It may seem strange to advocate couples therapy while you are in the process of a divorce. After all, you’ve just decided to want to separate and go your own way. And yet, it can be a valuable thing to do, both for ex-partners and their children, if any. Where mediators and lawyers emphasize legal and tax matters and draw up a parenting plan in case of minors, less attention is paid to the emotional side of a divorce.
However, both ex-partners tend to struggle with strong feelings, blame and unresolved matters. This turns the divorce process into a minefield and ensures the relationship remains strained even after the divorce has been finalised.
This affects the well-being of both ex-partners. Holding on to old pain, such as feelings of anger, sadness, resentment, guilt, and shame, exhausts and makes us vulnerable. It also impacts any future relationship: when our hearts are occupied, there is less space for new love.
This strain also impacts children. Even if divorced parents don’t argue in front of them, children intuitively know what their parents really feel for one another. And where parents are caught up in their own pain, children are thrust into a conflict of loyalty or are forced to take care for their parents, often at the cost of their own needs and emotions.
As a result, children do not get to mourn the loss of their old family and find it harder to adjusted to new schedules and homes. It also makes it more difficult to bond with new partners and any stepchildren. This is an important reason the majority of blended families eventually fall apart.
All in all, (future) ex-partners, with or without children, have many reasons to pay attention to the emotional and relational side of the divorce.
When divorcing or divorced ex-partners come to us for therapy, we pursue at least two goals. First, we want to enable them to achieve an emotional clean slate. For this it is important they really hear and acknowledge each other, take responsibility for their share in the relationship and forgive each other. This brings peace and creates new space.
Second, we aim to build a new relationship, in which partners feel more caring towards each other and are able to have conflict in a healthy way. If children are involved, we encourage ex-partners to see each other as parenting partners rather than enemies, and to create space for new partner. We do not directly involve new partners and stepchildren in therapy, but they indirectly benefit from it anyway.
Divorce therapy can be separate from the process involving lawyers and mediators, but can also be integrated with their work. In that case we can respond quickly to emotional flare-ups and relationship problems that could potentially derail a negotiation. This contributes to a more effective and harmonious divorce process.
When you feel the need for support during your divorce proces, please feel free to contact us.