Actors Anna Faris and Chris Pratt, who married in 2009 and have one child together, finalized their divorce this week, according to reporting by TMZ. It’s been over a year since they announced their split in a joint Instagram post, and there’s a lot we can learn from the way they’ve conducted themselves over the course of the split.
Their August 2017 separation announcement explained, “we still love each other and will always cherish our time together.” The celebs have publicly lived up to the respect and care evident in their statement: they’ve shown each other, the child they continue to raise together, and themselves an inspiring generosity of spirit, continuing to support one another personally and professionally. Pratt wrote the foreword to Faris’s book Anna Faris Is Unqualified, which was published post-separation, and, though he did not attend the 2017 Emmys, he expressed enthusiastic support for Faris, who presented the award for best variety show, from the sidelines, reported TMZ. “She rules.” Faris, meanwhile, praised Pratt on Live With Kelly and Ryan in October, 2017. Asked about her ex, she answered, “He’s amazing. We’re great friends and we always will be.”
This mutual support suggests it’s possible to have a “good” divorce, despite the emotional (and practical) havoc wreaked by the process. It’s impossible to know what is going on behind the scenes in the Faris/Pratt relationship, and as Jay Lebow, Ph.D., ABPP, a clinical professor of psychology at Northwestern’s Family Institute explains it, “Nobody does it perfectly.”
But we spoke with several experts who suggested some ways to mitigate the pain of divorce for all parties involved — the couple, any children, and wider family circles.
Separate the practical questions from the emotional
That’s easier said than done, of course, but Lebow suggested that it’s important to separate the practical and emotional questions throughout a divorce. Both are crucial to address, but mixing them up can land you in an unnecessarily messy, hurtful separation, he says. Lebow suggests.
Find someone to talk to — and make sure it’s the right person
Give your emotions the attention they deserve, Lebow says: “Respect your feelings, work with them. Ask yourself, how am I going to treat them, how am I going to heal?” That might mean seeking out therapy, but it could also mean talking to a friend. Lebow cautioned that you shouldn’t rely on just any friend, however. Some friends will “mirror what you’re saying to them,” and while some of that kind of support is fine, Lebow emphasized the importance of friends that will give you a fresh perspective and keep you from getting stuck in your own narratives. So seek out friends who will help you focus on a more objective reality.
If you have children, sit down to difficult conversations as parents first
Ronald F. Levant, professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Akron, suggested that negotiating an amicable divorce may be more of a priority if you have children, because there’s real incentive to keep things civil and empathetic. “Having a child motivates parents to put their animosities aside for the sake of the child. Most know not to fight in front of their children. This is an extension of that,” Levant explained. He suggests that if you sit down to difficult conversations as parents first, you’ll likely find that they’ll go more smoothly.
Constance Ahrons, Ph.D., professor emerita of sociology at the University of Southern California, similarly encourages couples to focus on children, like Pratt and Faris have seemingly done, during the divorce process: she suggests cooperating with your ex for the sake of kids and remembering that “your child needs — and has a right — to both parents.”
Recognize things will change, and you’ll make mistakes, but that’s ok
Things are going to change. As you face that, “give yourself the room to stabilize so you can reorganize,” says Lebow. That might mean working less, or giving yourself time off from some social obligations. One of the most important parts of divorce, Lebow explained, is disconnecting from the marital relationship, and that means expecting a lot of changes, both big and small. As you work through the process, you may make mistakes, or take actions you regret, Lebow cautions, but that’s normal. What to do when it happens? Be kind to yourself and each other, learn from mistakes, and move forward.
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