Are You Suffering from Paralysis by Analysis?

The idea behind paralysis by analysis is when a decision needs to be made, all the options are over-analyzed, and not one “works.” Everything that could happen, should have happened, or did happen is considered and weighed. Then, the paralysis sets in, and no action is taken.

Sometimes this concept can lead to marriages lasting beyond their healthy breakpoint; people are afraid to leave because what awaits on the other side is (understandably) unknown. But, this concept can also carry into the divorce process. For example, let’s say a decision to divorce has been made. When it’s time to analyze the options, the paralysis may begin:

  • “Should I try mediation?”
  • “Should we do the collaborative process?”
  • “Should I just find an attorney who will be my mouthpiece and negotiate on my behalf, and I will never have to see my husband again?”

Another area that may cause paralysis is deciding on a lawyer. Perhaps one decides to interview four or five different lawyers in order to find the perfect fit. Once the lawyer is selected and the time comes to negotiate an agreement, more decisions need to be made — all with very important future outcomes:

  • “Which way should we divide the assets?”
  • “Should one of us continue living in the family home or should we sell?”
  • “Do I want to rent or own once I move?”

Team Approach Solution

If too many options tend to overwhelm and cause stress, I highly recommend a team approach to divorce. Working closely with a divorce coach is a good idea; they will work with you one-on-one to address concerns and help examine your situation from an emotional perspective. This is very different than surveying all of your friends (aka “the Greek Chorus) and asking them what they would do.

Another option is to have a financial professional as a team member, either in a neutral way (working with both spouses) or perhaps individually (only advising one spouse). Neutrals help view options from a neutral, non-emotional perspective. Gaining this clarity can help break the paralysis cycle simply because making a decision is empowering.

“The opportunity cost of decision analysis exceeds the benefits that could be gained by enacting [a] decision.”[1]

This quote describes what can happen when a spouse waits too long to make a decision; they may lose goodwill from the spouse awaiting the decision. The waiting spouse may feel their partner is drawing the decision out or being passive-aggressive.

Similarly, negative feelings can arise when a spouse makes a decision that he/she was not confident in, and later changes his/her mind. A change like this can be viewed as adversarial by the other spouse, and is detrimental to negotiating an agreement in a non-adversarial way.

If paralysis by analysis sounds relatable, below are a few examples or signs of how it can be alleviated:

When it comes to interviewing attorneys, my recommendation is to interview two or three. If someone decides to interview five or six, this could indicate that paralysis by analysis may become an issue. If this is the case, working with a coach to refine the decision-making process works well; the coach will also help steer the divorce process forward.

Generally speaking, those who feel paralysis by analysis tend to be analytical in nature and concerned with making the right decisions; they may also be perfectionists and may believe the perfect answer, or the perfect person, or the perfect option exists. But remember… nothing is going to be perfect.

Setting limits for one’s self can help break the paralysis by analysis cycle: “I will make a decision by X date” or “I will only interview X amount of people.” Divorce coaches can help set limits that feel comfortable for each spouse.

From the onset of the divorce process, it’s best for spouses to outline their overall objectives, and be clear about what feeds their decision making. When goals and desired outcomes are clearly defined, spouses will not feel as paralyzed by the options and the answers will reveal themselves.

Contact us if you’d like to discuss the decisions you need to make around your divorce.

[1] “Analysis Paralysis.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 18 Apr. 2018. Web. (

Vacca Family Law Group

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New York, NY 10165