mental health professionals among its members. Coaches play a valuable role in the Collaborative Divorce process, helping divorcing couples communicate in productive ways and providing guidance and tools to process the difficult emotions arising from divorce.
Dr. James E. Walton, Ph.D., LMFT is a statewide lecturer and a Divorce Coach at Family Divorce Solutions.