How To Survive Divorce

There are many articles that have been written about how to survive divorce and many therapists run their entire practice on giving advice on this very issue.

As a practitioner, it is incredibly important for our respective clients whether they are men or women to understand the various stages of emotions that our client’s will feel during the course of the divorce or breakup process.  Whilst many believe that only women want to talk about their feelings and that men do not discuss these matters at all, our experience as practitioners is that many men wish to have a woman lawyer so that they can express their hopes, their concerns and talk openly about what has occurred in their relationship.   From our experience many men are incredibly truthful about their own failings but also are now willing to openly talk about how they themselves have faced abuse.  For many men talking about being abused by a woman is a very difficult concept but seasoned practitioners will understand that there are certain trigger questions that can be asked which would allow somebody to open up to their experiences whether they are a man or a woman.

The first aspect off how to survive a divorce is to know that you have chosen the correct lawyer who you can work with and you can have meaningful conversations with to discuss your fears and concerns and if you have not understood some of the concepts of the process are able to repeatedly ask about these and not face criticism.  Not everyone is able to grasp from the very outset the nuances of the information required or the process itself.  Being able to talk with your lawyer is the most important factor of surviving a divorce.

Can I survive a divorce?

Many people instigating divorce proceedings or splitting up with their partner will often ask themselves whether they can survive without their partner, both emotionally and financially.  Everyone can survive a relationship breakdown provided they understand what they will face, that they have a practical approach to it and not harbour unrealistic expectations.  Some parts of the process some will find exceedingly painful and it does represent to many a very major loss in their life and the loss of a parent to the children in some ways.  It will be difficult and no practitioner should lead their clients to believe that it is utopia.  However, there will be certain aspects that are troublesome but on the whole anyone is capable with adapting with the right lawyer and right approach and you most certainly will survive.

Remember to see our post on how to tell your children about divorce

So is this article for men or women?

As practitioners we find that what is incredibly important is for our clients to receive support from their own network, which can mean both family and friends.  It is mainly the case that some men have less of a support network to discuss the nuances with than women do.  Women like to discuss matters ad nauseam so that every emotional and financial factor can be gone over with every friend in their group.  As a practitioner I would advise against this kind of approach since it can be exceedingly confusing if various friends, with their own background experiences, give advice that may conflict directly with the strategy and advice being given by the divorce lawyers themselves.

It is a known fact that when you are going through a divorce everyone, and from our experience we mean everyone from family, friends and even distant acquaintances, will want to offer their opinion on the subject whether you want them to or not.  Whilst their advice is usually well intentioned, sometimes it can grate, sometimes it can give rise to worries that they has not even thought about, and very often it can increase a client’s costs if they have been exposed to a series of potential scenarios that bear no relevance to their case whatsoever but suddenly think may apply to them.   Our advice therefore is restrict the number of opinions that you take while you are going through the process because it only leads to confusion.

Some women liken the discussions that they have with friends, to that they have when they are about to give birth.  Everyone has an opinion of what should happen and has terror stories to impart.  The people that you should listen to are those that bring you positive comfort and a divorce lawyer with a specific strategy that you can rely upon.  If the advice being given by a friend invokes terror or concern, thank the person giving it, move on and do not speak to them very often until you have gone through the process.

If you feel there is a particular group that are giving rise to unnecessary concerns, speak to one person in the group and ask them to speak to the others to suggest that, whilst you very much welcome talking through your worries, sometimes the suggestions being made are really causing concern and in these circumstances perhaps they could just listen rather than imparting advice.  There is always a way of saying this without hurting other peoples feelings.  Self protection through your divorce is crucial and therefore, being exposed to somewhat unhelpful remarks or suggestions is something that you need to avoid in order to survive your divorce.

The Five Stages

Divorce can be a loss to some or the beginning of an adventure for others.  From an emotional perspective you are likely to go through the five stages that are usually associated with grief. This referred to as the Kubler-Ross model and it is a theory that suggests that anyone dealing with grief will go through a series of emotions in the same kind of order.

Whilst we have written about this before, it is important to fully understand what those stages are and how to deal with them. These stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally, acceptance.   It is recognised that there is no set time frame to any of these, but one of the key aspects of going through a divorce is to look inward and be honest with yourself about where you truly are on that journey.

