Healthy Divorce: Keys to Ending Your Marriage While Preserving Your Emotional Well-Being


While divorce can be filled with anger, frustration, and bitterness, most divorcing couples want to end their marriage in a manner that preserves their dignity and emotional health, especially if there are children in the picture. They want to prevent irreparable damage to themselves and their children from a long, drawn-out, ugly battle. The Healthy Divorce provides them with the tools to more peacefully negotiate the difficult process of divorce.

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Healthy Divorce: Keys to Ending Your Marriage While Preserving Your Emotional Well-Being

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While divorce can be filled with anger, frustration, and bitterness, most divorcing couples want to end their marriage in a manner that preserves their dignity and emotional health, especially if there are children in the picture. They want to prevent irreparable damage to themselves and their children from a long, drawn-out, ugly battle. The Healthy Divorce provides them with the tools to more peacefully negotiate the difficult process of divorce.

Filled with checklists, exercises, and rituals—as well as case histories of couples who have successfully used this positive approach—The Healthy Divorce is your essential guide to getting through your divorce without ruining your life or permanently harming your children.

The Healthy Divorce empowers couples to negotiate, handle sensitive issues, and resolve conflicts in a way that allows them to emerge from divorce with their emotional well-being intact. The Healthy Divorce includes:

  • The seven keys to a healthy divorce
  • How to separate yourself from the marriage emotionally
  • How to best defuse a dispute before it escalates
  • The best way to handle an uncooperative ex


"Required reading for anyone contemplating divorce."
Publishers Weekly

"This is an achievable model of what divorcing parents can do that's positive for themselves, their spouse, and their children."
Jay Folberg, Professor Emeritus and Former Dean of the University of San Francisco Law School

"A wonderful book, immensely readable, very human, quite moving...Will help couples divorce in a more civilized way."
Joan B. Kelly, PhD, co-author of Surviving the Break-Up

"Fascinating and informative... This book should prove valuable to those who are contemplating divorce or going through divorce, as well as to mental health professionals from all specialties who treat divorcing adults and children of divorce."
Florence Kaslow, PhD, Past President, International Family Therapy Association

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781572487079
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks
  • Publication date: 1/1/2009
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 960,186
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Lois Gold, MSW is the past president of the National Academy of Family Mediators. She received her BS from the University of Pittsburgh and MSW from New York University. She focuses on divorce, family, and workplace mediation in her private therapy practice in Portland, Oregon.

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Read an Excerpt

Excerpt fromChapter 1: The Healthy Way

Real Life Stories
The marriage had no heartbeat. We were quietly suffocating. I moved out. We agreed we would work things out with the kids and the money. Three months later the only people still speaking were our attorneys. I don't know how it happened. I was depressed and felt lost without the kids. I was tired of being the deep pocket, tired of trying to take care of everything. There she was, sitting pretty in the big house, with the good car, and, most importantly, the kids. I wanted her to go back to work. I wanted to be with the kids more. I tried, I really tried to talk to her. She said I was pushing. I couldn't make her understand money was tight, that I was close to the edge. She said she was owed. She was tired of reigning herself in, tired of putting everyone else first. We got into horrible fights every time we tried to discuss it. The fights got worse. We couldn't talk anymore. I started to panic. She was being unreasonable. I was afraid I was going to lose everything if I didn't do something. I really tried to work with her. She just wouldn't listen. I had to call my attorney. I feel very bad about how things went.
- Bill, divorced father

I wanted to stay on friendly terms for the kids' sake. They needed both of us. He was angry that it was taking me so long to find a job. The truth of the matter was that I was terrified. I hadn't worked for ten years. I wanted to ease back into it, go to school, build up my confidence. He couldn't understand. I tried to explain that I needed time. He said that if I wanted to be on my own I had to learn how to take care of myself. I couldn't have it both ways. Then he'd start to yell about all he had done for me and make these ridiculous demands. We couldn't talk about it anymore. He wasn't being fair. I helped him through school. My friends said I deserved spousal support. I felt my survival was at stake. I had no choice. I didn't think it would turn out like this. There's terrible tension between us now. It is not good for the children. Maybe in a few years we will get over it.
- Sue, divorced mother

More and more couples today are striving to have a civilized, healthier divorce. They want to protect their children, reach a fair settlement, and still be able to talk to each other afterward. But many—like Bill and Sue—get caught in an inexorable web of failed communication, threats and accusations, and escalating legal positions. They get off the track and can't get back on. They simply don't have the skills to successfully navigate the treacherous legal and emotional terrain of a dissolving marriage.

