According to “Marital Biography and Health at Midlife” the end of a marriage by divorce exacts an immediate toll on mental and physical health, although the effects might depend on gender, age, and the quality of the marriage. Divorce for some can traumatically injure the mind, body and immune system leading to depression, anxiety and other debilitating psychological illnesses.
Even if desired by both spouses, divorce is stressful. Parents facing divorce must make critical decisions relating to co-parenting and raising children, and they usually experience lowered incomes, increased expenses, and possibly experience social stigma and guilt. Transitioning through a major life change can literally make you sick.
If you feel that your marriage is broken and living in the relationship is already causing a decline in physical and emotional health, please reach out for help. Talk to a friend, pastor, or counselor. Seek medical attention when necessary. It is not o.k. to feel miserable. Take steps, baby steps if necessary, to get the help you need to evaluate your situation and take corrective action for your health and your family.
Strategy #1: Find Reasonable and Experienced Legal Counsel. Divorce lawyers often unwittingly play a role in escalating negative emotions and unnecessarily complicating matters for their client. This is not only unfortunate, but sometimes tragic for an emotionally traumatized divorce client. Our job as legal professionals is to resolve conflict, not add fuel to the fire. Consult an attorney to get some perspective on the legalities involved in obtaining a divorce. Talk with several experienced attorneys, if necessary, and find an experienced attorney who will listen and offer sound advice. Try to listen with an objective ear to the attorney’s analysis and advice. It may not necessarily be what you want to hear, but it may just be what is in your best interest. Bring someone with you to the legal conference that you know, trust and has your best interests at heart. Divorce is a complex subject with many moving parts and puzzle pieces. I find it is often immensely helpful to have someone you trust accompany you to at least the first legal conference.
Strategy #2: Encourage Settlement. There are many ways of obtaining a divorce. I am always in favor of early settlement whenever possible to minimize or avoid conflict, preserve financial resources, and protect the family. You may not have had a successful marriage, but you may still have a successful divorce. Perspective is everything. Sometimes people seeking a divorce are truly hurt or angry. The emotional cloud that hangs over the divorce process often makes it incredibly difficult for a person to think clearly and make long term critical life decisions. You should be able to depend on your attorney to keep you informed, answer your questions, and help you make decisions to resolve your family law dispute. Knowing when to compromise is key to resolving family law disputes in the long run.
Strategy #3: Encourage Counseling and Support. Even the most well-balanced, high functioning personality types fall to pieces on some level when facing a break-up. Many people don’t fully realize just how affected they are about their divorce or the divorce process. Too much help and internet surfing can drive you crazy; but not realizing that emotional and mental-health support is necessary and then seeking that help, can also magnify the hurt and impede conflict resolution. There are a multitude of resources, support groups, friends, and family to assist you through this time of crisis.
Strategy #4: Children Love and Need Both Parents. During a difficult divorce, it may seem that your spouse is the enemy. Sometimes it is necessary to protect your child(ren); i.e. from an alcoholic, abusive, or drug addicted spouse. However, unless there has been abuse, children love and want to be with both parents. Children become conflicted when one parent tries to vilify the other. Parents should try whenever possible to work together to reduce the stress that the child(ren) are experiencing and resolve the issues causing their distress. Children often need more emotional support and mental-health support than parents. Be mindful that your children may also benefit from counseling. Remember they love you both and need your protection.
Strategy # 5: Take a Break and Enjoy Life. It is important to realize that there is much more to life than your divorce. Take time to reflect on the fact that life is not all bad. Although you may be experiencing a life crisis, this cloud will pass. Once you have taken steps to take care of yourself, to protect your children from stress and negativity associated with divorce, and hired experienced and caring legal counsel, realize you have done what you can. It is now time for you to work on yourself. Do something that makes you feel whole again. Even going for a walk or light exercise can boost your energy and help you to think positively. Clear your mind and tell yourself it will be o.k. Think about something other than your divorce. If something related to your divorce comes up, jot it down, send an email to your lawyer, or request a conference. Leave the legal stuff to your lawyer. Avoid things that will cause you added stress or anxiety. Choose joy every day!