The first stage is denial and very few of us are capable of recognising that we are in denial in our own lives. That is why it is important, we would suggest, to continue to socialise although your social makeup will sometimes have to change. There will inevitably be people that you spent time with as a couple and others with whom you became friends because they were friends with your partner. There’s no reason that you have to be cut off from these people In your life but there has to be some kind of acceptance that there may be some changes and you may see less of them.  Do not be concerned by this because what you are embarking upon can be seen as an adventure.  Along most people’s lives, they will make friends and discard friends for various reasons.

What you need when going through the emotional turmoil of a relationship breakdown in a divorce is to have your closest friends and family to be with you,  to listen to you, and to hold a mirror up to you every once in a while if it looks like you’re not moving past the first stage and remaining in denial.

The next stage is anger and for many people anger can be an untamed monster. Some people will lash out and react without thinking, all the while becoming a person that they would never knowingly wish to be. It is very easy at this stage to apportion blame, especially if you were not the person who initiated the divorce or feel a sense of loss and abandonment. Some can feel that they have been ambushed and those feelings can be very difficult to face.  Sometimes, women who have been very abused can feel exceedingly angry when they realise and face the fact that the behaviour that they have been experiencing over a long period of time was unacceptable and they feel that they have sacrificed too much of their lives for a person who they now believe was undeserving of their care and love.

For a lot of people, the remedy for that angry stage is time. With each passing day the ‘red mist’ will start to dissipate. However, there are some people who may need help if their anger is out of control and will need to be assisted with anger management or tools to deal with this to supress the anger into a natural state.  Also, therapists can help them overcome the anger they feel and channel that anger into positive action for the future, particularly to deal with overcoming abuse if they have been exposed to the same.

There are some that become really angry if they have very unrealistic expectations, none of which are rooted in reality.  It is vital that we make clients realise the parameters of any settlement so that they don’t continue to have false expectations that will only be frustrated.  Some clients, in their anger, can become very closed off and not wish to talk to anyone at all.  Being able to communicate during this painful time is all important and it is particularly important that you discuss these issues with the divorce lawyer concerned so that they can make you see the reality and assist you in working towards it.

In some cases, clients will not have any communication with their ex-partners and sometimes that can be a mistake.  It is important to try to remain civil if possible and to keep an avenue of communication so that terms for the divorce can if possible be discussed, even briefly.  If matters reach a warring level it is much more difficult to convince a client to negotiate, and negotiation must always be considered at every stage.  If you become so engrossed in your own misery, not wishing to communicate or deal with matters on a sensible or civil basis, you can spiral back into phase 1 ie the denial phases, in which case you may be going through the entire emotional roller coaster over and over again.  We always try to discourage this kind of approach and therefore undertaking therapy at this stage is vital.

Sometimes there can be a stage of depression.  Without the correct checks and balances in place, this can be a very unhappy place for a client to land themselves in.  It is very important to find help at this stage if clients look as if they are spiralling into a depressive state.  Again, at Lloyd Platt & Company, we are adept at recognising the symptoms of depression and will sometime speak with the party’s family, if we have been asked to maintain contact with them, to urge them to get help for our client.   Depression can come in many forms, we are not medical practitioners but, depression is nothing to be ashamed about and it is important to recognise so that you can be referred for the correct help in order to assist your own divorce case.  In extreme cases of depression clients will simply not take in the advice that is being given to them or be unable to cooperate in providing us with information or documentation to assist their case.  You will no doubt recognise that this is vital in order to progress a person’s case.

If you are turning to drugs or alcohol for a boost, it will certainly make things worse and has been medically recognised as such.

If you are starting to ignore your health and appearance and become such that you just want to disappear into watching television or noncommunication on a daily basis, it is likely that you are going into a depressive state.  There is a vast difference between being frightened and being in a totally depressed state that stops you functioning in a normal manner.  Being able to recognise the difference is part of the way forward.

One aspect that we find very helpful is for clients to try to look at matters in a positive way.  If you can look at the divorce process as a challenge, as the start of a new life that would lead to new adventures, you will have a very different approach to your divorce and come out of the same less affected.  Joining a gym, trying some new classes, starting a diet, or joining a  group of likeminded people, will certainly assist and make you realise that none of you are alone in this process.

There is no one solution fitting every client but at Lloyd Platt & Company we do pride ourselves at being able to recognise the stages that clients are at and helping them through each of these to a successful conclusion. Being uncertain about what is going on in your matrimonial case, failing to understand the process, or being frightened by things that everyone is saying around you without being able to communicate with your lawyer, are all matters that we fervently avoid at Lloyd Platt & Company.  We cannot promise that it will be an entirely easy ride but we can promise that we will hold your hand throughout the process.

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