The idea of divorcing with decency is a relatively recent phenomenon that provides us with few road maps to follow. We may know what to avoid but not how to avoid it. We know what is destructive but not how to be more constructive. For forty years our legal system has cast divorcing spouses as opponents rather than as joint decision makers. Everything was routinely handed over to lawyers. The individual may have won, but the family usually lost. This legacy has left us few, if any, role models for collaboratively resolving the issues of divorce.

We are taught to take responsibility for the course of a marriage but not for the course of divorce. When we marry, we understand the importance of commitment, compromise, and communication. A successful marriage doesn't always follow, but we do try hard. The consequences are understood; no one wants the marriage to fail. The consequences of a bad divorce are also understood—continuing hostilities and conflict, exorbitant legal fees, and children caught in the middle. But there are no more commitments between separated individuals. There are no more rules of conduct. In most divorces, it is each spouse for him or herself. Many couples think that their responsibility for working anything out ends the day one of them walks out the door.

The fact of the matter is that a healthy divorce, like a healthy marriage, requires effort. Most of us are totally unprepared for the hard work and commitment involved in keeping a divorce respectful. Those couples who have remained on reasonable terms with each other worked very hard at it. This doesn't mean that the ex-spouses weren't angry at each other or that their marriage lacked passion. They simply wanted to keep their divorce from becoming a war zone. You don't have to let the acrimony and anguish that comes from severing emotional bonds destroy your family or poison your future. You do have a choice.

This book will show you how to deal with your spouse without making a lifelong enemy of him or her. It will show you how to work through your pain without turning it into paralyzing rage. It will teach you how to get beyond placing blame and find solutions. It will show you how to manage and negotiate the conflicts you face instead of escalating them; how to be joint problem solvers instead of legal adversaries; and, how to bridge the raging river of divorce instead of establishing armed camps on either side. You will see that it is possible to create a respectful divorce process that will allow you to build a healthy foundation for the post-divorce family.

New Divorce Rituals
The way we divorce in our culture dishonors the institution of marriage. Marriage is one of the most important relationships we form in life. Its beginning is endowed with ceremony, sanctity, and hope. Its ending is marked by professionally orchestrated ritualized combat, which, more often than not, leaves in its wake a trail of bitterness and hostility that ruptures families forever. Look at the rituals to which we have become accustomed—finding the best attorney in town first, jockeying for legal advantage, closing bank accounts, staking claim of the family residence, and grabbing whatever you can get your hands on before your spouse does. The vindictiveness runs so deep that some spouses want to destroy each other, using the legal system as their weapon. Others act in underhanded ways out of fear of what their partner will do. In my twenty-five years of practice, most people I have met whose divorce was bitter and acrimonious wished it hadn't been that way.

In divorce we don't have the benefit of ceremony or ritual as we do with other life transitions. Rituals surrounding mating and death are well established—people band together in the celebration of a marriage; you are surrounded in your sorrow when a loved one dies. In divorce, you are alone. Where do you turn when divorce comes into your life? You pay a lawyer a $2,000 retainer because you don't know what else to do. You start the clock on countdown for the marital spoils. This is rarely helpful in the long run. As one man said, "There ought to be a better way to let go of twenty years of your life than court."

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Table of Contents


Part I: Facing the Crisis of Separation Constructively

Chapter 1: The Healthy Way
New Divorce Rituals
Divorce as a Transition in the Life of the Family
What is Divorce Mediation? Is it for You?
A New Path

Chapter 2: Separation: New Roles, New Rules
The Relationship between Divorcing Spouses: Myths and Realities
Setting the Stage for Cooperation
Discussing Separation
What if We Have to Stay Together Until We Can Separate?
Can This Marriage Be Healed?
Define the Terms of the Separation
Sandra and David: A Case History

Chapter 3: Timing: The Emotions of Ending a Marriage
The Emotional Stages of Divorce

Chapter 4: The Seven Keys to a Healthy Divorce
The Divorce Honeymoon.
The Seven Keys

Chapter 5: Healing
Your Hurting and Healing Sides
Ask Your "Wise Mind" How to Respond
Mapping Your Future
How Do You Want to Look Back on This Divorce?

