By Kelly A. Bennett, Esq.
“I must have the house in this divorce…” she said. As I met with this sad, 40-Something client, discussing what was most important to her in her divorce case, she tearfully kept circling back to the marital home. “I have to have the house. After all, my kids grew up there and I poured my heart and soul into making that house our home!”
Sound familiar? For many people, the thought of selling the house is a huge sticking point in their divorces. The stark reality is, many people cannot afford to either buy the other spouse out of the marital residence, or qualify for a new loan to replace the old mortgage. Often, there is little to no equity in the house.
But the house itself usually isn’t the hurdle – it’s not the actual loss you may be afraid of. The hurdle is usually the way you are thinking about the house, and the significance you are giving to the house.
The good news is, you can choose how you view the house, and reduce the pain by simply making a decision. Choosing to think differently about the house takes practice. The way we think about things is habitual. You’ll likely catch yourself in old patterns, as you implement a new way of viewing the situation.
You can decide to think of the marital home as the key to your future happiness and your kids’ future happiness…
OR…you can recognize that the key to happy memories is “doing life” with the people you love – regardless of location! Ask most kids what their happiest memories are, and 9 times out of 10, they’ll recount interactions with people they love and admire…not a structure or location.
What was the source of your happy memories before you moved into your marital home? I’ll bet it had nothing to do with a house! Your house is not your identity. A house is a foundation, a slab, a series of walls and a roof. A home is, as they say, where your heart is (and your kids seek your heart, more than anything).
My sad client, who indeed could not afford to keep the marital home, came to an important realization over the next few months of her divorce. She realized that neither her identity, nor her children’s happiness was tied to a box with a lid (the house). Instead, she decided to focus on creating a positive, fresh future which included creating a new, loving home for herself and her children. As she reframed her definition of “home”, my client’s spirits began to lift. A mind shift was underway, which allowed her to become excited about the future.
I’ve been divorced over a hundred times (what!?). Yes – I’m a divorce attorney and divorce mediator, remember? I’ve been privileged to walk through divorce with many wonderful people.
And one of the most significant truths I’ve learned over these years of living through hundreds of divorces, is that what you focus on directly affects how you feel. That’s why I love what Dr. Seuss had to say:
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
What if you applied that focus to your marital home? Instead of focusing on future memories you’ll be “missing” in that house, can you smile at all the happy memories you made in that house?
What if you reflect on the fun times you had purchasing the home and making it your own, with a sense of accomplishment, and let yourself smile about it?
And as you reflect on those things, try throwing up a prayer of thanks for those lovely memories, those great accomplishments. While you’re at it, give thanks in advance for all the great memories to come as you create a new home for yourself and your family.
Notice how you feel as you redirect your focus…as you practice the mind shift techniques, you’ll empower yourself to move forward. Here’s to you, my friend…and what lies ahead.
My best for your bright future,