I’ve worked with many couples who have decided to divorce and a question I am constantly asked is, “What do we do now?” When couples realize that they have reached the point of divorce, they often feel paralyzed, uncertain about how to take the first step, let alone what to expect on the long journey ahead.
Couples often jump to the logistics of divorce: when to make it public, how to tell the kids, how to divide assets.
It’s easy to skip over the often confused, chaotic, traumatic emotions that accompany this decision.
Don’t Deny Your Feelings
The truth is that not taking the time to process the profound feelings that accompany divorce can create major problems for you long after the divorce has been finalized.
It can make it difficult to move on with your life, and even more difficult to co-parent.
So in this blog, I am going to share with you the emotional journey that you can expect as you move through divorce, as well as how divorce therapy can help you move through these stages in the best way possible.
The Emotional Stages of Divorce
1. Dissatisfaction of One Spouse. One partner comes to acknowledge that they have been unhappy in the relationship. This partner begins to seriously consider divorce which can bring up a wide variety of feelings including grief, anxiety and anger. Considering divorce can also bring up feelings of love for their partner as they reflect on the positive aspects of the relationship.
2. Verbalizing Discontent. The disillusioned spouse expresses their feelings about the relationship and divorce to their partner. At this point, the couple may seek marriage counseling. Couples can feel a sense of relief that they are now openly talking about their problems, but this can also trigger an emotional roller coaster for both partners.
Pre-divorce counseling can help a couple decide if they want to try to save the marriage. If so, therapy can help them explore new tools and behaviors to redefine their relationship.
3. Making the Decision to Divorce. When one partner finally decides to go through with divorce, both partners can begin to create emotional distance. They may find themselves thinking or saying things about the other person that portray them in a negative light, in an attempt to make it easier to leave the relationship. Besides the obvious feelings of anger and resentment, they may also feel impatient with their partner, as well as fear for the future and their children.
Affairs often occur at the point. Divorce counseling can help a couple avoid causing excess damage to their relationship at this difficult time.
4. Taking Action. This is the stage at which the legal process begins. It means separating, both physically and emotionally, telling the children, and the division of family and friends. This is when both parties can feel traumatized, afraid and guilty. These intense feelings can lead to dramatic expressions of emotion. Separation counseling can help couples stop destructively acting out these intense feelings.
5. Beginning of Acceptance. The parties are starting to acknowledge that the marriage was not all it was cracked up to be. They are acclimating to their new lives and redefining who they are without their partner. The initial shock of the divorce is lessening and they are both able to look toward the future with a sense of hope. Post/after divorce counseling can be extremely useful in helping a couple redefine their roles and regain a sense of power over their lives.
6. Starting a New Life. The parties have adapted to their new roles and are no longer angry or blaming each other. If they have children, the parties have reconfigured their relationship so they can coparent effectively. Divorce counseling can help them develop insight into what went wrong and a commitment not to repeat those mistakes in the future. They can now move on with their lives with greater psychological well-being.
Couples Counseling Can Help You Avoid an Adversarial Divorce
Studies show that it takes up to eight years for families to recover from the damage of an adversarial divorce.
Couples can benefit from both pre-divorce counseling and post/after divorce counseling to help them create the best outcome possible.
If you are a couple wanting to avoid the financial and emotional hardship that often comes with divorce, and you are looking for a therapist to walk with you every step of the way so you can end your relationship with compassion, let’s connect on the phone so I can help you meet your goals much faster.