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 did not want to be a father anymore, and Mary has not 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 ever since. Every time he harms 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 and 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 percent 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 not only affects the couple involved, many children of divorce can battle with resulting unhappiness for up to ten or fifteen years afterward.
Action Steps Before a Divorce
For couples who are contemplating divorce, divorce is not the only option, but that it is merely one of many possibilities for their relationship. Couples should understand that the restoration of their marriage is possible so long as true forgiveness and repentance take place. Empathizing with both spouses regarding the hurt and pain that they are suffering is a key part of restoration.
Divorce introduced many new realities—custody battles, financial difficulty in providing for two separate households, single parenthood, sending children back and forth, guilt from watching children be torn in two, loneliness, grief, anger, or even hopelessness.
Couples contemplating divorce can follow two immediate action steps:
- Put the divorce on hold. The couple should seek the guidance of a mentor or professional counselor before making any rash decisions. Maybe divorce is the right option. Maybe it is not. Taking the time to make an informed decision and explore options is usually the right move.
- 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.
Victims of Divorce
For victims of divorce, the grieving process is important, and that requires time. Often, recovering from a divorce 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.
The pain that a divorcée experiences is valid and deep, and yet, they will get through it. Many people are able to rebuild fulfilling, happy lives after their marriage ends.
Victims of divorce often feel shameful or guilty, even though they have no reason to blame themselves. Many victims learn to forgive themselves and their ex-spouse—letting go of any anger or resentment they may have towards them before they truly heal.
A few actions steps that may be helpful for victims of divorce include:
- 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 life is still in turmoil. Running important decisions by a counselor can help people avoid making poor decisions while they are still emotionally vulnerable.
- No new relationships. Do not rush into any new romantic relationships. Focus on oneself and healing before entering another relationship.
- Get involved. Seek out friends with whom you can talk and do activities together. Help others whenever you feel up to it.