Editor’s Note: This article was originally posted in 2019 on Karencovey.com, and was written by Karen Covey.
Losing half the time with your kids, as well as half of everything you own, sucks. Losing your home, a lot of your friends, and often a big chunk of your income, sucks.
What sucks the most, though, is losing your very identity.
You used to be a married person. You used to have a partner. Your future was reasonably well-settled and your path seemed clear.
Divorce changed all that.
Now you look in the mirror and you’re not sure you even know the person you see.
Meanwhile a million questions spin in your head. Like a two year old trying to get attention, your brain keeps flooding you with questions you can’t seem to answer well.
“What happened to your marriage? How are you going to survive? What’s going to happen with your kids? Are you going to be alone for the rest of your life? What are you supposed to do now?”
Some of those questions make you think. Others make you cry. Still others do nothing but give you a headache and make you want to throw up.
Yet, as annoying as the incessant questions you ask yourself can be, they have the power to set you free – IF you ask the right questions.
The Power of Questions
Questions are powerful tools. Asking the right questions can help you discover the truth or uncover a lie.
The crime detective asks questions to find the right evidence and solve the crime. Students learn by questioning their teacher. Teachers, in turn, use questions to stimulate students to think differently.
Questions create conversation, focus our perspective, and can inspire us to take action.
There is nothing inherently wrong with asking questions. But asking the WRONG questions can make you crazy! The wrong questions can send you on a wild goose chase for answers that either don’t really matter, or don’t even exist.
Those are the questions that will keep you spinning in your head, or staring at the ceiling at 3:00am every morning.
Asking the wrong questions is one of the big reasons that divorce sucks so badly.
Questions That Will Help
In general, there are two types of divorce questions: questions that empower you, and questions that steal your power.
Empowering questions are those that are designed to get information, education, and expert advice. Some empowering questions you may want to ask yourself when you’re facing divorce are:
“How can I figure out what I need to do in order to get through this divorce without losing my life’s savings?”
“How can I get copies of all of my financial information when I don’t even know where to look?”
“How do I find a divorce attorney who will be knowledgeable and skilled, yet reasonable, too?”
Empowering questions can also be those that take you within yourself to do some soul-searching, or to help you grow.
“When did my marriage start to fall apart? Were there signs that I missed?”
“What did I do that may have contributed to the demise of my marriage?” (NOTE: This is not a BLAMING question! The point is to take an honest look at what you did or didn’t do that, in retrospect, may have strained your marriage in some way. Once you know that, you can avoid making the same mistake again.)
“What can I do moving forward to make sure that I don’t repeat the same mistakes again?”
Asking empowering questions may still make you uncomfortable. They’re still hard questions. But they’re also productive questions. They will lead you to find the answers you need or learn from your experience.
Questions That Won’t Help
While asking yourself empowering questions can help you take positive steps to move through your divorce in a more reasonable and slightly less painful way, asking disempowering questions has the opposite effect.
There are many kinds of disempowering questions. But some of the worst offenders (those that will keep you ranting about how much divorce sucks!) fall into 3 categories:
- Blaming questions.
- “What’s wrong with me?”
- “What kind of a jerk leaves his/her family like this for no reason?”
- “Who does this to their kids?”
- Questions that are impossible to answer.
- “Why is my spouse an alcoholic?”
- “Why won’t s/he work on the marriage?”
- “Why is my spouse treating me like this?”
- Questions that accomplish nothing other than to make you feel bad.
- “Why did my husband/wife fall in love with that @#%$?!”
- “What did I do to deserve this?”
- “Why does everything bad always happen to me?”
Asking yourself disempowering questions is guaranteed to keep you spinning in your head and feeling like yesterday’s rotten garbage. They serve no useful purpose.
How Do You Know What Kind of Questions You’re Asking?
With all the craziness that’s already going on in your head when you’re going through a divorce, taking the time to figure out whether the questions you’re asking are empowering or disempowering is generally not high on your list of priorities.
Yet, because asking the wrong questions can derail you so badly, it’s worth paying attention to the questions you’re asking. Luckily, there are a few easy ways to figure out whether your questions are empowering or not.
- Disempowering questions make you feel lousy.
A simple way to tell if you’re asking the right questions is to also ask yourself, “How do I feel?” after you ask any given question.
(NOTE: I did NOT say to ask yourself how you feel after you get your spouse’s answer!)
If just asking the question makes you feel like dirt, you’re asking the wrong question!
