A Few of the Financial (and Emotional) Traps of Divorce

My last post was all about the traps that we in the financial system keep falling into. And the ones we keep pushing our clients into.

But divorce can create all sorts of other traps too – emotional and financial.

Here are some notes on some of these traps – and how you could try to avoid them.


As a lifelong cynic, I understand the appeal.

Always ‘knowing what’s going to happen’ (because it’s always going to be the worst) is an intoxicating idea.

That way you’re never going to be surprised (again), never be betrayed (again) and never be humiliated (again).

If you always expect the worst, then you can’t ever be let down.

But a close friend once told me that cynicism is so easy that it’s a cop out.

If you never expect any better, then you won’t ever work to make things better.

It’s also infectious and it’ll taint every relationship you have. It’s a dark rabbit hole and it does not, generally, lead to a better future.

In short – cynicism corrodes your present and stunts your future. Fight it at all costs.

How To Avoid It

As a long-term cynic, it’s hard for me to declare (with a straight face) how to avoid this particular trap.

But some things that I’ve found helpful are:

a) Spend time with positive people (and keep your mind open)

b) Find things to be grateful for every day

c) Give back

d) Practice empathy

One other idea that I’ve played with in the past is keeping a mental log of all your interactions for a period of time.

And start keeping a ‘Net Interaction’ score. A positive interaction adds to the score, a negative one reduces it. A powerful experience either way escalates the result.

I’ve found that the vast majority of interactions are positive. People are, generally, generous, kind, friendly and polite.

It’s helped to broader my perspective and dilute – even a little – my cynicism.

As is often the case, Raylan Givens has some wisdom on this topic. (Fair warning – this clip has swearing, violence and fast food in it…)



When we first start working with clients, I say to them:

“The events that lead up to the divorce are not as important to what we’re going to do as your commitment to the future.”

Because regardless of how you got these cards, it’s our job to make them a winning hand.

I’m not trying to minimise their importance in your life.

Instead, I’m trying to reduce their influence over your future.

Some people aren’t quite up to this when we meet though.

The pain is too powerful, the betrayal too toxic, the feelings too deep. They’re still grieving the loss of their relationship, and of their former life.

For these client’s revenge is common area of discussion.

Disembowelment, arson, castration, and other acts of violence have been mentioned.

A punitive approach to divorce proceedings is another common reaction.

So are hardball negotiations around custody and property settlements.

Which, hey, I can understand.

Not all emotions are positive, and not all negative emotions are bad.

But revenge is one emotion with two powerful – and contradictory sayings:

– “Revenge is a dish best served cold” and;

– “Those who seek revenge should remember to dig two graves”.

How To Avoid It

Because revenge very rarely satisfies the vengeful. Though it can lead to some rather impassioned and occasionally humorous conversations

From what I’ve seen, it tends to be the emotional equal of a chocolate bar:

Obsessively exciting to think about, but indulging in it brings about a sugar hit, followed by regret (and a mess).

(I’m being glib, but this is a powerful emotion. If it’s taking over your life I encourage you to speak with a medical professional right away. Working with somebody to process these feelings can only be a good thing)

From what I’ve seen, a few ways to avoid this particular trap are:

– Wait before you react.

Overnight is a good rule of thumb, but this is a case where the longer you can go without doing anything, the better.

– Walk the high road.

This can be tough when you want to get down in the gutter and start slinging mud. But from what I’ve seen people very rarely regret taking the high road – and often regret getting in the mud.

– Work towards forgiveness.

This is a slow, winding path and I have no tips for accelerating along it. It also doesn’t mean forgetting what’s happened, or the lessons from it.


For some of the people we’ve worked with, the trauma of their divorce – and what it says about their life until now – has obliterated their confidence.

Often they’re blindsided by what’s happened, so a common feeling is ‘if I was so wrong about this, what else could I get wrong?’.

The flow on from this is a powerful hesitation to make any decision. After all, when you’ve lost all faith in your decision making, then any decision is a mistake waiting to happen.

But in finance, as with most things, not doing anything can be just as damaging as doing the wrong thing.

(An idea which further undermines decision making – just making things worse).

This kind of permanent hesitation results in a prolonged paralysis. Where nothing changes and they keep doing loops in their mind, never actually getting anywhere.


How To Avoid It

I really hesitated (accidental cross-reference) writing about this trap.

Because pushing somebody in this state to make decisions can have some powerfully negative results.

So, again, if you feel like you’re in this situation please see a medical professional to work through it.

It’s a much bigger topic than this simple blog can address properly.

In fact, I feel that it’d be irresponsible for me to talk about how to manage indecisiveness.

Given it’s connection to anxiety, depression and many other medical concerns, please speak to your doctor if this sounds like you.

This is much more important than any short-term financial consideration.


These are three huge topics and these three articles have merely scratched the surface of some of the considerations at play here.

I hope it’s clear that the point I’ve been trying to make by writing these articles has been quite simple – that there is nothing wrong with you for having emotions.

And that they shouldn’t be seen as a handicap when it comes to your finances.

Instead, my argument is that by consciously reflecting on your emotions, and considering them within your long-term context, you can really help your future self.

Because we’re humans, and humans have emotions.

And money.

And divorces…

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