Though divorce is extremely common in the USA-- the statistics in the past two decades point to over 50% of marriages ending in divorce-- it does not change the fact that when you are personally going through it, life can feel like an emotional rollercoaster. For some, the emotions that might follow separation or divorce are relief and peace, for others, sadness, shame, or anxiety. And for most clients we see struggling through this transition, all these feelings are present, and rapidly cycle over the course of a week, or even a day.
Couples therapy and individual therapy are essential resources to help you find stability during this tough transition. Here are just some of the ways therapy can help you move healthily and steadily through your separation or divorce:
Firstly, divorce is definitely a type of loss, and grieving is inevitable. Regardless of the reason for the separation, both partners may be feeling a sense of loss in many areas. The loss of a partner, loss of a family unit, loss of certain role or identity, loss of resources or material things, loss of a specific future life plan, loss of time with children or other family members.
Therapy can help both individuals and couples process these various losses, and work through the complex emotions associated with grief such as anger, denial, depression and anxiety. Therapy allows people to gain acceptance around their separation while honoring that it is a loss and allowing themselves to grieve as necessary.
Secondly, although generally divorce or a separation occurs due to a couples’ differences, therapy can actually help couples find common ground. No, this is not about mediation or negotiating who gets what from the kitchen cabinets. Therapy helps couples remain focused on the common goal of a peaceful separation. It helps couples set boundaries that are agreed upon together, and redefine the relationship between them as it evolves through the separation. Therapy helps people remain focused on their own core values as individuals, while making decisions together towards common goals.
Lastly, the causes, decisions and processes of divorces can often leave people feeling lost and as though they don’t know who they are as a single person. Therapy can help you redefine who this is. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help you challenge unhelpful thoughts and behaviors that have resulted from experiences in the relationship and can empower you to move forward. Processing any trauma (physical or emotional) that may have occurred in the relationship, will allow you to heal emotionally and redefine yourself as an individual; more specifically, your priorities, boundaries, needs, values and goals for now and in the future.
— Kim Strong, Clinical Social Worker in San Francisco, CA