Surviving Divorce: It's hard to be civilized but possible
Divorce is a terrible blow to the very foundation of the human existence, which one might not recover. The consequences will be, in any case, whether these effects are tragic for our future fate or will come to something new and good.. That depends on our actions in the process of experiencing and overcoming divorce.
First you need to understand the causes of the incident. After all, the thought of our fault, the fault of the other person, that the divorce could not be, “if it were not for..” - it is one of the most painful in this period.
Why does divorce happen? In the psychological literature and explanations of people who go through divorce, there are more than a dozen reasons: husband cheating, drinking or doesn’t earn much, or wife is silly, does not conform to the ideals and constantly "nagging", "not working together" and so on. But we must understand that these explanations don't talk about the reasons for divorce and the cause of the conflict. Also there are a lot of ways out and divorce is only one of them, probably the most unconstructive.
There are two basic grounds of spouses towards each other in a conflict situation. First is cognitive. Trying to understand and find a spouse's role in ones actions in spite of the pain that it brings. Second is protective. Trying to get away from the pain to protect themselves from attack and then attacking oneself. The second strategy is implemented successfully in divorce institutionalized way to eliminate a loved one as a source of pain. In rare, particularly pathological cases, this strategy is justified. But justified much less frequently than it used to.
To protect themselves from the pain, the spouses blame one another and refuse to understand their contribution to the conflict situation, claiming its portion of disruptive behavior hereafter. And then in the new family, if it is formed, creates similar conflict situations. As a result, a person is forced to “run away” for a lifetime of pain, and in fact from themselves, or at some point have the courage to face the truth. But there will add the pain for the lost years...
There is a paradox: a divorce is psychologically safe only when the conflict is resolved. The problems solved in that situation where they were arisen, with the same spouse. But if the conflict is resolved, why people should divorce?
Sorrow works for us
Very often the pain of divorce is heavier to the one who didn’t want to divorce, who tried to straighten out the family situation. Speaking everyday language, to the one who "abandoned". The first reaction is shock. The world seems to dissolve in the fog, the person doesn't want to have contact with the reality that their family no longer exists. He denies, not recognizing the fact that the spouse has left. The man thinks that their beloved one will come to its senses and say that it was a rash act, that we should still try to straighten out the relationship and stay together. The abandoned one lives in the past and fails to recognize the fact of loss.
Often people in this state are very intrusive, constantly calling to the former spouse or chasing him, seeing them still as something of their own, more estranges themselves from the spouse. In such situations, the paradox of passion begins to work, the essence of which is exactly expressed by A. Pushkin: "The less we love her when we woo her, The more we draw a woman in". Therefore, even if a person hopes for a miracle and wants to restore everything as it was, paradoxically, they need to acknowledge the loss and accept the fact that you are abandoned, try to move on and live on your own, there is no way to the past. And even if one day your ex-spouse will come back to you, then it will be new relationship and fresh start. To agree with it means to accept the fact that life goes on, and at the same time it means to agree to the abyss of pain, anger, despair, hopelessness, anxiety, guilt and almost all negative feelings. It hurts when you are alone, it hurts when you are with the people and it especially hurts when forced to see the former spouse. This is one of the reasons why some fathers cease temporarily or permanently to communicate with children left with their mothers.
Anger arises as a reaction to an obstacle to the achievement of the desired. When a person recognizes that the family is dead, there is a strong anger at the perpetrator, the former spouse. The abandoned spouse feels partly raped – in the meaning that it happened against their own free will, and was forced to go through such a terrible pain. Therefore, the degree of aggression may reach the desire to kill or cripple the now former husband or wife for refusing to live together.
