The Emotional Costs of Divorce
Divorce / Divorce Adjustment
The end of a marriage can be one of the most stressful events a person experiences. Even for the partner who chooses to leave, divorce is likely to bring up a range of painful and difficult emotions such as grief, guilt, anger, confusion, fear, shame, anxiety, and other intense feelings. If children are involved, the stress level is likely to be even higher. People sometimes seek therapy to help them decide whether to stay in a marriage or leave. Others may seek help in counseling to make the transition from marriage to being single again. Both these goals can be addressed in individual or couple’s therapy.
There are numerous reasons for why partners get divorced, and many couples cite a combination of reasons rather than just one single problem. The most common reasons people identify for getting a divorce include:
- Lack of commitment, including marrying too young or marrying the wrong person
- Too much arguing
- Inequality in marriage, particularly regarding chores or care for children
- Physical and emotional abuse, and/or abuse of chemical substances
- Unrealistic assumptions about what marriage would be like, including insufficient preparation for the challenges of married life
- Financial problems and disagreements about money
Therapy for DivorceWhen a marriage ends, it can be emotionally traumatic for each partner. In order to cope with the difficult mental, physical and financial process of uncoupling, an individual may choose to begin therapy. Divorce therapy is usually done on an individual basis. A spouse who is going through a divorce may be facing feelings of guilt, fear, anxiety, depression and grief. Working with a therapist can provide an objective and rational perspective and arm a person with the necessary skills to navigate the choppy waters of the divorce. People who rely on therapy during that difficult time benefit from learning more about themselves and see the life transition as an opportunity for growth and personal development.
Divorce may contribute or exacerbate certain mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, or personality diagnoses. Many people perceive divorce as a personal failure. Therapy can help work through those feelings, make sense of the end of one’s marriage, and obtain a new perspective. Divorce can be an opportunity to grow and become a stronger, wiser person – qualities that will serve us will in future relationships.
Divorce therapy is also available for couples who are in the process of going through a divorce, as a means for working together in a healthy, constructive fashion to achieve the dissolution of the marriage. A divorce therapist acts as a sort of mediator, and sets guidelines to ensure that the divorce is achieved with minimal hostility and emotional damage. Therapists can address pertinent issues, such as living arrangements, financial obligations and parenting responsibilities.
Therapy can be critically important for children experiencing a divorce situation. Because their parents are consumed with their own feelings, they often overlook the devastating emotional state their child is in. Children may feel guilt, loss, pain, abandonment, and overwhelming confusion during the divorce. They struggle with loyalty and worry that they are the cause of the divorce. If their parents are aggressive with each other, the child may feel even more fearful or to blame. Parents and children must get help for all of the issues that arise as a result of the divorce in order to process the emotions and move forward in a healthy and constructive way.
Mediation can be an alternative to the often exhausting and expensive process of fighting about a divorce in court. Some courts mandate mediation for divorcing couples. During mediation, couples discuss child custody, division of assets, and other contentious issues under the guidance of a mediator. The mediator attempts to help the couples reach a settlement--which will be legally binding--on their own.
Divorce recovery is a process. Adjusting to changes that occur as a result of a divorce can take time. Newly divorced people, whether they initiated the divorce or not, recognize that their lives and the lives of those around them have been profoundly affected by their situation. Worries about financial solvency, employment, or housing may affect them. Stress over losing friends or family members as a result of the divorce can be difficult to deal with. Overcoming guilt as a parent of a divorced child is another issue that can cause emotional overwhelm.
All of these problems can be worked through during the recovery process. A trained therapist can teach an individual the necessary coping techniques to help them begin their new life with a healthy perspective. Divorce recovery therapy provides an individual with a safe, encouraging and empowering experience during an extremely difficult time.