Approaching and Understanding the Emotional Aspects of Divorce
In the materials from my mediation training at the Center for Mediation and Training (which this blog article summarizes and is based upon), and as my years of practice as a matrimonial attorney and mediator confirmed, I learned there are the following emotional parts of a divorce. Divorce can be a significant life event in any circumstance. Statistics have frequently shown that even in a divorce that appears to be relatively peaceful, the parties involved can take between three and five years to recover from the ordeal and feel comfortable in their lives again. Just like any other life crisis, divorce can be a process that stirs up unresolved issues and feelings from the past, adding them onto present emotions and creating an intense experience which can translate into outward behavior.
Adjusting to divorce can happen in a number of predictable stages that cannot be rushed or avoided. Similarly to any other developmental process, the successful resolution of each stage will depend fundamentally on the resolution of the preceding one. An important thing to keep in mind when you are dealing with the impact that a divorce has had on you, is that your whole family system will be affected. What’s more, the process of adjusting to a divorce can differ depending on where your current family is in its life cycle. For example, a divorce can feel a lot different to a family with adolescent children than it would to a family with very young children.
The Process of Divorce Adjustment
During the process of a divorce, regardless of the process be it divorce mediation or otherwise, you can expect to experience a wide range of feelings and emotions. The first stage of any divorce adjustment process will be contemplation, wherein one member of the couple begins to consider the merits of a divorce. Contemplation can take place over a long or a short period, and it does not always end in living apart.
Following contemplation, the person considering divorce may let their partner know what they are thinking, and this typically leads to a stage of great anxiety, instability and high emotions. This is known as the pre-separation stage. During system separation, the household will become divided, and litigation, collaborative law, mediation or other legal processes will begin to take place. During these legal processes, new parenting arrangements may be developed and decisions will be made about finances and assets.
In system separation, most people will struggle with the same strain of issues, as they are dealing with the impact of multiple losses. On a surface level, the individual involved is coping with the loss of a serious romantic partner – their spouse, but they are also managing the loss of expectations and fantasies that they had dreamt of or their marriage. Often, when a marriage dissolves, the experience can set off feelings of powerful betrayal, rage and sadness.
A divorce is more than simply losing a spouse, the individuals involved are also losing a whole standard of living that they have grown accustomed to. For many, there will be some form of economic loss that forces them to rethink their standard of living, and there is also a change in social life parameters. When a divorce takes place, the relationships that began to form with that ex-spouse’s extended family will have to change. In families that experienced a great deal of family involvement, this can appear as quite a significant loss.
The Process of System Recognition
The final aspect of a divorce adjustment procedure is system reorganization, and this is the stage of realignment wherein things begin to settle into their newly given form. At this stage, three things will have typically taken place. Firstly, each person will have become economically viable – in many cases the marital home is sold, and for many this can represent the final loss. Secondly, the parties within the marriage will develop a new social life, and thirdly, they will need to solidify a new style of parenting that appeals to the child(ren)’s best interests.
In a divorce procedure, the sheer number of new things that a person is forced to master and deal with can leave individuals feeling helpless and overwhelmed. In the majority of marriages, the tasks of living are divided between two people, and when separation occurs, each spouse will need to learn how to cope with things that they didn’t do before. An aspect which can make this even more difficult is that divorcing parents may have to deal with upset children, helping them to move through the appropriate developmental stages. Supporting your children can seem all the more complex if you are in the midst of litigation with their other parent, as the litigation process does very little to reduce feelings of anger and betrayal between partners, leading to a somewhat caustic relationship dynamic.
It is this emotional impact that makes mediation such a beneficial consideration for anyone in the process of a divorce procedure. Mediation is method of helping parties to sort through their issues in a calm and organized manner. As a trained mediator, I sit with my clients to ensure that the discussions which take place are constructive, and that each person has their say. What’s more, mediation is a flexible process that can be used to deal with various family-based problems, from finances to decisions regarding the care that will be given to children.
For many people, mediation is like having an impartial guide alongside them during the more difficult discussions of their lives. As a mediator, I do not take sides, I simply help to identify and resolve issues that you are struggling with. The amount of sessions that are required during mediation will depend on the specific circumstances of the divorce. Perhaps the most significant advantage of mediation is that because you are directly involved in the discussions, you and the other party are likely to reach an agreement that you know you can live with. You will have considered all of the options available to you, and decided on an outcome that has the best chance of success for you and your family.
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