The Divorce Brain: Fight or Flight

Beware of going to a divorce lawyer when you are in fight or flight mode. Opt to see a mediator first.

Divorce is the second highest personal stressor after death of a loved one. So when one spouse says he or she wants a divorce, it nearly always triggers a fight or flight response in other. The primitive part of the human brain still reacts the same way as it has for millions of years to fear, anger, strong emotion, and to perceptions of danger or threatening circumstances.

For self-preservation, the thinking part of the brain takes a back seat, and the primitive part of the brain shifts into high gear. Automatically, immediately, and involuntarily the primitive brain says to put up fists or run away. It's a bad time to make important decisions because there is no clear thinking going on.

Therapists and scientists recommend the spouse wait until the adrenalin and endorphins calm down and the brain returns to logic and reasoning before deciding what to do next. Unfortunately, that’s not usually what happens.

Divorce fight or flight frequently results in a call to an attorney as the first act of self-defense. Many times the divorce attorney just creates more antagonism, which perpetuates fight or flight and makes it impossible for either spouse to think clearly and to negotiate settlement.

A mediator, on the other hand, is skilled in helping couples move quickly through and past fight or flight to rational thinking. With a mediator's help, spouse can calmly and logically discuss the important decisions they need to make for themselves and their family.

If you have just learned your spouse wants a divorce and you are so mad and hurt you can’t see straight, then slow down, take a breath, and consult a mediator first!