Dealing With Feelings Of Loss During The Divorce Process
Bill became more and more disconnected from Jenna over three years, as their two girls were born. Jenna, once the children were born, disagreed with Bill’s parenting ideas more and more. She needed to be the ‘perfect mother’ and so their care had to be her way. And Bill did not know how to stand up for himself and negotiate his differences with Jenna. For instance, Jenna hated vegetables (true story) and did not feed the girls vegetables. Bill was appalled but Jenna would not listen. No vegetables!
Jenna Claims Exclusive Possession of the Parenting Decisions
The disconnect between Bill and Jenna intensified because as Jenna claimed exclusive possession of the parenting decisions, Bill felt less and less needed and valuable. Truth be told – he only felt valuable when others agreed with him or saw him as a leader (as in the sports teams he coached). So Bill spent more and more time away from home, busy with his work, finding his self-value in others’ applauding his teaching and coaching.
Bill Wants A Divorce; Jenna Becomes More Accommodating
Bill finally became so disconnected that he wanted a divorce. Jenna then woke up and started to be more accommodating – but, according to Bill, it was too late. He wanted the divorce and yet hemmed and hawed, not because of feelings for Jenna, but because he was afraid to be alone, because he felt guilty and because he did not want to leave his girls.
Bill Continues With Divorce and Stands Up to Jenna Re the Children
Bill entered therapy at the Long Island Center for Marriage Counseling and Individual Therapy and learned to value himself more and fill his empty time with useful self-reflection and appreciation for what was good in his life. He realized he could be a good father in spite of divorce. He learned to challenge Jenna on parenting decisions and even won the ‘vegetable fight’. He finally felt strong enough and proceeded to complete the divorce, as he could not rekindle his feelings for Jenna. In fact, he claimed that he had married her for the wrong reason in the first place – because she reminded him of his mother.
Why is it often difficult for the person who wants the divorce to leave?
When Two People Get Together in Marriage, the Potential is Twofold:
• The Bond of Union – the development of an intimate bond, where one person’s satisfaction is as important to the other as his or her own. It is the space for deep sharing of self and stepping into the shoes and mind of the other, repeatedly. It is sacred union and there are few other satisfactions as powerful.
• The Successful Partnership – the development of sharing of responsibilities for the house, the social life, the children, the finances, the extended family, etc.
When one or both spouses want a divorce, it is because that potential has not manifested itself.
In Poor Marriages, the Potential is Not Fulfilled
Rather than the Bond of Union – of support, caring, compassion and nurturance – there is resentment, frustration, angry confrontations, fear, guilt, hurt and withdrawal, as Bill demonstrated above.
Rather than the Successful Partnership, there are acts of unfairness, over-responsibility, selfishness and a clear lack of an effective working relationship.
When the resentments have built into a ‘brick wall’, and one person does not see a way to break through the wall, divorce looms as the way toward a more satisfying and successful life.
Positive New Future vs. Deep Attachments From the Past
The future lies on a new path for the divorcing spouse, and yet the deep attachments of the present and past still need to be dealt with. Often, even for the one who wants the divorce, attachments are hard to break, and feelings of loss, sadness, fear, guilt and overwhelm can emotionally cripple a person for months or even years.
The lesson here is to be prepared for bad feelings even if you want the divorce – feelings of fear, guilt, overwhelm and hurt. Be patient with yourself and get some professional help if you need it. Remember that you are hurting your spouse too, and letting go will free up your spouse. The children, of course, will always be yours and it is important to work hard to maintain and/or improve that relationship. Bill is now divorced, remarried (as is his ex-wife) and all are living happily ever after. It sometimes happens.
(We have helped many couples with an alternate solution – both living in the same house while divorced. Does it work? For as long as both ex-Spouses are alright with that way of living.Read our article on Divorcing and Living in the Same House.
Dr. Diane Kramer, Divorce Mediator, Clinical Psychologist and Marital Counselor
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