In every single divorce case that I help with, one of the questions that I ask is this:
“On a scale of 1 to 10, how ready are you to be divorced?”
It is rare that I get the same number from both spouses. It’s more likely that the spouses are in very different places.
One has informed the other some version of this message: I want to get a divorce. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time and I’m not taking this lightly. I’ve tried to make this work, and although I really don’t want to hurt you, I just can’t do this anymore.
The spouse learning this message is usually not completely blindsided, but they are usually not aware that things have gotten this bad. They feel surprised and often desperate to change their spouse’s mind. There are lots of questions about why, and how this could have happened. Can’t we work on this?
I get this question ALL. THE. TIME.: “Why does he/she seem fine with this? Why are they fine walking away from the family without any emotion at all?”
To the second spouse, it seems sudden… abrupt. Emotionless.
In reality, the spouse who has initiated the divorce has gone through months (if not years) of soul searching, trying to make it work. Once they finally decided that a divorce was inevitable for them, it took a number of months to figure out how to tell their spouse.
Here’s the key: The spouse who announces that there will be a divorce is MONTHS, if not years ahead of the other spouse in the grieving process.
The spouse receiving the news feels like a puddle of emotion on the floor. While the spouse delivering the information may feel like they’ve finally gotten something off their chest they were holding onto for an eternity.
All of these dynamics make for a challenging line for everyone to walk. Personally, this is why I believe that having a neutral Divorce MHP (mental health professional) / communication coach can be so helpful. However, here are some key things to remember if you find yourself in this situation:
- If you are the spouse initiating the divorce:
- Your partner may need some time to fully understand where you are in this process – that you have invested lots of time and thought into this and that you aren’t changing your mind. Be clear about your decision.
- Be patient as your spouse comes up to speed and has time to adjust to this new future they will have. Their whole life is about to change, and they didn’t choose that. It’s okay, and it can be a positive change, but patience is the order of the day.
- If you have minor children, be very clear about your commitment to continuing to work together for the best of the children. Avoid conflict in front of them at (almost) all costs.
- Look into great options for working well together through divorce.
- If you are the spouse learning that you’ll be divorcing:
- Take time to grieve.
- Get some supports around you. Friends and family, therapist if needed, church community if that’s helpful.
- When you are ready, have openminded conversations with your spouse about how they’d like to move forward through the process.
- If you have minor children, avoid conflict in front of them at (almost) all costs.
- Try not to think of your spouse as a “monster” or a “villain” – that will make it VERY hard to make good choices as you move through the divorce process and decide things for your future.
Bottom line: this is an exceedingly stressful time for everyone. Even though it may look easier for one party… it’s not. They just did their grieving over a more prolonged period of time.
If you need help walking through the process, we can definitely help you out. Our specialties: Adjusting to Divorce and Conscious Uncoupling are two options to help you through Divorce, each addressing a different point in the process. Reach out. We can help.