“Divorce is not the death of a family. It is the reorganization of the family” Salvador Minuchin
It is a painful decision when a married couple decides to divorce after many attempts to repair the marriage. Often, at this point, married couples stop using a marriage counsellor However, divorce is exactly when a marriage counsellor can be most helpful in guiding a couple towards a good divorce outcome instead of a bad, high conflict divorce. Divorce is not the end of a relationship, especially if there are kids involved, but rather the reorganization of the family. A professionally trained marriage counsellor can help couples navigate this change.
It is possible for a married couple to have a good divorce. For a married couple embarking on divorce it is important to protect your mental health and that of your children. Divorce needs to be reframed not only in the best interest of the children but also in the best interest of the family and how resources and assets will be allocated.
This requires the divorcing couple to work through the many emotions require to detach from the relationship. It will require processing the meaning that each person may give to specific resources and assets such as home, car, retirement plan, and time with a child. It will require a person to start thinking about shaping their life as a single person or as a single parent.
Couples divorcing frequently focus on what is in the best interest of the child. Ultimately what is in the child’s best interest is for their parents to be able to work cooperatively together in order to have the emotional resources left to meet their child’s needs after the parents are no longer living together.
Bad, high conflict divorce is never in the child’s best interests. High conflict divorce absorbs the parents energy and resources into fighting each other, leaving nothing left for the child’s emotional needs. Bad divorce risks putting the child in between the parents as a messenger -in the best case, or as a pawn to be leverage in negotiating custody as a worse case scenario. Divorce isn't what hurts children, it is parents that are fighting and hurling verbal and emotional abuses at each other or using their children leverage within the divorce.
Emotional Challenges in the Divorce:
Challenges for each person depends upon their role in ending the marriage:
Initiator: person who decides to end marriage and start the divorce process
- If you are thinking about ending the marriage, individual counselling can help make sure you are able to separate your feelings from your thinking to ensure your decision is solid.
- Individual Counselling can help you evaluate if you've done everything possible to have try to save your marriage.
- Often this person has the clear advantage because they have processed and done the work to get to the point where they feel they can move on. Individual Counselling can help you understand your spouse who may be in a very different place than you and help you work effective with this person.
- Often more in a rush to finalize and the divorce and this can lead to a bad divorce outcome. Individual Counselling can help this person gain an understanding as to where your partner is and how to help you evaluate how best proceed to protect the children's interests and ensure a cooperative environment.
Noninitator: the other spouse who hasn’t made that decision but must now react to the initiator’s requests to end the marriage
- This person is faced with unexpected losses and must work to process what these new changes will mean, grieve the loss of the relationship and the hopes and dreams.
- Individual Counselling can help this person process and work through the emotional and psychological work to plan out his or her new role, life situation, career and life situation
- Individual Counselling can help the person to develop skills to manage the strong emotions that come with feeling blindsided and at a disadvantage
- Often this person wanting to slow things down, see if there are options and are very confused and frightened. Individual Counselling can help this person process through these emotions and start to separate out feelings from what choices in order that the person makes good solid decision.
Marriage Counsellor’s Role
The goals of individual counselling are always customized to each person. However, there are specific tasks that a noninitator will need to deal with that the initiator will not. A individual marriage counsellor or therapist can help a either type of client process through their feelings of loss, fear of the unknown and help the client figure out a new life post-divorce.
The individual counsellor can give the client new tools for managing grief, anger and anxiety as well help the ground the client so that the client isn’t reacting and making decision only from their feelings. There are many important decision and considerations for the client as well as the client’s children that need to be carefully thought through and deciding on. Reacting from a place of fear or anger or even vengeance can pave the way for a hostile and bad divorce that will hurt everyone. Our therapist can help the client come to terms and decide what will be best for creating a new life for him or herself.
Possible Goals of Divorce Counselling
Whether you decide to work through ending your marriage together or need you help processing the end of the marriage, depending whether you are the initiator or the noninitiator you will have different challenges and can benefit from the guidance of a trained professional mental health individual counsellor:
- Grieving the loss of a relationship, partner, hopes and dreams
- Facing the reality of building a new life on your own which involves becoming financially independent, perhaps upgrading skills or entering the workforce, facing what it means to be a single parent
- Coming to terms with your decision and the implications it will have for you, your spouse, your children as well as your larger social circle such as family, friends and religious associations
- Reconstructing a new social and emotional life with a new identidy as well as helping your children do the same
- Figuring out how to co-parent effectively with your eventual ex-spouse