Be Smart, Not Sorry: Are You Lost In Your Story?

JoAnne Donner, MS, CDFA, CDC, CDPC
Mediator, Mediation Coach, Divorce Coach
Donner Mediation and Coaching, LLC

Divorce is about the business of making financial and family decisions. It is also about emotions: stabbing insecurities that sneak up in the middle of the night, recurring regrets that haunt you during the day and, for many, crushing anguish and anger that deflate your spirit.

Many people relieve this emotional onslaught by repeatedly telling the story of their troubled marriage to whoever will listen.   Let’s face it: fifty percent of us have been through the turmoil of divorce and know firsthand that talking to someone can be comforting. The red flags, however, are not being selective in who you talk to and how often you repeat the same marital details. It is also a point of concern if, rather than making a decision about your future, you, instead, tell the same tired story year in and year out to friends, family, neighbors, and divorce professionals. As a divorce coach, I have met with clients who tell me they have been sharing the story of their deep unhappiness and resentment for years and, sometimes, decades.

But what is so bad about “just talking?” How is it self-defeating? If you are in the midst of divorce proceedings, getting lost in endless conversation about the dramatic details of your marital discord robs you of the energy and focus you need to make wise decisions – decisions that can create security for yourself and your children.   If you are weighing the pros and cons of seeking divorce, it emphasizes the nagging frustrations and disappointments rather than the practical information you need to make an informed decision about your future.

There are also other landmines in “getting lost in your story.” Randomly revealing pertinent details about your troubled marriage, such as sexual or financial infidelity or issues with addiction and/or abuse, may unexpectedly backfire, shifting you from a position of strength to one of weakness. This includes conversations with people who are not highly-trusted confidantes as well as to careless posts on social media.

Getting lost in your story is also counterproductive when dealing with divorce professionals.   Visions Anew Institute, an Atlanta-based non-profit that supports individuals going through divorce, stresses the team approach to dealing with divorce, pointing to the importance of legal and financial experts, as well as the contributions of therapists and coaches. Telling your story to a therapist and/or a divorce coach makes sense; sharing the drama of your situation repeatedly with a lawyer or a CPA is expensive and unproductive. It drains your coffers and cuts into valuable time that could and should be spent on legal and financial details and a strategy for creating a successful outcome and secure future.

If you are going through a divorce or contemplating one, choose your listeners wisely and self-monitor the content and repetitive nature of your conversation. Your goal should be to bolster, not drain, your ability to focus on the pragmatic, business decisions that can determine your future. Getting lost in your story is easy to do; the smart thing, however, is to step back and determine if you are stuck on that dead-end path. If so, reach out and create a team that supports you – the professionals you need to understand the legal and financial aspects of your situation and therapeutic and coaching assistance to help you shift from emotional overwhelm to emotional balance. It’s in your power to stop the chatter and begin building a satisfying and fulfilling future.

This article is the first in the Be Smart, Not Sorry series about successfully dealing with divorce. Be Smart, Not Sorry articles are available at Please feel free to direct comments and/or questions to JoAnne Donner at 770-842-9400 or at

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