Your Brain During Divorce: How Timing & Goals Can Help Avoid Emotional Reactions

Dr. David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work, has examined the relationship between emotion and your ability to think logically and rationally. While the prefrontal cortex of the brain is associated with logic, reasoning, and decision-making, this is affected by emotion as well. When your body faces a stressful or emotionally taxing situation, the brain sees this as a threat and reallocates resources to deal with it. The limbic system will actually pull glucose and oxygen away from the prefrontal cortex of the brain, physically impairing your ability to make logical decisions or even process simple information. Strong emotions can prevent you from thinking rationally.

Timing is Everything

Dr. Rock shared that planning ahead can be important to having a successful discussion around an emotionally laden topic. If you’re planning to meet with your ex-partner to negotiate a settlement, for example, make sure you are well rested and have eaten. Choose a time when you feel focused, most like yourself, and are “well resourced.” You may be more successful at the beginning of the week and earlier in the day. Don’t leave an already difficult conversation for the end of an exhausting week of work. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Set Goals Together

You should also set at least one positive goal for yourself heading in to any stressful conversation, particularly during a divorce. This is another way of reframing the conversation by deciding that you want to make progress on one thing or build a solid relationship to move forward.

You can also sit down with your former partner and discuss what your goals are for the relationship going forward. What are the rules of the road? Do you want to have a civil or friendly relationship? Do you want to set an example for your kids? Dr. Rock explained that research shows that setting common goals makes it easier to keep a relationship positive. It’s also important to actually articulate these goals rather than leave them as implicit or implied goals. According to Dr. Rock, the goals can be as simple as, “We want to get the legal bills under X amount, we want to do it in six months, and we want the kids to be proud of us.”

Dr. Rock also suggests that your state your shared goals early and often. This can make the two of you a team, allow you to consistently come back to a framework for discussions, and keep your divorce more positive and less stressful.

If you’re contemplating divorce but would like to try a different approach, one that might have a brighter future, call us for a confidential consultation.