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By Irving H. Zaroff, JD LMFT and Dana Schutz, MA LMFT
March on, and fear not the thorns, or the sharp stones on life's path.
Previously we discussed the phases of divorce encompassing the decision to divorce, the process of divorcing, and arriving at the transition stage which describes the shift from interdependency and joint decision making toward independent choices based on a single life. From a world with divided roles, each former spouse must develop the capabilities that had been the responsibility of their mate.
For some, it is learning how to manage finances, such as balancing the check book, paying the bills, preparing or filing tax returns, doing minor repairs, washing dishes or doing the laundry. At the same time, children need attention in monitoring school work, opportunity for play and social contact, and, most importantly, support in adapting to the new living arrangements.
The shift may include re-entry into the workforce, creating new social networks, re-examining one’s purpose in life, trying new experiences that seemed far-fetched in the past. It is a time when curiosity can be a powerful ally in enriching life. When the divorce process was “successful,” there is more optimism and the recently divorced spouse can work through the healing from loss and look at the future as an opportunity for growth.
For others, of course, divorce can intensify the very problems that led to the divorce – unhappiness, dissatisfaction, frustration and pain. It can lead to profound loneliness and fear. This may result in a remarriage that repeats the experience from the first marriage. Each person has a unique amount of resiliency. Some bounce back quickly, while others get swallowed up in their grief. Those around them may be pulled in as well.
Like most things in life, the post-divorce direction is a choice. When couples work together through the divorce, positive choices are more apparent and easier to select. The ability to recognize the need for support and the willingness to ask for it are major contributors toward a successful shift in attitude. Friends can help (although negative support at this stage is not useful) as well as professional counseling. As Gibran said, “To go forward is to move toward perfection.”