When the realization comes that anger is a bad counselor, that displaying of anger can lead to irreparable errors, there is actually a proper response of acute grief, anguish, despair and hopelessness. At this phase the main constructive work of grief is taking a place. In the words of psychologist Vasilyuk F.E, regarded the translation of what happened in the past, "the creation of memory." Here, people coexist in two worlds, which one is in the past, with their spouse and another is in the present, alone. Here, in the depths of despair, the person lets their spouse to leave them, keeps them only as a memory in which they are still together, so they can carry on living separate lives. F.E. Vasilyuk: "at this moment occurs not just a separation, rupture and destruction of the old connection that believed to be the modern theory, but a new relationship is born. The pain of acute grief is not just the pain of deterioration, destruction and extinction but also the pain of birth of the new. What is it exactly? Two new self and a new relationship between them, new times, even two worlds and agreement between them." (1)
So after passing through the crucible suffering, the only way that we will be able to recover is to regain integrity, learn to live again and enjoy life, forever leaving the memory of the days when "we" or as already been said "they" were together. Finding ones new self, the fullness of life, the ability to live in the present and enjoy life is impossible without the "memory" from the past and the spouse who left and abandoned the family without having to go through the grief. It is to survive rather than to jump over it or to close your eyes and open them only when the pain is gone. Surviving grief is the main challenge.
If you're getting divorced, conclude it completely
Divorce includes the legal, physical, economic and emotional component. Divorce is the end of interactions on all this levels. Legally it means officially divorced. Physically it means not to live under the same roof (and not spending time as a guest at each other). Economically it means to allow all the economic and financial disputes with each other. Emotionally it means completely get free themselves from emotional experiences associated with the former spouse. Ideally, all of the senses should only remain in sorrow, sadness in Pushkin's sense, "my sorrow is a light." It is the memory of the good that once was, and acquired bitter experience and knowledge of what my actions is capable of destroying a family.
If the former spouse should further communicate (for example, about the upbringing of joint children) then the relationship should be smooth, quiet, friendly and respectful. This can be called equal cooperation. Many offer one another "to stay friends", but this a tricky situation. After all, friendship is a very important and significant component of the marital relationship. "To stay friends" in this case it mean "to remain spouses." And that means at least unfair attitude towards future spouse (if there is any) and the basis for disagreement with him. This is "unfinished” divorce. In this case, probably spouses should consider the necessary divorce.
Another version of "unfinished divorce" is endless litigation and division of property (and in worst cases, the children). Former spouses hate each other but the hatred of emotional intimacy, although with a negative sign.
Any unauthorized (deliberately or involuntarily) issue in the economic, legal or physical area leads to emotional intimacy, and it is the lack of freedom to change lives and to create a new family. We "stop" your life at the point of divorce. As the song goes "can't be together and can’t be apart". Therefore, if we divorce, then it is completely the end.
The art of experiencing divorce
How to act in order to experience grief, not delay longer than necessary and not turn into a depression? Here are some pitfalls that await you along the way.
Friends. Divorce divides mutual friends of spouses in two camps. Some are more sympathetic to the husband, the other to the wife. This is normal. But do not forget that a couple of the "opposing camp" will have to communicate, at least to greet when meeting in person. This does not mean that we should not share experiences with friends, you need them, they are your friends. But it is very important not to involve them in the prosecution of your spouse. In addition, we must be very careful with regards to friends of the opposite sex. When a friend of her husband comforted his wife until midnight intensifies the conflict. Even if he tells to his friend's wife what a wonderful husband she has. But then nothing can be done: a friend in need is a friend indeed.
From this point of view it is better to seek the necessary consolation in parents or siblings (but by no means to children, no matter how old are they), or to childhood friends.
In addition, it’s better to remember, that no one (friends, family, experts) are able to work your way (to walk your path of suffering with you from start to finish. This path is only yours. But only one who is able to be there for you every moment and will ease your suffering is Jesus Christ. For this you should appeal to His help in unceasing and humble prayer.
About it, in my opinion, it is clear that to start a new relationship, until you are emotionally connected to your formal spouse, first of all, dishonestly towards (in respect of?) new partner; in the second place, it’s dangerous: there is a big chance to create ever-depressed (dispirited?) family atmosphere.
The new partner will certainly ease suffering, but actually it is not relief, it is a delay of work with suffering for the future reference.
It is a type of rejection of the negative emotional experiences. And when a person refuses to deal with suffering paradoxically, positive emotions are leaving too. If man didn’t go through suffering, didn’t feel it deeply once for all.. The emotional experience will be there still. In this case all feelings (positive and negative) are leaving. “The sense of loss of the senses” is one of the symptoms of depression.
