As a counselor, divorce is one of the toughest topics I have to deal with emotionally for me and clients. I am somewhat naive, I do like romantic tales that last forever. It’s also part of a personal wound for me. My parents divorced when I was eleven and it didn’t make any sense to me at that age.
Sometimes, I have to do what I refer to as ‘one-sided relationship counseling’, too. That’s where one party comes to counseling but the other one doesn’t for whatever reason. Working with the client in the room on a relationship is one thing. You get to hear their story and provide guidance in hopes of improving things. But, it’s almost impossible to change the thinking and behavior of the partner absent from the counseling session. You never get to hear their side of the story. Needless to say, divorce is sometimes the topic of discussion and the outcome of some counseling endeavors.
“Divorce should be the last option not something we smooth the passage to.”….Brian Adam
Best advice: get relationship counseling or at least personal counseling before the relationship is unrecoverable. If you think you need it or thought you needed it at some point, seek out a counselor. I assure you counseling is a whole lot cheaper than a divorce attorney.
Like marriage, divorce is one of life’s most significant relationship transitions. Which can be a huge understatement for some folks. While I think marriage (commitment) is still a wonderful institution, statistics tell me divorce is still very prevalent in our society. But divorce is painful for everyone (e.g. spouses, both families of origin, children, close friends) involved and even uncomfortable for those not directly impacted (e.g. coworkers, mutual friends, neighbors, etc.).
According to the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory, divorce is ranked as the second highest life stressor behind the death of a spouse. A divorce is a life-changing event. Look closely at other measures of stress and you will see several directly related to or preceding a potential divorce. Divorce is a serious endeavor albeit necessary for some folks.
“Divorce is probably as painful as death”….William Shatner
Be prepared to deal with a mass of emotional, legal and logistical issues that have to be addressed. It is not uncommon for these side issues to ignored or ill-conceived by people contemplating divorce. Both responses are defense mechanisms our psyche employs to protect us from difficult, unpleasant and/or perceived harm. The idea of recreating yourself without a spouse can be exhilarating for some and anguish for others so we proceed with blinders on.
Contemplating divorce often precedes initiating divorce by a year or more. People come into counseling and reveal they have thought about divorce before taking any action. Often times, they are taken action but never followed through.
Relationship (because not all committed relationships are marriages) counseling is often sought to improve a relationship in trouble and to prevent divorce. Sometimes it is too late in the relationship rift for it to heal. When one person is vested in relationship counseling and the other is not, the outcome is very uncertain. Relationship counseling needs both parties engaged and willing to look at their issues and implement changes to better the relationship.
Relationship counseling often starts with communication and conflict resolution but it takes time to heal the emotional wounds and rebuild trust. Compromise is another topic. Relationships evolve where one person is compromising or even placating the other person. There is an imbalance in the partnership. It may be real or perceived. This imbalance is hard to sustain long-term in any relationship.
“You are always one decision away from a totally different life”…unknown
I’m often asked if a relationship can survive issues like infidelity (sexual and/or financial), addiction, and loss of intimacy. The answer is ‘Yes’. It takes commitment, time, forgiveness, and communication. However, if divorce becomes the only solution, post-divorce counseling can help you survive the emotion, legal and logistical issues along the way. While a ‘nice’ divorce is an oxymoron, there is no reason that process has to be WW3. There is a way to survive a divorce and still respect yourself and your partner.
As a counselor, it is difficult when a couple comes to counseling in an attempt to avoid divorce. I really want to see couples when they are experiencing relationship hiccups, not relationship walls. But there is always improvement to be made.
The involvement of a divorce counselor before a divorce can help both parties learn to communicate effectively and civilly during the process. If there are children in the family, a civil, healthy divorce is imperative for the well-being of all family members and will minimize the trauma of divorce for the children.
Pre-divorce counseling can assist with parenting issues related to divorce and provide a forum for how to best tell your children about your impending divorce. Pre-divorce counseling will prepare you for some of the feelings and emotions you may have throughout the divorce process, and preemptively teach you coping strategies that you can apply when you have trouble over the coming months.
“Spouses may divorce, but parents will be parents forever.”….Karen Covy
When both parties are engaged in pre-divorce counseling, the focus will be on healing injured feelings, building agreements and contracts for communication and respect. It serves as a place to mediate disputes in a safe environment without engaging each other’s lawyers. This counseling can transition into post-divorce counseling for one of the parties and a referral can be provided for the other party if desired.
No matter the reason, the break-up of a long-term, committed relationship can disrupt your world as well as trigger some profound emotions such as sadness, stress, and grief. Life after divorce can feel overwhelming, and for many, the uncertainty about the future can sometimes seem worse than the unhappy relationship itself. Speaking with a post-divorce counselor allows you to talk through your feelings rather than keeping your pain inside. Post-divorce counseling will help guide you through the confusion and anxiety of marriage loss using a variety of techniques.
Many people, especially those who have been married for many years, will have a difficult time finding who they are outside of their marriage. Post- Divorce counseling will help you discover your identity as a single person so you can begin to move on and accept your new life without your partner. This type of counseling is not limited to divorce topics but is a vehicle to work on any and all issues preventing you from feeling good about yourself and your future. Let’s face it, after the divorce….wherever you go there you are!
I strongly encourage post-divorce or life transition counseling for both parties. There are enough damaged folks in the world already. Divorce doesn’t have to be the course for more.
“One day everything will be okay”….unknown
Next time, I will continue this discussion on divorce counseling covering:
- how to tell if you need divorce counseling,
- what you may experience during a divorce,
- stages of a divorce
- how counseling can help, and
- self-care during a divorce.
Cobalt Counseling, LLC is located in Frisco, TX serving surrounding cities in Collin and Denton counties. For interest in pre-divorce, divorce and post-divorce counseling, please contact us using the form on the sidebar.