What is the best advice for people who are going through a divorce?
As a couples therapist, divorce is sometimes inevitable, and can be crucial to the couples' therapy. There has never been a client, that following the decision for them to divorce, that sadness hasn't followed me throughout the session. It's just incredibly hard to watch a relationship die. I remind myself that there might be something better for each partner down their road of life, and that it is, and always will be, their decision. My job as their therapist is to hold the complexity of this decision, and give them the tools, questions, and space needed to reach a place of making an informed choice, and not an impulsive one. While this is a dark time for many, it is the very darkness that allows light to come through. I've seen many come out of divorce happier, healthier, and more beautiful than ever.
However, to complicate matters in this rich and difficult space, divorce, in America, is wrought with hatred and anger. Through counseling, we hope to change that pattern & societal norm. Here are some tips.
- Remember, you said, "I do" to this person. Recall, as best as you can, the reasons you married. At one point, you walked down an aisle (or a court house) and chose this partner, for richer or poorer, for sickness and in health. Remember the good times, the moments of laughter. This will allow you to balance all of the other complex feelings you hold for your ex.
- Teach your children how to end a relationship. This is an important life skill. What do you want your children to learn from it? My guess is that you don't want them to learn that an end of a relationship means anger, hatred, yelling and jealousy. An ending of a relationship means saying goodbye to a chapter in your life. Saying goodbye to a decision you made. It means a new start, at a different point in your life. It means you've grown and you've changed. It means taking care of yourself, and wanting more out of life than what you currently have. These are the golden nuggets to teach your kids.
- Honorable Closure. This is a statement I use often in my sessions. We have so many rituals for the beginning of a relationship, but how about the end of a relationship? Honorable closure is how we respectfully end a chapter in our life. Like that of saying goodbye to a dying friend or parent, we grieve our loss. We thank them, and pay gratitude for the love and laughter they've brought into our hearts, even if there were hard times. We open our hearts again, to bid farewell.
- How you end your relationship is often how people remember you. Just as the saying goes, it's about first and last impressions. If you want to nickle-and-dime your partner, be a monster, flaunt your new spouse or partner, then that is how they will remember you. And the sad truth is, that's not who you are. Be true to the person you are, and let that be your lasting impression.
- Forgive. Staying angry will just keep you trapped in resentment. You made mistakes. So did they. You are seething with anger and sadness, so are they. You can blame your ex for the next 75 years, or you can say, "I forgive you, and I forgive myself." Many seek counseling during this time, because it is (incredibly) difficult to do this. However, once you are in a space of true forgiveness and acceptance, you will begin to heal.
My very best to any and all of you that are in this space.