The same can be said about alcohol. Alcohol certainly temporarily relieves and reduces anxiety. Bu we shouldn't forget, that it is just the first short-term effects of alcohol. This makes it possible for some time not to worry. But later the alcohol acts as a depressant (which it is). The sudden attack of the same problems, sense of a guilt for weakness and on top of this the symptoms of poisoning..
Sleep distirbance and dysorexia.
Sound sleep and a good appetite are keys to our physical well-being. Even if we have spiritual wounds, our body should be in a working condition. So in case of sleep disturbance and dysorexia, we have a good cause of visiting a psychotherapist. It is very important to avoid self-treatment, because many tranquilizers are habit-forming.
Appearence of anger is a normal reaction to a situation like divorce. But how to deal with it? Anger’s relaxation (discharge of anger?) towards (against?) a left spouse, besides of finding yourself in trouble with the law, will bring the feeling of being drained and the sense of something irreversibly broken inside.
It will lead to bitterness and a desire for destroying everything more and more. But better not to pretend that there is no hatred at all, because otherwise it will eat up from the inside: the person becomes acrimonious, spiteful, drained and with the lapse of time – seriously sick.
There are many ways to modify negative feelings. Most of them come to a head safe expression of those feelings. For example, you can imagine your spouse sitting in front of you on the chair, and tell them everything that you want. Or to write a letter to them where you can tell about all your feelings and offences, and after that bury. Also it’s possible you can do it with the help of art. You can draw or model with plasticine your anger and then with complementary strokes transform it into something positive, maybe even to “love”. Another way of struggling with anger is to give to your family some small joys Initially it can be to parents, then to children, and after that to a spouse. You can give to your spouse a lot.. It can be a compromise, giving up on claims, stop calling all the time.. Just to make the situation of divorce easier for him or for her.
Anger is the feeling that requires motor relaxation. That’s why it’s better to have some manual labor or physical exercises (it is best with slack but long load: jogging, skiing, bicycle etc). But the best way to get rid of anger is prayer.
It can be enough even with a simple prayer in your own words, for example: "Lord, take me away from hatred and anger". Or: "God, bless him/her! ". If the Person isn't a believer, it's possible to appeal to the "higher power" as you understand it. Generally speaking, the methods of safe expression of anger can only defuse the angry passion, but to overcome hatred can only opposite actions of anger.. It can be only actions dictated by Love
Offence is a complex of feelings where manipulation occupies the important part. We take umbrage purposely to force the offender to change their behavior, to do what we need. Therefore, in a situation of divorce offense becomes pointless. Doesn’t matter what we want from a spouse.. We don’t have any right to want it, or we shouldn’t want it because it only delays divorce procedings. No matter how much we are hurt, we should forgive. You have to admit that a formal spouse doesn’t owe a debt to us.
Deep offences don't go away immediately, especially if it is a habitual way of communication. But one day we should grow up being offencive is a childish way of getting your own way, and divorce is the most favorable situation for this. The main thing to understand is that unforgiven offences won’t let us become free from the emotional connection with an ex-spouse. You can use any methods described above. They work with any negative feelings.
On the other hand, we can be offenders also. That's why it is very important not only to forgive but apologize as well (for everything in general, and for every single giving offence that you remember about). You must also pay all debts, keep all your promises. If you promised to buy a fur coat to your wife – buy it at last. Or at least show your willingness (maybe it won’t be that important anymore). One rule is very important here: only that person to whom you promised something can release you from it. If, with some reasons, it is impossible to keep your promise (and for complete divorce it is necessary to do), then you should ask for release. The unfulfilled promise is a chance to pay off till the rest of your life.
Sense of a guilt, shame and self-appraisal (self-rating? self-certification?).
The situation when you were left by someone is a strong blow to self-esteem. There are many anxious questions for onselve: “what’s wrong with me?”, “Am I that bad?..”, “What have I done wrong?”. And answers: “You are subhuman, you are rotter. The rotter that even wife/husband has left you”. It’s coming up a huge conglomeration of feelings: self-abasement, self-sufficiency, guilt and shame. And it’s very hard to sort it out. About it it’s very important to understand where you are really guilty and where not.
