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Imagine a marriage where both parties are unhappy and bickering all the time. Their values and goals are different. There is no chemistry or even affection between them. The children are exposed to awkward silences and all-out battles. There may be emotional, verbal or physical abuse. Everyone in the family is miserable-often suffering quietly in silence as they desperately try to maintain the status quo. Should this couple stay together for the “sake of the children”? Most of us would agree they would be better off apart.

Now what if those two people, without the stress of trying to get along in this marriage, found that they were happier separately? What is they could acknowledge that their marriage was over without resentment or blame? What if they could get along on parenting issues? What if, outside of the rigors of the marital relationship, they were able to consistently exercise respect, and clear communication? As separate individuals, they could thrive, perhaps remarry and experience good viable relationships. The children would also thrive, as there would be no stress between the parents. The children could be exposed to two different, yet high-functioning families-perhaps including remarriage-perhaps not. That would be a good divorce.

How often do I see good divorces? More often than you can imagine, but a good divorce relationship rarely evolves right after a bad marriage. Once the pain, anger and disappointment are dealt with, and legal and financial matters are resolved, many  couples find they actually do quite well dealing with each other, even after one or both has remarried. This usually takes time-at least a couple of years- for the dust to settle.

Articles and books are filled with stories of horrible post-divorce relationships. Yet a peaceful post-divorce relationship is possible. What’s the secret? Both parties need to WANT that to happen, which means more than anything else dealing with your own feelings of anger, resentment and disappointment. Also, if there are issues of emotional/physical abuse or addiction those need to be dealt with as well. A truly healthy relationship is only possible when both people are willing to take responsibility, acknowledge their own shortcomings and treat the other with respect. In a relationship with there is “one ups-man-ship” or one tries to be in control, the post relationship will be- like the marriage-fraught with turmoil and strife. Perhaps, most importantly, they both need to give each other the benefit of the doubt and take the high road in their ongoing relationship.

Sometimes there are good divorces. There could be more good divorces, if each partner stopped trying to assign blame but rather could self -reflect and be willing to accept responsibility for their part in the demise of the relationship. Furthermore, if culturally we were less negative and judgmental about divorce, people would feel less stigmatized and less like failures. There would be less hurt feelings and acrimony. Divorce could be acknowledged as a good solution to a bad situation.

Marriage is not going out of style, but it is changing. Some say this is in response to the women’s movement, increased life expectancy, the sexual revolution or economics. The reasons are complicated and vary with each situation. However, we are marrying just as often, and divorcing more frequently. We try again and again. We keep trying because loving, connection, and commitment have not gone out of style. They merely look different.

No one takes divorce lightly. It is a decision we wrangle with. Often, we take more time considering divorce than we do marriage. Divorce is not always a negative thing. It can be an opportunity for all parties involved to have a better, healthier life. It can be a gift to our children and future generations as well.

Rather than just focusing on divorce as the end of something, consider and work toward building a new relationship with your ex-spouse. After the dust of the divorce drama settles, you may find you communicate more effectively now than when you were married. Together you can work toward a “Good Divorce”.

 

 

© 2013 Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC is a psychotherapist in private practice in Farmington, CT since 1986. She is the author of the award winning From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life: A Woman’s Journey through Divorce now available in Kindle format for $9.99 as well as in paperback

 

 

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