Recognizing the needs of others during your divorce
Your marriage impacted far more people than just you and your spouse, and your divorce won’t be any different. The decision to end your marriage will have an impact on your kids, neighbors, families, and friends. It’s important to comprehend their perspective during this time in order to meet their needs and create understanding during this transition. In addition, it’s critical to be sensitive to the perspective of your spouse during this time as well, so that the process of divorce can be as smooth as possible.
Here are three groups that will be influenced by your divorce, what to expect, and how you can help ease the transition for them, based on research from Susan Pease Gadoua (2018).
The age of your kids will impact their response to your divorce. Young kids may not quite understand what is happening while older kids may be more prone to blame themselves for the situation. According to Susan Pease Gadoua (2018), all kids need honesty and transparency about what is happening. Even if you feel they are too young to understand, talk to them about the change and reassure them that the decision was not caused by anything they did. Focus on the positive aspects of the change, such as two bedrooms to decorate, two Christmas celebrations, and happier parents.
If you and your spouse are still arguing, minimize the tension and conflict they witness. Set aside time to talk with your spouse only when the kids are out of the house or in the evenings after they have gone to bed. Do your best not to make time together tense or uncomfortable for them.
Lastly, create stability for your kids during this time. Ensure they have a consistent schedule, remain in their home, if possible, and aren’t subjected to any surprises that could be avoided. Make sure they still see the friends, family, and neighbors they are accustomed to seeing in order to create some certainty during this time of change.
Your family is most likely saddened by the news of your divorce and may mourn the loss of their son- or daughter-in-law. Don’t ask family to take sides, and don’t put family members in the middle (Susan Pease Gadoua, 2018). Ideally, both partners can maintain family ties of some sort, especially when there are kids involved who may have relationships with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Don’t be afraid to talk openly about the relationship with your spouse (Susan Pease Gadoua, 2018) and provide details about the reasons for the divorce (when kids aren’t around) in order to help your family better understand. Answer their questions candidly to create more understanding.
Your Friends and Neighbors
So often, friends and neighbors feel they need to take sides. It might be awkward for them to spend time with each partner individually and they often feel caught in the middle. Most friends will, ultimately, choose a side, or cut ties with you altogether. Recognize that this group feels awkward, torn, and shouldn’t be your only support during this transition. Sometimes friends need space during the divorce and shortly after and it’s easier to reconnect after the dust has settled.
Finally, throughout your marriage, you probably put yourself in your spouse’s shoes in an effort to be understanding and empathetic to his or her needs. During your divorce, it’s easy to discard your spouse’s emotions as valuable now that you are going your separate ways. An amicable and peaceful separation will be better for everyone involved. That means being respectful in the way you communicate with your spouse (Susan Pease Gadoua, 2018), and being kind and patient. Giving him or her time to process and even discuss his or her feelings, both about your marriage and about your divorce, will accelerate acceptance and closure.
Lastly, try to be predictable in your actions and words. There are a lot of unknowns during a divorce and the last thing your partner wants is surprises (Susan Pease Gadoua, 2018). Be communicative about expectations, timelines, and milestones as your divorce unfolds.
At Center for Shared Insight, we help clients overcome any life-changing events, including divorce. Our team specializes in relationship therapy that provides strategies for thriving, despite challenging circumstances. Our work starts with a free consultation in which we more fully understand your unique situation and explain how we can support you during this time. Contact our team for a free consultation or learn more about our divorce group that can help provide support during this transition.
Pease Gadoua, S. (2018). To Divorce or Not to Divorce: Helping Clients Get Out of Marital Indecision. A Training for Therapists.