If you’re getting divorced, why should you worry about what your spouse (or soon to be ex-spouse) needs? Because it’s going to help you. That’s the self-centered answer. The more you can focus on meeting your spouse’s needs, the more smoothly and humanely your divorce will proceed. That means less stress for you, less teeth-gnashing and emotional turmoil and another benefit that most people like – less financial cost! This does not mean you forget about your own needs and think only about your spouse’s needs. It means that you consider your spouse’s needs to be just as legitimate and important as your own needs.

Assuming you want the process of your divorce to be as amicable as possible and you would like to have a decent relationship with your spouse afterwards, you should avoid the “slash and burn” approach to divorce resolution. That means you and your spouse will be talking directly, through a mediator or through your attorneys to reach a mutually agreeable resolution. The only way you’re going to reach that resolution is if both you and your spouse see the end result as meeting the needs that are most important to you. You can facilitate this process and get to that end result more quickly and less expensively by paying attention to your spouse’s needs and doing your best to acknowledge those needs, even if they can’t be completely met.

The less self-centered and more philosophical answer to this question is that you are a human being and as a human being it feels better to act altruistically and be aware of another person’s needs than it does to act selfishly and disregard the needs of others. At the end of the divorce process you and your spouse will both need to look at yourselves in the mirror each day. The way you go through this process will have a direct impact on how you see yourself afterwards when you look in the mirror. Hopefully you will like the person you see in the mirror and I believe that is more likely to happen if you can honestly acknowledge that you treated your ex-spouse with respect and dignity.

One additional reason to worry about what your spouse needs in the process of a divorce concerns your children. If you have children, even if they are not children of your marriage, you and your spouse are the most important role models in their lives. They will observe how you handle the process of your divorce and how you and your spouse treat each other. Being aware of what your spouse needs will be evident in your actions and reactions and will most likely in some way be communicated to your children. Children are incredibly perceptive, especially concerning their parents. They can understand the dynamics of their parents’ relationship without that information ever being communicated to them directly. I believe that children learn more from watching their parents’ actions than they do from any words their parents speak to them.

The bottom line is that if you are going to reach an agreement in your divorce and avoid having the court make decisions about your life, you need to be aware of your spouse’s needs. If you’re not acknowledging his or her needs and making some effort to meet them, what incentive does he or she have to help you meet your needs? If you choose to disregard your spouse’s needs and focus solely on the outcome you would like, expect a long, expensive litigated divorce with the decisions ultimately out of your control.