Anyone remember this line?  It’s from “Risky Business”, spoken by Joel (played by Tom Cruise, when he looks like he was all of nine years old), right after Joel gets a five-day suspension from school for taking uber-matronly Nurse Bolik by the collar and asking for just a little compassion after being late for midterms and getting an “unexcused” tardy from Nurse Bolik – which means he’ll fail two midterms, leading to disastrous academic consequences.  Mind you, Joel’s unexcused tardy is because after shenanigans the night before with a call girl (played by Rebecca DeMornay), he managed to put his father’s car in Lake Michigan and had to get the car fixed before Dad came home.  What a complete and utter cluster of a mess, right?

The series of unfortunate events which led to Joel needing a bike aren’t the point at the moment.  The point is, when everything came to a head and Joel’s world was at its darkest, he doesn’t implode.  What he does is, he reaches out for his personal destress tool – the bike – which he rides full tilt all over the streets of Michigan until he eventually comes up with a plan to get himself out of his complete and utter cluster of a mess.  Okay, so, back to the bike.

Everyone needs “a bike”.  Everyone needs something they do or a place they go which leads to a total reset from what can feel like insurmountable pressures.  For me, my “bike” is horses.  Being with my horses and training for competitive dressage requires me to be completely present in the moment.  There is no mental space available for anything but what I’m doing right then, right there.  And though I may have come to the barn with loads of worry and stress, by the time I’m done riding my horse and he’s been groomed and put away, I find my keel has been rebalanced and my blood pressure is normal, my breathing rhythmic, and my outlook refreshed.  

Divorce is by definition one of the most difficult things a person can experience.  Sure, it’s a legal argument; but unlike a business contract gone awry, divorce is personal.  Extremely personal.  Patience runs thin, emotions run high, and the people involved find themselves in a complete and utter cluster of a mess.  One of the first things I tell a divorce client is, “I’m not going to sugar coat it – a divorce is one of the most difficult things you will ever go through in your life.  The good news is, you don’t have to go through it on your own.  I’m here to get you through to the other side in the best condition possible.  I’ve been through a lot of divorces, even more than Liz Taylor and Zsa Zsa Gabor combined.”  

And then I talk about getting “a bike”.  Part of surviving divorce is getting through it with as much sanity and dignity as you can – and part of that comes from whatever your bike may be.  For some, their bike is taking a weekend to go hike ten miles, pitch a tent, and hang out by a river to gather thoughts.  For others, their bike is getting into their sport, whether it’s golf or basketball or tennis.  Sometimes the bike amounts to spending time on devotions and studying scripture, and attending services.  Your place of spirituality might not be a building per se, but the local park or open space preserve, walking with your dog if you have one, listening to the way your own footsteps sound on the path beneath you, taking in the wonderful fresh smells of seasonal foliage.  I know a woman who escapes the topside world by donning scuba gear and getting literally submerged in a completely foreign world, where sights, sounds, and even orientation (divers are horizontally buoyant in the water) are totally different than typical every- day counterparts.  The number of “bikes” out there is limited only by imagination.

It doesn’t really matter what your “bike” is.  What matters is that you have one and you ride it in order to find a way to shed mantles of stress and pressure.  The intense emotions that come out in a divorce can be extremely overwhelming, often toxic, and letting them run amok without offset can be debilitating and devastating.  The strength of your mental health is just as important as the strength of your legal position, and you will fare the divorce process much better if you have a “bike”.

Bottom line: there is more to a divorce than just legal wrangling.  Getting yourself through the process with a competent, capable, and trusted attorney is certainly one aspect, but not the only thing to consider.  You also need to be able to off load the stresses which come from the end of your marriage and the emotional overload divorce can trigger.  Find your “bike” and use it as often as you can.  

This publication is not intended to provide legal advice.