Divorce Recovery

The end of a marriage can be one of the most stressful events a person experiences. Even for the partner who chooses to leave, divorce is likely to bring up a range of painful and difficult emotions such as grief, guilt, anger, confusion, fear, shame, anxiety, and other intense feelings.


If children are involved, the stress level is likely to be even higher. People sometimes seek therapy to help them decide whether to stay in a marriage or leave. Others may seek help in counseling to make the transition from marriage to being single again. Both these goals can be addressed in individual or couple’s therapy.


Why Do People Get Divorced?


There are numerous reasons for why partners get divorced, and many couples cite a combination of reasons rather than just one single problem. The most common reasons people identify for getting a divorce include:


  • Lack of commitment, including marrying too young or marrying the wrong person

  • Infidelity

  • Too much arguing

  • Inequality in marriage, particularly regarding chores or care for children


Psychologist John Gottman (University of WA) has dedicated his professional career to researching the reasons for problems in relationships, and theorizes that it is not so much specific problems that lead to divorce, but issues with the way partners relate to one another. He argues that there are “four horsemen” which tend to predict divorce.


  • 1) Criticism, particularly when the criticism is not outweighed by frequent positive statements

  • 2) Contempt and lack of respect. Gottman argues that this is the single best predictor of divorce and can be seen even early on in a relationship.

  • 3) Defensiveness. People who cannot take responsibility for a problem cannot fix it and cannot display empathy for their spouse.

  • 4) Stonewalling, which is the deliberate avoidance of interaction and discussion of problems. Stonewalling can make it impossible to resolve an argument.


When a marriage ends, it can be emotionally traumatic for each partner. In order to cope with the difficult mental, physical and financial process of uncoupling, an individual may choose to begin therapy. Divorce therapy is usually done on an individual basis.


A spouse who is going through a divorce may be facing feelings of guilt, fear, anxiety, depression and grief. Working with a therapist can provide an objective and rational perspective and arm a person with the necessary skills to navigate the choppy waters of the divorce.


People who rely on therapy during that difficult time benefit from learning more about themselves and see the life transition as an opportunity for growth and personal development.


Divorce therapy is also available for couples who are in the process of going through a divorce, as a means for working together in a healthy, constructive fashion to achieve the dissolution of the marriage.


A divorce therapist acts as a sort of mediator, and sets guidelines to ensure that the divorce is achieved with minimal hostility and emotional damage. Therapists can address pertinent issues, such as living arrangements, financial obligations and parenting responsibilities.


Will your children need therapy?


No matter what age children are when their parents divorce, it is a major, life-altering experience. This is true for children who live at home as well as for adult children. The first year after a divorce is the most crucial, regardless of age, as all involved—adults and children—are working at putting together a different life than the one they had been living up until that point.


It is important to address the emotional adjustment of everyone. This often means the adults have to be very careful about taking care of themselves in order to be able to take care of their children. It is analogous to putting the oxygen mask on your face before putting it on your child’s in an airplane.


To ensure everyone in the family is given the best chance to heal, many couples seek therapy for themselves as well as their children.  Seeking an outside support for the children does not reflect on an individual's parenting ability. It is important that kids have a safe place to talk about their thoughts and feelings.   It is common for kids to stop sharing feelings with their parents during a divorce, possibly in the hopes of changing the outcome.    Talking about their feelings with someone outside of the family can be very healing for children.


Courtesy of Good Therapy