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Hey, Divorcing Dads: Say Less, Say it Slower

As a divorcing dad, you’re tempted to keep up your instant responses (10 minutes or less) to anything from your soon-to-be-ex. If it’s not a time-sensitive kid emergency, stop that now.

In today’s obsessively always-on culture, we often try to instantly answer text messages, Snapchats, emails, Slack messages, and social media direct messages. We’re especially responsive to our loved ones.

If you’re a divorcing dad, you’ve gotten accustomed to instantaneous responses to and from your spouse. If you didn't answer a text in 10 minutes or less, she’d be calling to find out why (a meeting goes long, a car accident sends you to the hospital with whiplash, it’s the end of the world).

When you’re going through a divorce, you may default to keeping this up. You may have years, or decades, of time perfecting your super-fast response. You feel a habitual, deep-down need to quickly answer.

Now, though, during divorce proceedings? You gotta cut that out. It’s time to be smarter and more thoughtful with what you say and when you say it. You may still care about your soon-to-be-divorced spouse, but they’re no longer your trusted companion.

You need to say less and say it slower. This advice goes for divorcing moms, dads, husbands and wives. Don’t be excited into firing back a rash text to a question you shouldn’t answer with information that will hurt your negotiating position. (The big exception are time-sensitive kid issues.)

Write something in the heat of the moment, but don’t send it. Let it sit. Breathe. Take a walk. Sleep on it. Show it to a friend or attorney. Let your cooler head prevail.

Ten minutes should turn into 24 to 48 hours. That's the sort of time you’d expect in a business-to-business relationship, and that’s what you’re aiming for. This goes for negotiation questions or things about kids that aren’t time-sensitive. Your new mantra? “I’ll get back to you in 1 to 2 business days.”

Let’s say your soon-to-be-ex is pitching a new deal or needs information about a future storage building furniture will sit in. When a judge sits down to look at communication (if necessary), a Thursday question answered on a Friday afternoon isn’t dragging your feet.

This is a strategic choice you’re making during divorce proceedings. Every word you say is going to affect negotiation. Every message you send could be dollars floating out of your mouth (or your furiously typing fingers). Everything you say can (and likely will) be used against you by the other party.

Don’t tell your soon-to-be-ex exactly what you want in negotiations, what you desperately need. The sad truth is, the more someone knows you want something, the less likely they are to give it you.

Trust me on this. Set a new boundary. Tell your attorney the thing you need to say, and give both of you time to think about how to share it. You’ll gain strength for your bargaining position and freedom from the tyranny of a bickering back-and-forth with your “ex” factor every hour of the day. Remember: Not every question, statement or allegation deserves a response. And it certainly doesn’t need to be instant.

This is not a punishment for you. It’s a reward: Removing yourself from the drama is literally one of the silver linings of getting divorced. Embrace it.

If your divorce isn’t contentious and everyone concerned is a reasonable adult, this change in communication may not be necessary. But if you and your future ex have wound up in divorce and people are not being their best selves, cooling off communication speed is necessary.

About Hannah Hembree Bell

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