The Real Reason Divorce is So Difficult

One of my clients once wrote:

“I am going through a divorce. I pride myself on being objective, upbeat and very good at my job. However, since the divorce began, I often feel depressed and sometimes paralyzed. I feel like I am firing on only one cylinder and it is only a matter of time before my employer and my children realize I am not fully functional. Does everyone who is going through a divorce feel this way?”

The short answer: Yes.

Most people believe the most awful psychological experience anyone could have would be one’s own death or the death of a loved one. However, for many who are separating after a long-term relationship, the separation is actually “three” times worse, as follows:

End of a Relationship

First, the end of a long-term relationship is, quite literally, the end of life as my clients know it. It therefore provides the same or a substantially similar psychological experience as that of my clients’ own death, and thereby the ultimate loss.

Happily Ever After

Second, ever since we were small children, we were taught to believe in the romantic notion of “happily ever after” for our domestic relationship. The end of that relationship provides the extraordinarily rude awakening of discovering the “happily ever after” clause is not valid. My clients discover they were tricked and fooled during their entire lives into believing something which turns out to be a giant hoax, a cruel prank. My clients thereby experience the ultimate humiliation.

Trust Your Partner

Third, we were also taught we could trust our domestic partner more than we could trust anyone else in the world. When the relationship ends, my clients usually learn the persons they trusted most have turned against them and are using my clients’ most intimate secrets against them. My clients thereby experience the ultimate betrayal.

Separation Process

Therefore, the separation process often involves the most extreme and awful experiences of loss, humiliation, and betrayal. Unfortunately, this does not include the full inventory of potential damage. For example, the majority of divorces and separations which go to court are ugly. They involve almost unbearable stress, ugly conflict, major losses of time and money, compromised integrity, psychological health and collateral damage to the psychological health of the children. Therefore, the end of a long-term domestic relationship will often be the most awful situation someone will experience.

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Five questions parents typically ask in divorce

#1 – How will I survive not seeing my kids every day?

Yes, this is a tough transition but one that needs to happen now that you and your spouse have decided to end your union. Keeping the children’s best interests in mind, mediators work with you to develop an age-appropriate parenting plan that will keep you active in the lives of your child but not active in the life of the other parent. And, keep in mind, the divorce is between the two adults…not between the children and either of the parents.

#2 – How do we work out a schedule for the children in two houses?

Some of the important things to look at include the age of your child, your work schedules, do you travel, and geographical distance between the two houses relative to the location of the child’s school.  The important thing is the child get to see each of you regularly and predictably, without interference from either parent.  It is the parents’ responsibility to” facilitate” (not impede) the children seeing the other parent consistently, predictably and safely!  Several types of parenting plans (i.e. physical custody)are  available and designed to be age-appropriate yet flexible enough to meet the needs of the individual family.  Private and court-appointed mediators are available to help parents design effective plans.  And, be prepared to change the plan as the children get older – their needs change and the plan should too!

#3 – What to do when Mom and Dad can’t stand the sight of each other?

This is certainly understandable in divorce…you’ve decided to end your relationship…the last thing you want to do is see each other! AND, the last thing your kids want to see is the two of still fighting even though you’ve ended the marriage…the stress is too much for them, not to mention both of you.  Through structured parenting plans, transitions through the children attending school is best for the children while also minimizing the need for Mom and Dad to see each other.  We can also help you identify “neutral” exchanges when transitions happen outside of school time.  This is MUCH better for the child and definitely much better for you!

#4 – What is co-parenting vs. parallel parenting?  Which is right for me?

Here are several key highlights to consider:

  • Parents communicate regularly.
  •  Parents communicate over emergencies.
  •  Parents can communicate in person or
    over the phone.
  •  Parents use email, text messaging, or a
    third party (attorney, mediator or
    mutually agreed person).
  •  Major decisions about the child are
    discussed jointly.
  •  Major decisions are “communicated”
    rather than discussed.
  •  Parents work together as needed to
    resolve issues related to the child.
  •  Households are managed separately.  Each
    makes decisions about the child when s/he is
    in their household.
  •  Parents work together in the best
    interest of the child.
  •  Parents work separately for the best
    interests of the child.

 #5 – How do we tell the children?

A child’s age is another significant factor in how a child reacts to the changes that come with divorce. They ARE impacted differently at different age ranges.  Be aware of what is best to say…and NOT to say.

Still not sure? Get some professional guidance BEFORE you tell the children.   And, seriously consider providing the child or children with some short-term therapy/counseling so they have a “safe” place to talk about what is going on.  Talking to YOU is not necessarily safe!