41% of Couples divorcing within the last 5 years have suffered multiple episodes of poor mental health, compared to 29% among those who got divorced more than 5 years ago – Source: Resolution YouGov Survey
It’s Good Divorce week (30 Nov- 4th Dec) in the UK, where the emphasis is on supporting families to seek healthy and constructive ways to divorce with the least amount of conflict possible. Whilst the desire to divorce between couples may not be agreeable, the idea is to minimise blame and find a resolution that serves the greater good of all concerned. Empowering separating couples and families to move on with dignity and higher emotional/mental wellbeing.
A new survey commissioned by Resolution, a membership body for family justice professionals, with YouGov revealed that 41% of couples divorcing within the last 5 years have suffered multiple episodes of poor mental health, compared to 29% among those who got divorced more than 5 years ago. Why is that?
We know divorce is stressful, however with legal aid for family cases being reduced in 2013, there has been an increase in the ‘DIY divorce’, with some couples seeking very little or no professional legal advice, often resulting in increased conflict, stress, and detrimental financial settlements.
The long-term impact of uncertainty and stress takes a huge toll on emotional wellbeing and mental stability, often affecting our ability to perform simple tasks, to concentrate at work, and the ability to make decisions with clarity or self-belief. Is it no wonder a person’s mental health is severely disrupted?
From a psychological point, divorce is an insult to the EGO. Anyone going through it experiences a complete shake-up of their identity and how they see themselves in the world. Depending on the length of your relationship, the roles and responsibilities you had in the marriage and how co-dependent you were on the other person for your source of happiness, will affect the way you navigate divorce and “cling on to” the past. When we’re hurting inside, it’s hard not to apportion blame and to let go of any unconscious desires to punish the other person for leaving. All of these things get in the way of a good divorce.
4 TRAITS THAT SUPPORT A GOOD DIVORCE
SET A VISION FOR YOUR NEWLY DEFINED RELATIONSHIP
“Energy can not be created or destroyed, it can only be changed from one form to another” – Albert Einstein
One of the hardest parts is often accepting that your family life is no longer the same, the vision you had for your children, and your future is going to change. As a divorcing couple with children, you will have to be in some sort of relationship, it doesn’t mean you have to be ‘great friends’ or even ‘like’ your previous spouse. However, if you can create a vision aligned with your values, and how you wish to be in the world going forward, it will help you act in accordance with that. When I divorced my first husband, I decided we would one day be friends, even though at the time he was behaving atrociously. It helped me to maintain my standards and value system and not let his actions, and things that were outside of my control affect me.
KINDNESS & COMPASSION
When we’re feeling hurt or betrayed by the person who is supposed to love us most in the world, it’s often difficult to be compassionate towards them. If we lack compassion towards others, we tend to be highly judgmental, looking to who is right/wrong, good/bad, and focusing on the behavior of someone, rather than the deeper issue. A lack of compassion for others often reflects a lack of compassion for ourselves and, the mistakes we too might have made.
When we live in judgment, it keeps us in our pain and suffering. Being compassionate unites us in our humanness and helps us to see the human underneath the behavior or actions of others.
RESPECTFUL HEALTHY BOUNDARIES
Being compassionate or kind doesn’t mean a lack of boundaries or accepting bad behaviour, in fact, it’s the opposite. The ability to create a good divorce will be enhanced by setting respectful healthy boundaries as soon as possible.
Divorce is about change, and most people don’t like change, it brings up uncertainty and fear. Healthy boundaries are an acknowledgment of what is acceptable and what is not. If you are parents, a respectful co-parenting arrangement honoring each of your roles is vital. Taking the time to sit down and agree on this in advance, will support you going forward.
To set up a healthy boundary, you need to have clarity on what you need, and to be able to communicate these requests clearly. Boundaries might exist around contact, time, personal space, time with children, financial resources etc.
In a good divorce, ideally, you are seeking to keep the communication lines open, not play games and behave in ways that are aligned with your vision for the end of your relationship and new relationship going forward.
ACKNOWLEDGE THE BIG DIFFICULT EMOTIONS
The roller coaster of divorce emotions are inevitable, from anger, resentment, jealousy, sadness, to moments of acceptance, hope and even relief or joy. Learning how to be with, transform and understand the positive impulse underneath emotions will be pivotal in your ability to have a good divorce. Not all emotions need to be acted upon. A lot of divorce conflict and prolonged suffering can be avoided when individuals learn to shift from ‘reaction mode’ to ‘observing and responding’ mode.
Seeking professional help to navigate and release the big difficult emotions will support you in letting go and moving on, if you are willing to do this early in the divorce process, it will help to minimize stress and any future mental health issues and thus reducing the likelihood of you becoming part of the 41% statistic.
You don’t have to be holier than thou to have a good divorce, having the desire to minimize your pain and suffering and move on with dignity is a good starting point.