If your divorce has lasted longer than a year, you will eventually stumble upon divorce agony. There are so many emotions that are wrapped up in divorce. I have described them as an emotional jungle and the 5 stages of grief, but once your divorce hits the long-term divorce mark such as over a year you will eventually reach divorce agony. When you have been in a period of prolonged pain that twists your insides into new shapes, this feeling is agony. The pain is intensified if the estranged spouse is an abuser (neglectful, emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, etc.).
Divorce agony is like a wild horse confined to a cage and looking out to see a beautiful green pasture beyond its reach; the longing to be free is a desire that goes unsatisfied. Confinement creates a sense of claustrophobia. Things are cramped. Space is closing in. Turning around and around, but there is nowhere to go, but to stand in the same place looking out from the same viewpoint. Sweet scents come in on the breeze which provide some minor relief; however, no real resolution to the situation. There are moments when freedom seems obtainable; maybe someone from the outside looking in gives a glimmer of hope, however the moments are short lived and quenched quickly with reality.
Divorce with children is that reality in a contested divorce. Divorce with children are those steel bars that do not seem to go away. Children themselves do not create the steel bars that pin in the wild horse that longs to be free, the courts do. The divorce industry calls these steel bars coparenting. These steel bars are the constant reminder of the divorce state of your life. The issues that caused the divorce in the first place are still active and relived through coparenting and regular interaction with the person that caged you in the first place which creates agony. Coparenting itself is not the problem; however, the system does not customize coparenting according to relationship challenges. Happy coparenting cannot and will not exist in a contested divorce, do not be fooled. Also, it is common for a divorce to morph from an amicable divorce to a contested divorce very quickly when emotions run hot, be very careful there is no way to predict the outcome or plan for this switch.
Everyone will respond to divorce agony in their own way. If you are susceptible to substance abuse, stay clear of any situation that will expose you or tempt you. Do not let divorce agony impact your relationship with your child or children. If you can afford counseling consider it and schedule it. If you cannot afford counseling find an outlet, so that you are not facing this dreadful emotion alone. By joining a divorce group, talking with friends, starting a new hobby, writing or journaling you can better cope with divorce agony and tame the wild horse.
There are countless resources that falsely explain that divorce can be better for the children, because the children won’t be exposed to as much conflict or the children will be shielded from the parental relationship problems or co-parenting strategies minimize the effects of divorce for children. Yada, yada, yada. The ONLY scenario where it’s better for the children is when there is abuse; however if there is no probable cause against the perpetrator, there’s no guarantee of protection.
Relationships are not easy. A divorce relationship with children is probably one of the most difficult relationships that exist. Not only did the divorce happen in a public forum, family court, but the children are unknowingly catapulted into a world that’s ready to feast on their every vulnerability from the experience. The person that files for divorce does not have this insight beforehand, because the person that files is thinking only about their own circumstances and how the divorce will be an instant solution to whatever is going on in their relationship. There are countless resources that falsely explain that divorce can be better for the children, because the children won’t be exposed to as much conflict or the children will be shielded from the parental relationship problems or co-parenting strategies minimize the effects of divorce for children. Yada, yada, yada. The ONLY scenario where it’s better for the children is when there is abuse; however if there is no probable cause against the perpetrator, there’s no guarantee of protection. Any other excuse for the divorce being better for the children comes from rationalization which softens the blow of truth.
It’s a fact, relationships aren’t easy. The people who’ve mastered relationships are good at recovery. The people that have broken relationships struggle to master recovery. Any relationship without some level of conflict isn’t an example of a real relationship with real people. Every person that starts a relationship has a point of reference. Often the point of reference can get lost if you track the point of reference back to childhood. When people experience extreme circumstances they often block it out; who wants to be reminded of bad memories? Human brains don’t, at least not intentionally. In some cases this blocking of memories is defined by psychologists as Dis-associative Amnesia. These bad memories shape how you operate under stress and how you relate to others. When you divorce with children, you are placing them into this dangerous arena. Their brains are chemically changed during a divorce, because they are forced to experience ADULT emotions and deal with ADULT problems. Divorce emotions are a thing to be reckoned with as ADULTS; most ADULTS can’t handle the emotions much less children.
It’s a fact, by divorcing you’re making it that much harder for your children to navigate relationships, plus facilitating a number of side effects. Children that grew up with parents that kept things behind closed doors struggle immensely with conflict resolution as adults. Children in a divorce struggle with the same thing! Children learn by watching, hearing and experiencing. Stripping your children of your relationship takes this opportunity away from them and maybe they will eventually see healthy conflict resolution if someone remarries and STAYS MARRIED; however, the statistics don’t look good for second marriages.
It’s a fact, there is NO WAY to shelter your kids from the divorce storm. There are helpful resources like counseling, communication strategies and so on; however these are no substitute for a loving relationship between the people that your children love the most – you and your spouse. Finding a good qualified counselor is critical. If you don’t see results from going to counseling within the first month, find someone else. Find a counselor that is educated in the Gottman principles of relationships. If you’re considering divorce, but haven’t taken the plunge; please consider counseling. Take it seriously. Act as though the counseling is the next step in a business deal, career advancement, self-actualization discovery, living life to the fullest, whatever it may be. Be an active participant, instead of a spectator – you won’t regret it.