Divorce Recovery “Mindset Choice” No. 3: Would You Rather Be Right Or Would You Rather Be Happy?
By definition, getting divorced means you were hurt. Your initial hopes and dreams for the relationship have been shattered. Much of the pain of divorce seems unfair. You are angry with the person who hurt you. You are mad at yourself for letting it happen to you. It seems only fair that his ex-spouse knows how badly he was treated. It also seems only fair that you let your friends and family know that you are right and your spouse is wrong. Therefore, it is extremely easy to be seduced into obsessing over whether you are right and your spouse is wrong. Even to the point of giving up your own happiness in the process.
This raises the question: “What do you want In fact want in your recovery from divorce?” Or, more specifically, “If you had to choose between being right or being happy, what would you choose?”
Silly sounds! Is this a real choice that people make?
Who wouldn’t choose to be happy? The real life dilemma of having to make the “obvious” choice between being right or being happy was brought to my attention by a change consulting client in the early 1990s. Until this incident, he didn’t even believe there was such a choice, because he believed that anyone would choose to be happy over anything else, even right, regardless of the situation. How naive I was:
Janet’s story. Janet was a manager in a government organization. She was having trouble with her two higher performing subordinate supervisors over a minor office matter. Her supervisors were close friends and were submitting routine reports using a format that had too wide a left margin on the form. Clearly not a big deal in the general scheme of things. Janet told them several times to change the format, but they never did. Clearly, they were doing it to annoy Janet, who was not liked by many.
Janet’s alternative choices were to make a formal issue of her “insubordination” and “write them down”, or simply ignore it in order to maintain a calm working environment for the entire department, knowing that it would go away if she didn’t do anything anymore. such a problem. She was driving her crazy. She spent time trying to find a basis for firing them, knowing that if she used “inadequate reporting margins” as a reason, she would be the one in trouble. Not to mention that she would lose the two best employees of hers.
So, thinking that I might force her to see the ridiculous nature of her upset, I asked, “Janet, would you rather be good and make a big deal out of his minor insubordination? Or would you rather be happy And overlooking what’s in the big scheme of things, isn’t that a big deal?” Without hesitation, he looked me square in the eye and said, “Jerald, I’d rather be right.”
The pros and cons of being right
We’ve been taught from a young age that being “right” is a good thing. What kid doesn’t want to get the “right answer”? However, sometimes what we learn as children is not always as black or white as it seems.
The advantage of being right. When you’re right, you can gloat and tell your ex, “I told you so.” You can humiliate your ex by reminding him over and over again “I was right and you were wrong.” You can enjoy feeling superior and self-righteous. You will feel competent, in control and powerful.
The downside of being right. The rush to be right doesn’t last. So what if you won a game from the past? What about now and the future? People who cornered you for being right are less willing to cooperate with you in the future. They are less likely to be willing to adhere to the rules of the divorce, at least voluntarily. They can follow the letter of the law, but not the spirit, which condemns things like asking your ex to change the kids’ visitation hours to accommodate a last-minute change in her work schedule. Imposing your ex to be right generates resentment. It can make a difficult relationship virtually impossible, especially if you share parenting with your ex.
The pros and cons of being happy
People don’t just “flip a switch” and suddenly they’re happy. After going through a divorce, there are two conditions that are necessary for you to be happy with life after divorce: (1) removal of all attachments, both positive and negative, tangible and emotional, to your ex, and (2) a sense of optimism about the future. You know you’ve erased all attachments to your ex when you can’t evoke any currently existing positive or negative feelings about your ex or the past life you both shared. A sense of optimism comes from realizing that the next chapter in your life will allow you to become the person you “want to be.”
The advantage of being happy. Well, for not working the obvious, being happy feels good. Isn’t happiness and contentment the goal of your life in the next chapter? You feel competent to handle the difficult divorce situation to your satisfaction. You feel powerful knowing that you honored and acted on your inner principles. You are proud to have your head on straight and keep your eyes on the prize without being distracted by ego or peer pressure.
The bad thing about being happy. Happiness has a price. You don’t feel all-powerful, in control, and intimidating. You will probably have to give up some things that are rightfully yours. You fade into the background instead of up front on the throne with the TV lights shining down on you. You have to be okay with the other person thinking they won. It may seem “weak” to family and friends.
So what is the point?
It all comes down to how you handle the internal conflict between your ego and your humility. There is no “dunk winner” in any divorce. We all suffer pain and endure disappointment in a divorce. Being happy often means that you have to swallow your pride to get what you want: a life free of attachments and infused with optimism after divorce. Being happy allows you to see clearly what you need to do to dissolve the sources of resistance to change that prevent you from enjoying your life after divorce.
in his song, The playerKenny Rodgers describes the key to happiness this way: “You have to know when to hold ‘um. Know when to fold ‘they. know when to walk away whatnow when to run”.
It turns out that one of the bravest acts a divorced person can do is choose to “be happy.”
The way I would describe this election is by asking the most important question Any divorced person might be asked, “Are you willing to let being happy be enough?”