COULD DIVORCE COUNSELING BE RIGHT FOR YOU?

“How will our divorce affect the children?  Will they be emotionally scarred forever?”
When and what do we tell them?” 
“I feel like such a failure for not being able to save our marriage!”
“What will our families and friends think?  It’s so embarrassing and humiliating?”
“How will we ever be able to support two households?” 
“We can’t even be in the same room with each other.  How will we ever be able to negotiate a fair settlement?” 
“Will the emotional roller-coaster ever stop?”
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Crazy Time” is the title Abigail Trafford gave her book about navigating the treacherous ground of separation and divorce.  If you’re anywhere in the process, you can attest to its accuracy.   You feel like a failure.  You worry about how it will affect your children.  You feel confused and frightened and don’t know where to start.  It breaks your heart to see your family being torn apart.  The future you envisioned is in ruins.  You now carry the social stigma of divorce.  All your routines and rituals have to change.  The heartache and pain seem never-ending.  You want more than anything to just go back and magically make everything the way it used to be.  But you know you can’t put the puzzle pieces back together.  At the same time, you can’t imagine rebuilding a new life after divorce. 

Separation and divorce are traumatic and heart-wrenching.  On the scale of stressful events in a person’s life, divorce is second only to the death of a loved one.  I have heard people going through divorce say they believe that coping with death would be easier.  Death is final; one can grieve and hopefully move on.  If you are divorced and have children, depending on their ages, you will have to endure frequent encounters with the person you once loved. 

You may feel alone in this new and strange territory, but you’re not.  Keep reading.

DIVORCE IS NEITHER ABNORMAL NOR DEVIANT

Statistics indicate that the divorce rate has stabilized over the past few decades.  Approximately half of all first marriages end in divorce.  The rates are even higher for second (60%) and third (70%) marriages.  While these are sobering statistics, they are also an indication that the dissolution of a marriage is not an abnormal event. 

The good news is that the landscape of divorce is changing.  One reason for this is that fathers are choosing to remain an active part of their children’s lives.  And, most importantly, parents are doing a better job of keeping the well-being and best interests of their children in the forefront when they negotiate their new living arrangements.  The social stigma once associated with divorce is waning.  Terminology is changing.  What used to be called a “broken home” is now re-conceptualized as the formation of a “binuclear family,” one is which a family remains intact with two heads of separate households.  Cooperation and good-will are emphasized over animosity and malice between the divorcing couple.   

WE TRIED MARRIAGE COUNSELING AND IT DIDN’T WORK.

HOW CAN DIVORCE COUNSELING HELP?

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Divorce counseling is relatively new in the field of mental health, but more and more couples are seeking help though this difficult transition.  Its purpose is not to make another attempt to save the marriage; rather, its focus is on the healthy dissolution of a marriage.  Family court lawyers and judges are starting to recommend it to divorcing couples, especially those who have children.   Current research clearly indicates that children experience a divorce as much less damaging when their parents are able to put aside their adversarial positions as ex-spouses and work toward becoming partners in parenting. 

A few of the ways you can benefit from divorce counseling with an experienced professional:

  • Work through your feelings about dissolving the marriage without blaming and shaming each other. 
  • Learn that there are predictable stages of the divorce process from both the emotional and legal standpoints.  Understanding when crises are most likely to occur allows you to maneuver through them with less danger of damage.
  • Understand the myths about divorce that can distort your thinking.
  • Strengthen your communication and coping skills.
  • Learn how to establish rules and healthy boundaries to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings.
  • Accept the end of your marriage and turn what you think is a failure into an opportunity for personal growth. 

Constance Ahrons, author of The Good Divorce, summarizes three major goals for achieving an amicable and healthy divorce:

1.     Keeping your family a family by accepting that compromise is absolutely necessary as you establish new households and make rules for how they will be linked.
2.     Minimizing the negative effects on your children by accepting that they need and have a right to a nurturing relationship with both their parents. 
3.     Integrating your divorce into your life in a way that promotes personal growth rather than staying mired in the pain of loss and disappointment. 

There is no right or wrong time to seek divorce counseling.  You may be in the initial stages of deciding to divorce or you may already be legally divorced, but still struggling with anger and bitterness, or anywhere in between.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Do we have to be friends to have a healthy divorce?

No, you don’t have to be friends.  It helps if you have an amicable relationship, but it isn’t necessary, especially in the early stages of separation when emotions are raw and painful.  You can still develop a family blueprint that allows you to co-parent your children in a way that minimizes any distress they experience.

We have been divorced for some time and continue to bicker and fight.  We know it hurts our children, but we’re stuck in this pattern?  Is there any hope for us?

Yes, there is.  Divorce counseling can help you explore the issues that continue to cause anguish between you.  Letting go of the struggle for power and control can bring emotional freedom to move on with your life and enable your ex-spouse to do the same. 

When is the optimal time to start divorce counseling?

Ideally, as soon as you start contemplating the thought of divorce.  Frequently, couples enter marriage counseling as a last resort and discover that they just cannot find their way to reconciliation.  The decision to separate is less catastrophic when they have the support they need to manage the difficulties that lie ahead.

Won’t counseling just add to an already expensive process?

Professional counseling fees are much lower than the fees of a divorce attorney.  Counseling does not eliminate or replace the need for legal assistance, but working together to reach decisions that are best for your family can eliminate much of the time spent by attorneys negotiating the terms of your agreement, thereby reducing legal costs.

CHOOSE TO MAKE YOUR DIVORCE A SUCCESSFUL ONE

I can offer you a safe, non-judgmental space to explore the multiple aspects of your divorce with professional guidance.  If you would like to schedule an appointment, visit my contact page here.  If you still have questions or reservations, I am happy to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation or, if you prefer, you may send your questions to me via e-mail.