Divorce: Stage 3 – Bargaining
By Robert Rudelic BS, NMT, MES
Are you attempting to alter the past by asking yourself “if only” questions in a bid to try and change the inevitable?
bar·gain·ing – negotiate the terms and conditions of a transaction.
Bargaining is really an attempt to postpone; it has to include a prize offered "for good behavior". It also sets a self-imposed "deadline" and it includes an implicit promise that the person will not ask for more if this one desire is granted. During the bargaining stage of grief, the grieving person starts making bargains – If I do this, will you take away the loss? It is often a need to regain control over the feelings of helplessness and vulnerability. Thoughts like, if only I had paid better attention to what was going on or, if only I had been more sympathetic, etc. It’s a time when deal making is an attempt to push back the unavoidable. This is a weaker line of cover for protection from the painful loss.
It’s easy to become lost in a maze of “If only” or “What if” statements. The bargaining stage of grief starts as a form of a temporary truce. You want your life to go back to what it was and go back in time.
Guilt is often a companion in the bargaining stage of grief. You may tend to beat yourself up and think about what you could have done differently. You may even try to negotiate with the pain. You’ll do anything to not to feel the pain but trying to negotiate your way out of the hurt in the bargaining stage of grief, you’ll remain in the past.
You may think that the bargaining stage may last for weeks or months. But you should remember that these stages of grief are the responses to your feelings and grief. There is no set pattern to slip in or out of any stage. You may feel one, then another and back again to the first one of these different stages of grief.
Bargaining is a last ditch attempt to try to control your life so things will go your way. This phase of grief is often the briefest of all the stages. It is the final effort to hold onto what is important or if it has already been lost, then to find some way to ease the pain.
Bargaining is very human—it may even be a necessary part of the grief process; it is not, however the way one automatically alters events.
Some of the positive effects of bargaining include:
- In the short-term, bargaining is helpful when there is a chance your relationship can be saved
- In the short-term, bargaining can help you see if such hopes are realistic
- In the short-term, if agreements made in the bargaining stage are not viable it will become clear
The damaging effects of staying stuck in bargaining:
Staying stuck in the bargaining stage you may feel yourself slipping further and further into the sadness that accompanies grief. The bargaining stage often includes feelings of guilt and remorse that can quickly lead to depression. There may be attempts to try and continue a marital connection. Desperate promises and unrealistic attempts at reconciliation. Sometimes being stuck in bargaining occurs when former partners behave as if they have a right to be “key players” in each others’ lives.
Keep in mind, when the relationship has ended, neither partner has the right to be a major part in the other’s life, except for shareing the responsibilities of co-parenting their children.
Being stuck in the bargaining phase prevents achieving the emotional clean break necessary to move forward and focus on your future.
This phase is where you can modulate the intensity of your situation by making deals to get your soon to be ex to be more reasonable or cooperative.
The Bargaining Stage is where you can find a middle ground and test how flexible your ex will be.
The Bargaining Stage is where you can test how much you can trust your ex as you move into negotiations about the hard stuff.
The Bargaining Stage is a chance to keep the break up process moving forward and to minimize hurting each other further.
Warning: Bargaining for the sake of tranquility alone will only lead to more bargaining and an undermining of your confidence and self-esteem. Bargains must have a purpose and be win-win to succeed.
The Bargaining Stage is best done after a lot of thought has gone into what exactly you want in the end. When you hit a snag, keep those things in focus and only make bargains that help you achieve what you want to get in the end and keep the intensity of the situation civil. Remember strength with kindness leads to win-win outcomes.
There is no one-way to make bargains, every person and every situation is different. This is how I help ensure any bargains that are made are successful.
1 – Prioritize what’s important to you in the end and think through what you think he wants in the end. Bargains are a softer way to negotiate; you want to know what your bargaining chips are and what his might be.
2 – You must have an overall plan and focus all of your bargains and decisions towards making your plan work out.
3 – Don’t commit right away unless you are getting what you want. Take your time, be kind and let him know you appreciate his willingness to bargain and that you might need to think about it overnight. Make sure you give him a time (within 24 hours or less if possible) you’ll decide by and stick to it!
It will build trust and give you time to think it through and amend the bargain if needed, remember it’s a mini negotiation.
A lot of bargains are quick and easy, just make sure they work for you.
The issue I come across the most in helping women through this phase is fear of confrontation. In my course I have some great tools to eliminate this as a consideration forever. This process above is a key work-though and it can be effective in many areas of your life … so use it!
Reject the feelings of helplessness –
TAKE BACK YOUR POWER
Next, go to the fourth blog post in the series – Divorce: Stage 4 – Depression
If You Want to Learn How to –
- Own emotional composure
- Eliminate self-sabotaging beliefs
- Have an unshakable “Yes I Can Attitude”
- Bravely stand up for yourself, think ahead, and make decisions with clarity and confidence
My Program is an experiential training that pays off immediately by teaching you how to quickly change your mindset putting you in full control. You’ll learn how to replace the old beliefs with new beliefs and lock them in permanently, be inspired, and own emotional composure. The results are life-changing!
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