Henry was served with divorce papers after his wife had an affair. He was devastated and begged her to attend counseling, but his wife had no desire to save their marriage.
Mary’s husband walked out on her and their four-year-old daughter three months ago. He said he didn’t want to be a father anymore and Mary hasn’t heard from him since. She thinks it may be time to file for a divorce and to move on with her life.
Sonia’s husband began beating her three months after they were wed and has continued to ever since. Every time he beats her he apologizes immediately afterward and promises that it will never happen again. Sonia has always forgiven him, but lately the beatings have become more frequent and more intense. She feels that divorce may be her only option.
Lou and Paula are constantly fighting. Paula is beginning to worry that their fights are taking a toll on their two children. She wonders if her and her husband should divorce for the wellbeing of their children.
DEFINITIONS & KEY THOUGHTS
Separation occurs when a married couple makes the decision to live apart as two single people. When separated, some couples seek counseling as a means to restore their relationship, while others seek new relationships altogether. Of those couples who separate, 75-80% never go back to the relationship.
Divorce is the death of a marriage. In legal terms, divorce is a court judgment to end a marriage.
No one expects his or her marriage to end in divorce, although it has become very common. It has also been found that nearly half of the Baby Boomer generation has experienced a marital split, and the numbers are not expected to decrease.
Divorce does not only effect the couple involved, it has also been found that many children of divorce can battle with resulting unhappiness for up to ten or fifteen years afterward.
For couples that are contemplating divorce it is important to make sure that they understand that divorce is not their only option, but that it is merely one of them. They should understand that the restoration of their marriage is possible so long as true forgiveness and repentance take place. Empathize with both spouses regarding the hurt and pain that they are suffering. Last, be sure that they realize the realities that may come with getting a divorce (i.e., custody battles, financial difficulty in providing for two separate households, single parenthood, sending children back and forth, guilt from watching their children be torn in two, loneliness, grief, anger, or even hopelessness.
Two immediate action steps that couples contemplating divorce should follow are:
- Put the divorce on hold. The couple should seek the guidance of a mentor or professional counselor before making any rash decisions.
- Stop the pain. The couple should identify the issues that have been hurting their relationship and should make an effort to reduce their conflict. Each person in the relationship should try to do away with any negative patterns that they have been using as a way to control or change their spouse. They should seek forgiveness from one another and work on establishing new patterns to relate to one another and build trust.
For victims of divorce it is important to make sure they understand the importance of the grieving process and the time that it requires. Often it will take an individual two to five years to undergo the five stages of grieving- denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. An individual may even go through the stages multiple times and in different orders before healing is complete. It is also crucial to validate the pain that the person is going through and to emphasize that they will get through it. Emphasize that they should not ever feel shameful or guilty being a victim of divorce, and that they must truly forgive themselves and their ex-spouse- letting go of any anger or resentment they may have towards them- before they will truly be able to heal.
A few actions steps that may be helpful to victims of divorce are:
- Join a recovery group. Begin to attend a divorce recovery group to meet and learn from other victims of divorce.
- Go to counseling. Start attending individual counseling each week, month, or even year.
- No major decisions. Do not make any major life decisions when still in turmoil. Run important decisions by a counselor can help you to avoid making poor decisions while you are still emotionally vulnerable.
- No new relationships. So not rush into any new romantic relationships. Focus on yourself and healing before entering another relationship.
- Get involved. Seek out friends to whom you can talk to and do activities with. Help others whenever you feel up to it.