Going through a divorce can be difficult, especially if there are kids involved. Experts say to seek out professional help, not base your decision on what people may think, and to do what’s going to make you a better version of yourself.
“Think about how every individual person is unique — our life experiences, our family, our friends shape who we are as a human being,” says Joey Thompson, licensed clinical social worker and co-founder of Designing Transitions. “It’s never the same for two people. The difference primarily between making the marriage decision versus the divorce decision is the divorce is going to be a negative impact in a lot more aspects of your life than the marriage would be.”
Thompson says when you go through a divorce, whether you have children or not, you still have families together, friends together and a financial support system together. You’re still dividing everything. Most people like to try and minimize that disruption for themselves and everybody else.
What becomes overwhelming is making all those critical decisions while in crisis mode. Crisis mode is what happens when we feel an overwhelming burden of consequences from one decision. Whether you stay married or get divorced, that affects every aspect of your life.
If you’re unsure of what the next step should be, don’t be afraid to seek help.
“If you truly don’t know, then ask,” Thompson says. “Go to a marriage counselor, talk to a financial person, seek out those people who aren’t in crisis mode that can objectively look at your situation. The more prepared you are, the better it’s going to be for everybody. So just up and leaving in the middle of the night and saying ‘I want a divorce’ and then living separately and going and filing at a later date is going to be one of the least effective, if you’re looking at overall happiness, care and sustainability.”
Mediation is an option.
“Honestly, the biggest thing is it saves you money,” says Lori England, mediator with Designing Transitions. “Mediation allows the two participants to really control their destiny, how they want things to be worked out, rather than have a judge decide the fate of the children or the fate of the financial assets. It actually puts the power back in the couple’s hands.”
The fear of what everyone will think is a struggle for some.
“We look on an individual level,” Thompson says. “If I was just working with that person, we would look at those values and try to write them in priority. So if you’re in an unhealthy relationship, that usually means that person isn’t allowed to be healthy. If you have children, are you setting the example that you want? If your family knew what you were going through, would they still want you to stick with it? Which decision is going to make you the best version of yourself?”
She says that some people choose to suffer through divorce alone. Kids struggle alone because they see their parents struggling, so they don’t burden them. Parents struggle alone because they don’t want to burden their friends or their children. A lot of times, therapy is helpful because of that outside perspective and the confidentiality can allow those feelings to be expressed.
The best thing friends and family of the divorcing couple can do is be there for them.
“For the most part, let them know you care. You can do it through showing them. Tell them, ‘I care about you.’ Tell them, ‘I care about what you’re going through. I will listen. If you need something, tell me.’ Ask them questions,” Thompson says.
She says it’s also important for those involved in a divorce to take care of their personal needs.
“The other part of that is when you’re in that survival mode, we tend to hoard everything. We socially isolate because it’s too much,” Thompson says. “We’re still human, we need those basic functions. We need to sleep. We need to eat. You have to take care of yourself and focus on the things you can control.”