How to Deal When Life’s Not Fair

When life hits you where it counts, you don’t have to let it take you out. Here’s how to keep your sanity and rise above the mess.

How to Cope When Life is Not Fair

I earned that money. Those are my kids. The truth will come out. Sound familiar? These are just a few of the beliefs you might be holding onto with a death grip as you navigate divorce. In reality, you very well may have to share that money and those kids at least 50/50.

Both myself and several of my single parent friends have navigated some potentially not fair situations involving kids and money. It was humbling to get thrust back into the emotions involved when the reptilian fight or flight section of the brain gets triggered.

What helps me now when I find myself in a not fair situation is to remember one of the hardest not fair situations I had during the divorce process: sending my kids to spend the weekend with my ex and the other woman. So. Not. Fair. I mean, that just shouldn’t be a thing, right?


What allowed me to behave like a sane person through that not fair situation was this lovely little post called Kids and the Affair Partner(s). The Unavoidable Shit Sandwich. I’ll let you peruse that at will, but the big takeaway couched in some therapeutic humor was this:

Introducing the shit sandwich you can’t avoid — What Other People Do.

Your spouse may have been cheating on you with 20 people. They may have drained your bank account and run up your credit cards. Tough luck. The law (which is most definitely not always fair) will determine the division of assets and custody. And then you have to deal with it and move on.

When Life Hits You Where it Counts

It’s especially hard when your not fair situation involves the thing that’s most important to you. I cared about money to the extent of being able to provide for my kids’ and my own basic needs, but what really floored me was the loss of my life partner and the threat of less time with my kids.

Drawing on my past experience, here’s what I try to remember when life’s not fair:

1. Be rational. Don’t get pulled under by your reptilian brain. Ask yourself what is the worst case scenario and what is the likelihood of that happening? Remind yourself that in this moment you are okay. You are safe. Your kids are safe. If money is your not fair situation, chances are you won’t be living on the street next week. You can buy food. You have a place to live.

2. Expect the best; prepare for the worst. Watch your self talk. Are you focusing on all the negative what ifs? Are there positive what ifs you could tell yourself instead? At the same time, prepare for the negative what ifs. Do research. Talk to a lawyer. Consider ways that you could earn extra money. Do what you need to do.

3. Don’t exaggerate. If you’re 40 and you’re telling yourself you might not be able to retire until you’re 80, you should probably be considering the flip side: you might win the lottery or implement a million dollar business deal. Don’t get carried away to either extreme. Stay balanced and be realistic.

4. Indulge in humor. I can’t tell you how much I laughed when I read the Shit Sandwich post and imagined outrageous pranks to pull in preparation for my boys’ weekend away. When reality sucks, fantasy is a great temporary escape.

5. Deal with things as they come. Your worst case scenario hasn’t happened yet. So breathe and take one day at a time. You don’t know what will happen, so don’t live as if disaster has already taken place. Process and deal with it, if and when it comes.

What was your hardest not fair situation during divorce?

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