To begin with, let’s make out the difference between sense of a guilt and sense of shame (false sense of guilt). When they say: “It’s your fault”, it means you have done something wrong. The sense of guilt comes into being in evaluative at the age around 3, when little child finds the happiness of being apart of this world and become more or less independent: “I did it!”, “I want it!”, “I don’t want!” etc.
If a kid, for example, has broken the vase – he gets punishment. But it's very important for what do they punished? For taking it without permission. For doing what is not allowed. The sense of guilt closely related to activity of the person. The person can only be punished for something they really did. But what if the kid is punished if they are clumsy? This is not about guilt, but about shame.
Shame can emerge, according to some reports, in the embryo. For example, if a child is unwanted. Shame is inactive. Shame presses by parents which accuse the child not for they did something wrong, but for they are being here, the fact they are in this world, that they are “not good enough”.
Shame is always pathological, except the moments when we feel ashamed for somebody else. For example: I can feel ashamed for my son if he, let’s say, beat a girl. Directly it’s not my fault, I would never beat a girl. But that did my son. And he has done it already. I am ashamed. Unfortunately, many people have the strong feeling of shame. And often it happens due to weakness, fairs and incompetence in family upbringing of their parents.
So, the feeling of shame is not the result of divorce. The thoughts like: “Something wrong with me”, “It’s my fault” – come from childhood. Shame (the fake feeling of guilt) – it’s a separate subject for work with psychologist. And it’s a subject from childhood and relationship with parents.
In the situation of divorce, it is very important that a sense of shame won’t aggravate the emotional experience.
That’s why it’ll be good to remember that our spouse got married with this person that I am now. And on that moment, there were no questions what’s wrong with me and why I am not good enough. At that time, everything was fine. In addition, for the believer (and even for nonbeliever it will be useful to know) it’s not possible to think how despicable you are, because we all are created in His image and likeness.
And it doesn’t matter which way I was born. How would I prevent with my existence in life, how my parents treat me, how other people might tell me that better I wouldn’t be in this world at all.. I am His image and likeness, and there is nothing to be ashamed about. From another hand we should ask ourselves: Am I guilty? Yes, no doubts, there is our fault in the fact of divorce as well. But we should be honest and admit our fault, lie and mistakes. Because we must remember them and don’t repeat it later. We should become wiser.
But what should we do with self-appraisal self-certification How can we restore it? Some people do it by diving into work and increase income, others – by extortion good opinions about themselves from people around. But it's all very unstable and depends on many factors that is not in our power. This kind of self-esteem is based on opinions of other's. But what's the real basis of true self-esteem? It can sound paradoxically, but the situation of divorce provides the fertile ground for formation of fair, adequate and high self-esteem.
If I didn't answer on offence with offending. If I could forgive and let it go. If I was strong enough not to take revenge. If I was suffering without blaming anyone for that. If I was able to have relationship full of respect after divorce. If I could (even with a heavy heart) continue to be in touch with kids and didn’t use them as a “container” for my anger or offence. If I was able to muster sufficient strength to admit my mistakes and apologize for them. If I did everything right Correct.
The meaning of suffering.
However, sooner or later, the question “what is this suffering for? What do we get from torture? Can’t we manage without it? In general, we all know the answer: the soul cleanses of sins through suffering. But the question: “Why did I need that divorce in my life?” is very important to find the answer on and it will help us to move on. God doesn’t give us suffer that we can’t handle with.
But you need to apply a maximum effort. The situation of divorce is a very bright and painful flash of light, that light up whole past life. It reminds us that it’s hard to be civilized, but possible. It is a great opportunity to reconsider all your life and ability to become a better person. It is a chance to become more compassionate and humane with people around. It is a chance to make somebody else happy. It is real. I know it from experience.
Translation by Angelika Drigo and Lorraine Hynson
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Try your best to avoid a divorce (Sergey Nikolayev, Archpriest)