Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford
Managing a Divorce
Divorce is seldom an easy process as it is often lengthy and traumatic. Many couples in the process of a marital break-up experience significant life changes involving a change in routine, finances, parenting, home environment, schools, and social changes. The breakup of a marriage can create intense feelings of stress, frustration, aggravation, depression, anxiety, relief, and even guilt. Most couples in the process of a divorce engage in the process aimlessly without a sense of direction, certainty about the future, self-doubt, as well as fears and uncertainty about transitioning from a couple, back to a single adult, or a single parent. Although, it is expected that a divorce is going to be stressful and unpleasant you can control to some extent the degree of chaos and conflict that can potentially arise during the process. In order to reduce the stress and strain resulting from the process of a divorce both parties should make a concerted effort to work together in a civilized manner whenever possible, especially if there are children involved.
Here are a few helpful tips that help you negotiate the challenges of a divorce:
Address each issue individually- Often when a divorce is initiated we want to resolve and tackle all the issues at once, however, this is both impossible and unhealthy. By trying to solve multiple issues at once you are likely to create unnecessary stress for yourself as well as limit your ability to make a significant impact on anything. You must consider what you can adequately and proficiently handle at any given time. Remember it is not just your emotional and psychological well-being that is at stake but also that of children if there are children of this relationship. It is important to address more pertinent and pressing issues first then address all the other minor issues as they arise.
Reinvent yourself individually- This means you now have to work on changing your perception of yourself from part of a couple to that of an individual again. This by no means suggests you will be the person your once were, but identifying and accepting who you are now. Everything and every person that has entered our lives have changed who are as a person even if the changes are small, the change still occurred. Therefore, during and after a divorce we should get to know the new person we have become, not expecting to return to the life we had prior to a marriage.
View the process of divorce as any other challenge- By viewing your divorce as a challenge you have the option to view it from several different angles, and develop several different ways of dealing with it. Like most challenges in life, the very concept of challenge implies something maybe difficult however, it is not impossible or insurmountable. Therefore, overcoming it is certainly possible and attainable if work is involved.
Identifying clear options and a clear resolution- Too many times while in the process of divorce soon to be divorced couples are unclear and ambiguous about what they want, making the erroneous assumption the other party “should know”. This is rarely true as most parties feel entitled to what the other party feels entitled to. In many cases of divorce, people formerly in love are pitted against each other in an adversarial role, who wins, who beats whom, etc. You need to use both a clear and level head to both address issues as well as resolve them once they are presented in court. By being unclear you run the risk of not having any of your needs addressed during and after the hearing.
Preparing children- Parents can prepare children for a divorce by telling them (in an age appropriate manner) about their parents being no longer together, but their love for the children remains. Parents should do their best to answer as much of their children questions as possible without inundating them with information that is neither relevant, appropriate, or helpful to the situation. Parents should not overly confide in children or try to develop an allegiance with a child against the other parent as this causes both emotional and psychological harm to children.
Do not parent your child out of guilt- Too often during and after a divorce parents feel guilty about changing a child’s living environment or taking him or her away from the other parent that they will indulge in the child’s every demand. This behavior is dangerous for a number of reasons: 1) Parents begin to reward inappropriate behaviors in an attempt to ensure their child’s love, 2) children learn and thrive in a consistent environment by parenting out of fear children will not properly learn consistency and consequences for one’s actions, 3) there will be a significant shift in power as children’s behavior will now dictate what should and shouldn’t happen during parenting, 4) without structure children have a diminished capacity to adhere, follow, as well as understanding the importance of rules and regulations.
Starting your new life- Starting a new life can be difficult at first but it can also be truly rewarding. By getting past your divorce you can embark on unchartered territory, i.e., exploring and trying things you were afraid to try when you were part of a couple. As a single that has both grown and matured you can pursue dreams you never thought was possible, interests, establish new friendships outside of the relationships you established with your former partner, establish and build another relationship with children, pursue other career options, etc., the possibilities are endless! There is only one hitch, if divorce is your only option let’s start this sooner rather than later, time to live!