A recent advice column addressed an important aspect of divorce that is often minimized – grieving the loss of your marriage. As the therapist noted, few relationships are all good or all bad and when a marriage ends, so does everything that came with it—not just the parts that weren’t working, but also the parts that were. The accompanying sadness is just as much a part of the divorce process as anger, fear, regret, anxiety and other emotions. Unfortunately, engaging in divorce battles makes it more difficult to deal with these feelings and begin the healing process.
There are many reasons why a marriage may end. Some may lead to more feelings of grief than others, but even in the worst marriages, there was a time when the relationship was good. Those moments can be remembered amidst the anger and fear. A good therapist and support network is vital to helping you work through your emotions. Going through this process is good for your mental health but has the additional benefit of making it more likely you will resolve your divorce disputes effectively. Those who fixate on negative emotions often get stuck – they can’t come to an agreement with their spouse, and they end up fighting over everything prolonging the divorce.
This is why a collaborative divorce approach incorporates the use of a mental health professional as part of the divorce team. The team also includes attorneys representing each spouse and a neutral financial professional. The mental health professional helps parties communicate more effectively and find common ground. He or she is specifically trained in assisting divorcing couples to find practical solutions to their legal conflicts. This is very different than the divorce litigation process, which is all about the legal battle and often foments more conflict as the parties are focused on winning and losing.
Collaborative divorce is not right for every situation, but couples should understand that the divorce path they take – litigation, mediation or collaborative – can have an impact on their mental health. Conflict tends to breed more conflict, which gets in the way of dealing with other emotions.
No matter what choice clients take, I still recommend that parties seek their own individual counseling both during and after divorce. Grief and other emotions are very powerful and can linger long after the relationship is formally over.
If you are considering divorce, contact me about which divorce path may be the best option for you.