- Disempowering questions often start with “Why?”
“Why?” is a tricky question. Some “why?” questions are helpful. Most are not.
Asking why your marriage fell apart may lead you to examine your relationship, and yourself, in ways you never did before. That, in turn, can lead to growth.
On the other hand, asking, “Why did my husband/wife do X?” is guaranteed to do nothing but aggravate you. It is a question you’ll never answer. (And if you do, the answer is probably going to leave you feeling horrible, which is another sign of a disempowering question.)
The other problem with asking “Why” questions is that, nine times out of ten, even if you knew the answer, it wouldn’t matter.
Knowing why your spouse cheated on you, lied to you, or did any other bad thing to you does not change the fact that your spouse did those things! Torturing yourself trying to figure out why your spouse did something only distracts you from dealing with what your spouse did.
- A question that is any variation of “Why Me?” is disempowering.
The number one divorce question that robs you of your power and confidence is the simple question: “Why me?”
Asking “why me” is a question without an answer. You certainly can’t answer it. Your spouse can’t answer it. No one on this planet can answer it.
Asking an unanswerable question is pointless. It also keeps you feeling sorry for yourself and feeling like a victim.
While those kinds of feelings are natural when you’re going through a divorce, they’re not feelings you want to cultivate or encourage. Asking “why me” keeps you locked in a victim mentality that will not serve you well as you go through your divorce or try to put your life back together again afterward.
- Questions that give you knowledge or information are empowering.
Questions that start with the word “How” are generally information questions. Those kinds of questions empower you because they increase your knowledge about something.
The more you know, the less likely you’ll get taken advantage of in your divorce. Once you have the facts, you will be able to easily see through your spouse’s lies or half-truths. (Not that anyone lies during a divorce, of course!)
For example, if you don’t know the state of your finances, asking questions about that will give you information. That information is critical in making a divorce settlement that is fair and equitable.
- Questions that keep you focused on getting through your divorce, building a new life, or becoming a better person are empowering.
Any question that requires you to DO something is generally an empowering question. Those kinds of questions tend to put you into action and get you moving forward. When you’re doing that instead of wallowing in your sorrows, you’re going to feel better.
Other empowering questions are those that focus on YOU instead of on your spouse. The reason for that is simple: you can control yourself. You can’t control your spouse. Asking any question that requires your spouse to do something will usually be disempowering and frustrating.
For example, asking what you can do to get your divorce done in a reasonable amount of time is an empowering question. Asking what your spouse needs to do in order to get your divorce done, or asking WHY your spouse isn’t doing what s/he should be doing, gets you nowhere.
If You Feel Like Your Divorce Sucks, Ask Better Questions
If you want to stop feeling like your divorce sucks so much, you need to start asking yourself empowering questions. While that may seem like it’s easier said than done, it’s actually not that hard. All you have to do is to pay attention to how you feel.
If you’re feeling good, that’s awesome! Keep doing what you’re doing.
But, if you’re feeling horrible, instead of focusing on how much your divorce sucks, you might want to try asking yourself what you can do to feel better. (Yes, I know. That’s not what you feel like asking at that point! But, try it! What do you have to lose?)
Obviously, asking a few good questions won’t magically turn you into Sally or Sammy Sunshine. But by asking the right questions, you will start to slowly shift your perspective. Little by little, life will start to suck less.
The problem is, we humans have a tendency to want to wallow.
When our hearts have been broken, we stay in bed in our sweatpants and blast sad songs on the radio until we’re balling our eyes out. While there is definitely a time and a place for that, at some point it gets old.
Plus staying too long in that dark place when you’re going through a divorce can cost you.
The Cost of Asking the Wrong Questions
You’re going to have to make more important life-changing decisions when you’re going through a divorce than you will probably make at any other time in your adult life.
Unfortunately, when you’re going through a divorce you’re often down and depressed or you’re an emotional wreck. You’re not thinking as clearly as you need to be. When you’re not thinking clearly, you make bad decisions.
When you make bad decisions in your divorce, you end up paying the price for it after your divorce. Either you don’t get as much property or support as you could have gotten, or you end up paying more than you should. You make decisions about your kids that turn out to be disastrous later. In short, bad divorce decisions lead to bad divorce outcomes.
Asking the right questions may not solve all of your divorce problems. But it’s certainly a good start. Plus, if your divorce sucks, it just might make it suck a little less.