Divorce is about loss. Two lives that joined in one union are unraveling. Especially children, but also relatives, friends, neighbors, those at church, and even coworkers will feel the effects of the wrenching apart. It’s an earthquake in a world that once seemed safe, and you wonder if it will ever end.
Marriage involves sacrifice, a giving up of self-interest when it threatens the harmony of the marital and family relationships. At the outset of a divorce, remembering these sacrifices—these gifts and contributions to the other and to the family can leave us feeling unappreciated, unloved, or betrayed. Because we’ve given so much to the other, we can feel as though we’ve lost part of ourselves as we separate from our husband or wife.
This emptiness and loss are very painful. And we don’t want to feel it. We would rather feel anger and its many offspring—frustration, indignation, and judgment—because they make us feel strong, while feelings of loss make us feel weak, and deprived. We feel stronger when we’re angry than when we fear an unknown future without the one whom we’ve counted on to be in our corner and on our side, the one who helped us drive the kids to soccer, shared some of the household chores, listened to our worst experiences and supported us at least some of the time when we needed it.
Loss, anger, and fear are important human emotions and should not be suppressed. Going through a divorce, we need someone to listen to us without quickly giving us advice. We need a relative or friend or counselor or divorce coach who will let us talk and vent and howl and cry. Anger not sorted out and explored is dangerous because it can lead to actions of revenge.
“The man who opts for revenge should dig two graves.” This Chinese proverb captures what happens when two people go to court to seek revenge. The most expensive divorces, those that destroy financial security for both parties, and cause lasting harm to children are executed out of revenge. Divorce attorneys, untrained to assist clients with their emotional havoc, can’t or won’t stop these escalating emotional tragedies.
When facing a new future, couples with children confront more complex challenges than those without. Divorcing parents are deeply concerned about spending less time with their children. Children need reassurance that the family will continue even though their parents live apart. When parents can’t communicate or cooperate on their children’s behalf, emotional damage can occur. When parents remain stuck in fear, anger, resentment, or sadness without seeking help, children often assume the role of caretaker for their parents or act out their own anger or fear at school or at home.
When a child fears abandonment from one parent if he or she enjoys a relationship with the other, parental alienation can result. Parents must strive to spare their children all these repercussions of divorce. The divorce process requires parents to rise to their highest to make the best decisions for their children when they often feel at their lowest. Once they begin to share custody, they must also share responsibilities and decisions. Clear thinking, communication, and cooperation are crucial to providing ongoing support, reassurance, and structure to youngsters.
The divorce process requires clear thinking in problem-solving, tolerance, flexibility, new compromises, and a measure of patience. By demonstrating these qualities parents provide excellent role models for their children who will face their own challenges as their time is divided between homes. In coaching sessions with a divorce coach, parents learn how to communicate with each other putting aside negative emotions in order to make the best decisions for their children.
Divorce coaches often help parents arrange child-sharing agreements when they can’t do so themselves. Eventually, children begin to see the advantages of the changes in their lives. They establish new traditions with each parent and often experience more of their parent’s attention than before. They may meet new friends in Dad’s or Mom’s new neighborhood.
We tell our clients, “You can come out of this divorce stronger, with more self-esteem, and feeling more hopeful than you’ve felt in some time.” At first, they find this difficult to believe, but there comes a day when they admit that we were right, that their new lives can be fulfilling, with positive changes and opportunities.
Women who’ve never looked at investments learn to read financial reports. Dads who left the parenting to Mom learn that they can become close to their children, set limits, and listen to problems. Eventually, each member of the family will see that there are some advantages to the change. No one needs to remain stuck in sadness, anger, and fear.
Divorce lawyers can educate you about family law, file your divorce papers and guide you through the court system. Divorce Financial Specialists can help you consolidate and analyze your financial records for the divorce settlement. Divorce coaches help with your equally crucial need for emotional strength at a difficult time.
An experienced, compassionate coach can act as your guide as you navigate the hurts of the past and the upheavals of the present, helping you keep your balance until you step into your new future.
WHAT IS DIVORCE COACHING AND EDUCATION?
The goal of divorce coaching and education is to maximize the chances of achieving a healthy divorce by preserving the emotional assets of the family, whether or not there are children. Coaching can increase the chances of partners maintaining a healthy bond, giving them a better opportunity to transition into a separate life. Where children are concerned, divorce coaching can serve as the catalyst for developing an emotionally healthy co-parenting relationship, both in the present as well as in the future.
ADVICE AND EDUCATION
Whether cooperative or adversarial at the outset, divorce is an emotionally wrenching and expensive process requiring clear thinking and a thorough look at all the divorce options available. Divorce coaches assist a spouse, or a couple, to explore each option and decide which one is more likely to result in an emotionally and financially healthy resolution. Following only a friend’s referral to an attorney can result in also choosing the divorce process which that attorney practices without looking at the other options objectively.
Parents are often overwhelmed by the thought of telling their children that they are divorcing. Coaches assist couples by helping them decide what they want to say to their children and how they will go about telling them. This can reduce parents’ anxiety as it helps them demonstrate to the children that they will still be working together for them and that they still have the children’s best interests as their priority. As the children experience a sense of cooperation between the parents, their anxiety and negative reactivity are reduced.
This is a great way to start moving the family towards a new reality: that the family isn’t ending, but that it is changing its shape. Moving into a single-parent role can be a worrisome and frustrating experience, at first. Frequently, single parents have difficulties learning how to use discipline effectively. Some parents never have been a disciplinarian. They may find the experience awkward as they develop a new and healthy relationship with their child. How much time should they be spending one on one; how do they handle changes in lifestyle as the budget changes; how much should they reveal about the marital or post-divorce relationship? Coaching offers support and guidance to parents as they get acquainted with the changes that single parenting brings.
It is important for each partner to be aware of what they want to achieve by becoming divorced. No longer living together isn’t enough of a goal. Coaching helps the individual or couple to form a picture of what they want their future to look like as a single parent and especially as a member of a co-parenting team after the divorce. This planning lays the firm groundwork for clear decision-making and can assist the couple to achieve a divorce settlement or child-sharing agreement that best conforms to the picture they’ve developed.
Coaching can enhance skills that allow partners to manage negative emotions so they function productively through their divorce process. High, negative emotion interrupts good decision-making and fans the fires of conflict. The coaching experience enhances a partner’s ability to communicate constructively, and with respect.
Coaching can help spouses to overcome fear. Having a neutral party listening can reduce tension and anxiety, increasing a person’s ability to think more clearly and make better decisions. Coaching can be used in preparation for meetings with attorneys, a mediator, or during meetings where both partners and their support teams come together for creative problem-solving.
When are couples most likely to need co-coaching?
- When there is a lack of mutual consent to divorce, leaving one spouse feels like a victim.
- When an affair is recent or ongoing, there are deep feelings of rejection, anger, and mistrust.
- When there is an intellectual or emotional imbalance in the relationship: for example, when one knows nothing about the financial records, accounting, or investments and feels overwhelmed by the other partner’s command of them, or when one partner is emotionally dominant over the other.
- When there is a pattern of negative behaviors keeping the couple from reaching closure to the divorce or from beginning an ongoing, positive co-parenting relationship.
- When an inability to trust consistently interferes with the couple’s communication and cooperation.