The Gray Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce

...and Life Thereafter

Navigating Life: Emotions Can Trip Us Up

Navigating Life
by Amy Lawson, MBA, CDFA®, RTT Practitioner®, C.Hyp

Whether you’re navigating the divorce process, or navigating life, making good decisions is crucial. By the way, deciding to not make a decision is still a decision, but that’s another blog post for another day.

When it comes to decision-making, relying solely on emotions is not the best of game plans. As a matter of fact, it’s among the worst, and here’s why…

First . . .

Emotions are like fingerprints – they are totally unique to each person.

What tugs at your heartstrings might not even register on someone else’s emotional radar. Because emotions are subjective, they can lead us down a path where our decisions are biased, impulsive, and not really thought through. And, as often happens, decisions that are not thought through lead to unintended consequences.

Below are a few unintended consequences of making emotional decisions in the divorce process:

The Emotional Decision: Choosing to cohabitate before your divorce is final.
The Unintended Consequence: (Depending on the state in which you live) You give up what would have been a considerable claim to alimony.

The Emotional Decision: Insisting on keeping the marital home without considering that maintaining that home will be unsustainable in the long term.
The Unintended Consequence: The increased likelihood of losing the home in the long run.

The Emotional Decision: Your EX trying to punish YOU by not paying child support.
The Unintended Consequence: The children ultimately suffer; they may not only suffer from their physical needs not being met but from believing the non-custodial parent doesn’t love them enough to provide for them, thus ultimately instilling the belief that they aren’t good enough, or lovable enough to being cared for.   

The Emotional Decision: Agreeing to give up the marital home in exchange for half of the considerable equity in it but now refusing to have your name removed from the mortgage in an attempt to manipulate your EX into allowing you a second walkthrough of the home – a walkthrough you’re NOT legally entitled to have.
The Unintended Consequence: You are responsible for the mortgage until your name is removed from it.  Should your EX die before your name is removed from the mortgage, you’ll have a big (i.e., expensive) mess to sort out.  

Second. . .

Emotions are like rollercoasters – they can be up one minute and down the next. 

Decisions made in an emotional moment might not sync up with our values or long-term goals when the emotional dust settles. It’s like choosing the rollercoaster ride without considering the length of the queue. 

Below is a great example of the short-sightedness of making emotional decisions:

Your long-term goal is to maximize your settlement, but you choose to go to court to fight over the silver tea service you bought in that cute little antique shop in London on your honeymoon, despite the court battle most likely costing more than flying first class to London, spending a week in a grand hotel, and buying another silver tea service.

Third. . .

Emotions can distort our reality when we view the world through them – like emotional goggles – making everything seem larger than life. Viewing the world through emotional goggles creates what is known as cognitive distortions.  Examples include catastrophizing, black-and-white thinking, and emotional reasoning, with each warping how we see reality and leading us into some questionable decision territory. 

Below are some specific examples of each “goggle:”

  • Ever known someone who frequently claims to be in a “dilemma” (her favorite word) only to hear the details and think, “THAT’S not a dilemma, that’s a mere inconvenience.”  You may be struggling to get back on your feet post-divorce, and your colleague’s “dilemma” is not having a belt that matches her new Jimmy Choo’s.  Or, maybe someone you know believes that because her marriage failed she’ll NEVER BE HAPPY AGAIN.  That person is catastrophizing – everything is a catastrophe, even when it isn’t.  

  • How about the person who sees everything and everyone as good or bad, right or wrong?  NEVER any shades of gray… NONE… ZIP… NADA. That person is engaging in black-and-white thinking.   

  • Even still, how about that exasperating individual who frequently asks for advice, refuses to take it, and when challenged sanctimoniously claims, “Well, I think with my heart,” and immediately bemoans (once again) that her life is a mess. That exasperating human is employing emotional reasoning.

Here’s The Kicker About Emotional Decisions

They can sometimes make us forget the importance of looking at the big picture. They often skip the part where we weigh pros and cons, consider risks, and explore alternatives. As with most things in life, finding a balance between your head and your heart is essential. The goal is to make decisions that are not only emotionally satisfying but also well thought out.

When it comes to relationships – any relationship, be it romantic, platonic, familial, friendly, colleagued, or situational – decisions based solely on emotions can be like navigating a minefield. Misreading emotional cues, jumping to conclusions based on feelings, and going with your gut without thinking it through, not only stir up misunderstandings and put strain on connections but can destroy connections altogether. 

If we rely solely on emotions to make decisions, then anyone who makes us FEEL angry, or sad, or uncomfortable (or anything else we don’t want to feel) is quickly and easily deemed “bad” and we quickly and easily deem ourselves to be the Arbiter of Good. The “bad” person’s intentions or their right to have a differing opinion is irrelevant and therefore plays no part in their being labeled as “bad.”

The Criterium Is Very Simple

It’s all cut and dry in the mind of the labeler: If you make me FEEL anything other than good, then you must be bad. And, if you are bad, then you don’t matter and if you don’t matter, I, the Arbiter of Good, can do whatever I want to you and feel morally superior in doing so.

Is the donning of “emotional goggles” alive and (un-) well outside of the divorce arena?  You betcha. I’m going to use the following extreme example to make my point: Over the past few years, both in the United States and around the world, we’ve seen countless cases of property destroyed by vandalism, including theft and fire.  We’ve also seen innocent people kicked and beaten unmercifully as their attackers screamed “NO HATE!” Ironically (and hypocritically) this destruction and harm was perpetrated by those who claim to be protesting the mistreatment of innocent people. Black-and-white thinking? Absolutely. Emotional reasoning? Absolutely. 

Hopefully, there has been/will be no property destroyed or any type of abuse inflicted upon you as you navigate life, especially if your journey includes the soul-sucking process of divorce.  Also, hopefully, being mindful of the impact of your emotions on life’s myriad of decisions will help you make better ones.

Wishing you peace & plenty of balance between your head & your heart!

Your gray girlfriend,


About the Author

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Amy Lawson, MBA, CDFA®, RTT Practitioner®, C.Hyp

As a divorced baby boomer, Amy, an independent investment advisor since 2001, formally expanded her services in 2016 to help older women navigate the daunting financial minefield of divorce after meeting numerous smart, well-educated, divorced women who lacked the funds to secure their financial futures.  She understands that for older women facing divorce, achieving an equitable divorce settlement is the first step.

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