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Divorce is Normal

Divorce is Normal

Posted by Jess on 06/06/2014

'Divorce is not deviant, therefore you are not deviant, nor are you a failure. Like most people in the same situation, you will love - and be loved - again. Not only are you not a failure, but your marriage isn't necessarily a failure because it ended in divorce'. Constance Ahrons (author of ‘The Good Divorce’).

This is a statement that will resonate strongly with many. And sadly if numbers are an indication of normal, approximately 42% of marriages will end in divorce, which is around 120,000 a year or 13 divorces AN HOUR in England and Wales! The average marriage now lasts about 11.5 years, which  means that hundreds of thousands of children are also affected.

Divorce may now be ‘normal’, however anyone who has gone through it will know that the experience can be extreme, with high levels of stress, emotional turmoil and pain. Let’s face it, divorce can be deeply unpleasant. Nobody enjoys divorce and I have yet to meet anyone who has described it as easy! However, as I say often, every cloud can have a silver lining...you just have to look very hard sometimes, but it is there if you want it.

First things first: if there is even the slimmest chance of a broken relationship resuscitating, before navigating the choppy water of divorce I strongly encourage you to explore every avenue, nook and cranny of possibility before bringing a marriage to an end. It is also a legal requirement for every divorce lawyer to explore and complete a Statement of Reconciliation to check that all possibilities of reconciliation have been tried.

Sometimes, those seeking divorce need just need a little (or a lot) of external support and help, and a mutual commitment from both parties to work at making it work. We all know of stories where there are complete turnarounds – successful reconciliations and even people remarrying the same person!

But when divorce really is the only agreed path forward, it is important to make the process as positive, constructive and collaborative as possible. There are lots of interesting and helpful books about separation (for example Constance Ahron's ‘The Good Divorce’, quoted above) and informative divorce blogs (e.g. http://www.marilynstowe.co.uk/). The more research you do and the more help you seek BEFORE crossing a divorce lawyer's threshold, the better.

Emotion can be high and emotionally high people do not make the best decisions! Best therefore to take some of the heat out of the situation and work out what your ideal outcome is before you start incurring the costs of a highly qualified legal expert. Being emotionally, physically and mentally prepared will ultimately potentially save you a fortune from bad decisions and the repercussions on relationships and health.

An initial mediation session (MIAM) is now mandatory (with some exemptions) for those divorcing and most divorce lawyers now will check to see what emotional support and guidance someone has in place (for example coaching and/or therapy if required) and recommend options, knowing that this will result in the best outcome for everyone in the long run.

The time and money invested in coaching and other help,  before and during a divorce, is likely to more than pay for itself as it enables those divorcing to make better rational decisions, hear the legal counsel clearly and be in better physical and mental shape to progress more swiftly, positively and healthily through a challenging process.  One top divorce lawyer recently likened the mental and physical preparation needed to running a marathon: we would all be ill advised just to get up and run a marathon with no preparation! And divorce, even when it's more a 'sprint' can feel like a seemingly endless marathon...

Coaching will help minimise the emotional heat generated by divorce: sometimes angry, frustrated, normally intelligent and rational adults can behave more like the children they are trying to protect! Normalising and keeping things as calm as possible for each other, but particularly for the children, hearing their emotion and communicating clearly to them, is key. It’s important to remember that a child is the result of two parents together, and the ideal is that those two parents should remain in the child's life as equally and amicably as possible. All of us are human and no-one gets everything right all the time, so sometimes it's about chatting things through and apologizing when we get things wrong.

In particular, it’s very important for a child's well-being that they are not put in a position where they feel they have to ‘choose’ between parents, or have one parent overtly criticise the other parent in front of the child. In order to thrive, a child needs to know they are loved, that their parents’ separation is not the child's fault, and that they have permission to love both parents back freely.

Acceptance of this new 'normal' is powerful. And forgiveness is liberating (one can forgive and let go without condoning unpleasant behaviour). Both acceptance and forgiveness together are highly desirable, if not imperative, to help everyone (children included) move on to a new, potentially even more exciting future.

It is also reassuring and settling if everyone can treasure their past, and know that happy, family memories remain intact whatever happens. A family will always be a family, even if the structure changes as a result of divorce. For example, instead of one main family home, now there may be two, with new extended families.

With divorce comes painful yet pivotal learning, and the potential for real growth, self-awareness and profound personal development. Adults and children thrive and grow through adversity.

With the right guidance, support and help, divorce can not only be ‘normal’, but ultimately a profound learning experience for all involved.

Normal life evolves and we evolve, learn, love anew and grow. As my 9 year old said recently 'Life is Learning isn't it, Mummy?'



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