An interesting thing happened during one of the divorce recovery workshops I lead. One of the male participants brought up the book His Needs Her Needs by Willard F. Harley, Jr. This participant shared the lists of "his needs" and "her needs" with the others in the class. After the briefest of pauses, the room erupted in both indignation and conversation that evening.
As the leader, it was an ideal opportunity to share some divorce advice that everyone can use. And that's exactly what I'll share with you now.
Although it's obvious, it bears repeating. Men and women are wired differently. We see the world differently. We interact with the world differently. And its these differences that can make for amazing relationships, amazingly disastrous divorces and everything in between.
In the simplest terms, men are driven to do and achieve. They want to be acknowledged for their triumphs and supported in ways that allow them to do and achieve more. This often translates to wanting to share their doing and achieving with their significant other.
In the simplest terms, women are driven to need and create safety. They want safety in all ways – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. This often translates to craving truthful communication and connection with their significant other.
One of the most common reasons I hear from my clients about why they divorced is marital infidelity. When I dig deeper with my clients into what was going on in their marriage before the marital infidelity, I almost always learn that the differences between men and women were being ignored.
For example, one couple faced a huge challenge. Shortly after giving birth to their second child, she had a stroke and required extensive care as she recovered. Rather than comforting her and understanding that she would feel frightened and unsettled, he hired a live in nurse/nanny to help his wife. He was busy doing what was necessary to fix the situation.
Rather than understanding that he still needed the support of his wife in even simple ways, she focused what extra energy she had solely on her children. To resolve his unmet needs, he reached out to another woman for the support he craved. He filed for divorce. She responded by becoming terrified of her and her children's uncertain future.
When they entered the divorce process, they were already polarized. They each blamed the other for not taking care of what they considered to be the basics of marriage. By continuing to ignore that they were wired differently, their divorce was difficult, drawn out and depleted their marital estate.
I met her during her divorce. Our work together focused on helping her to feel safe and develop a plan that would allow her to financially support herself and her children after her divorce. Today she is happily pursuing her new career and enjoying the new life she shares with her children.
So, here's the divorce advice to help you keep your cool — Your soon-to-be ex is wired differently than you are.
For women: Your husband is driven by doing and being. He's out to achieve a goal. His goal might be to achieve a peaceful, harmonious post-divorce relationship with you. His goal might be to "punish" you for the end of the marriage because he is hurt. His goal might be to protect his children. The quicker you can accept that he's out to achieve his goal, the quicker you'll be able to realize his behaviors aren't about you. They're about him.
For men: Your wife is driven by safety and connection. She's going to act in ways that either give her a sense safety or allow her to ask for more safety. She might even demand things that make her feel safer. The quicker you can accept that her ultimate goal is safety for herself AND her children, the quicker you'll be able to realize her behaviors aren't about you. They're about her.
By remembering the differences, you'll be better able to step out of the emotional volatility of divorce.You'll be able to make better decisions and set yourself up for a better life after divorce. Now that's some pretty powerful divorce advice.
Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
Considering what's going on in your divorce, how are you behaving like a typical man or woman? Identifying your natural or habitual behavior can help you learn when you might want to choose to respond differently. Oftentimes responding differently from a habit can make all the difference.
Considering what's going on in your divorce, how is your soon-to-be ex behaving like a typical man or woman? Once you know what's motivating their actions, you can use this information to calm situations. You can even use this information to help steer conversations and negotiations toward more productive outcomes.
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