When a couple plans the dresses, the tuxedos, the cake, and the flowers, they are also planning for a happy life together. Unfortunately, many couples know that plans change. Whether it takes a few months, years, or decades, 40 percent of first marriages end in divorce, and second and third marriages divorce at a rate of 60 and 70 percent respectively.
“And I’ll sign on
The line beneath my name
The road is gone
I can’t go back the way we came.”
—The Avett Brothers, “Divorce Separation Blues”
When a marriage ends, a road is closed. New roads can be forged, but the process can be challenging. If you or someone you love is finalizing a divorce, you know about the financial strain, the legal decisions, the custody battles, and the housing accommodations. You also know about the anger, guilt, fear, depression, loneliness, anxiety, and confusion.
Forging a new road can be challenging, but it can also be good. When people take time to process their divorce and heal, they can often break free from unhealthy patterns and build toward their goals. A mental health professional can often give much needed guidance and support during the healing process.
Thriveworks Chesapeake offers counseling for divorce recovery, and we have helped many clients forge a new, fulfilling future.
Hallmarks of a Difficult Marriage
Many different circumstances can bring a marriage to an end, but in general, just below the surface details of a divorce lie four toxic behaviors that incite distance and separation. Dr. John Gottman identified these “four horsemen” in his famous study on marriage and divorce:
- Criticism: Instead of attacking the problem, spouses can attack each other. When dissenting, negative, nit-picking, pessimistic interactions are more common than loving and kind experiences, they take a toll.
- Defensiveness: Shifting responsibility, blaming others, and other defensive actions mean that people do not accept responsibility for their own choices and actions.
- Stonewalling: Many couples can overcome difficult problems if they deal with them, but when they are denied, minimized, and/or avoided, hardships quickly grow and overpower a marriage.
- Contempt: Disrespect may be the leading killer of intimacy. Superiority, derision, and condescension drive wedges between spouses.
If you have recently ended a marriage, do you recognize any of these behaviors? Most likely, you do. These four horsemen are toxic attitudes and actions, and anyone who has experience them may need to detox. Many people choose to take intentional time to heal from a difficult marriage by pursuing divorce recovery.
Recovery and Healing from a Divorce
Healing from a divorce and building a joyful, fulfilling future is a unique process for each individual. Many factors will govern what the path of recovery looks like, factors such as…
- If and how many children are in the family as well as their ages.
- How long the couple had been together.
- If anyone was surprised by the divorce.
- The details that surrounded the couple’s decision to end the marriage.
- Each partner’s physical/mental health, personality, and/or age.
- The couple’s finances.
- Whether new liaisons have formed.
While each marriage is unique and the circumstances of each divorce is unique, divorce recovery inevitably involves at least two components (and possibly more): grieving the losses and learning from the past.
1) Grieving the losses:
The end of a marriage is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to losses. Recovering from a divorce often means naming those losses and grieving them. For example, losses may include shifting relationships with friends, in-laws, and extended family. Transitioning to co-parenting or single parenting comes with many new challenges. People also may have to leave their home or reduce their standard of living after a divorce.
Each of these costs may stir grief and a variety of feelings. The key to healing is allowing oneself to feel any emotion that arises. During grief, people often ricochet between anger, fear, bargaining, denial, guilt, shock, and sadness. Mental health professionals have helped many people become curious about the emotions they experience as they grieve, process these emotions, and resolve them.
2) Learning from the Past:
One of the more challenging parts of coming out of a marriage is looking back into it. Learning from the past can be painful, but it can also be one of the most fruitful undertaking for a divorcée.
The past often holds the key toward establishing healthier patterns moving forward. When people know what went wrong and what drove their prior decisions, they can make adjustments moving forward.
Counseling for Divorce Recovery at Thriveworks, Chesapeake, VA
Do you want to meet with a mental health profession as you heal from a divorce? If you are ready, Thriveworks Chesapeake is ready too. We have appointments available for divorce recovery.
If you call our office today, you may be meeting with a counselor tomorrow—many new clients have their first appointment within 24 hours of their call. We also work with many insurance companies, and our therapists offer evening and weekend sessions.
Do not go through a divorce by yourself. Call Thriveworks today.