Part II: Parenting and Children

Chapter 6: Helping Children
What the Research Tells Us
The CPR of Helping Children: Continuity, Protection, Reassurance
Signs of Stress in Children
Psychological Tasks of Divorce for Children
Reassessing Your Goals as a Parent

Chapter 7: Parenting Plans:
Transitions to an Unmarried Family
What the Legal Terms Mean
Is Joint Custody for You?
Four Types of Parenting Relationships
What is a Parenting Plan?
The Eight Basic Components of a Parenting Plan
Residential Schedules: What the Research Can Tell Us
Parenting Plans and the Developmental Needs of Your Child
Drafting the Parenting Plan

Chapter 8: Parenting as a Lasting Partnership The Working Relationship
How to Develop a Working Relationship as Parents
The Pledge of Never Taking a Child Away

Part III: Handling Conflict

Chapter 9: Border Skirmishes Don't Have to Turn into Nuclear War: How to Handle Conflict
The Nature of Conflict
Aikido: Responding to Conflict without Escalation
Constructive and Destructive Conflict.
Ways to Increase Cooperation

Chapter 10: How to Talk So Your Spouse Will Listen
Creating a Less Defensive Atmosphere: Ground Rules for Reducing Needless Arguments
Common Derailers
Handling Criticism, or Angry or Verbally Abusive Behavior

Chapter 11: Diagnose the Dispute:
What Is This Fight Really About?
Conflicts Based on Old History
How to Handle Disputes with Underlying Issues
Conflicts Based on Differences in Values
Conflicts Caused by Limited Resources
Conflicts Generated by Mistrust
The Eight Dangers of Divorce Myopia

Part IV: The Fundamentals of Negotiating

Chapter 12: Getting Ready to Negotiate
Are You Ready to Negotiate?
Red Flags: Anticipate the Most Sensitive Issues
Accessing Your Resources as a Negotiator
Is the Power Balanced? What if Your Spouse Is Stronger?
Tips for Naive Negotiators: How to Improve Your Chances of Getting What You Want
Fifteen Steps to More Successful "Business" Meeting

Chapter 13: Win-Win Negotiation Strategies
Negotiate Around Needs and Interests, Not Positions
Always Look at Both Sides
Stating the Problem Well: The Critical First Step
Reframing: How to Use Neutral Language

Chapter 14: Working Toward a Settlement
Win-Win Negotiating Steps
Summary of Win-Win Negotiation Steps
Negotiation Session Worksheet

Chapter 15: Mediation
What to Expect from the Mediation Process
How to Work with an Attorney While in Mediation
Advantages of Mediation
When You Shouldn't Mediate
How to Find a Mediator

Chapter 16: Lawyers and the Legal Process: What to Expect and How to Reduce the Escalation of Conflict
Interviewing and Choosing a Lawyer
The Legal Issues
Heading off Potential Problems
Tips to Reduce the Adversarial Atmosphere and the Escalation of Conflict During the Legal Process
Conclusion: The Myth of Justice

Part V: Moving Forward

Chapter 17: Conflicts After Divorce:
Are You Emotionally Divorced?
Cold War Is Still War
The Psychology of Post-Divorce Conflict
The Danger of Negative Mind-Sets About an Ex
Four Deadly Attitudes: Unhealthy Emotional Links to the Past
Learning to Let Go
Healing Rituals for Letting Go and Moving Forward

Chapter 18: Difficult Spouses/Difficult Ex's: Be Part of the Solution Instead of the Problem
Four Steps for Dealing with a Difficult Spouse
Understand How You Get Hooked
Types of Difficult Spouses
Summary: Points to Remember to Reduce Your Stress

Chapter 19: Moving Toward the Light


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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 19, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Healthy dose of reality

    Although i haven't completed this book, it has been extremely helpful to me. I picked it up as i was trying to separate from my husband and just wasn't sure how to go about it. This book gives you very helpful advice and points to follow(and share with your partner). I have not finished the book as it seems to work well to use it as you might need each section in the progression of the divorce process but it certainly helps to keep your mind on the right track!! I recommend it highly even if you were just considering your options. It brings to light all the relevant issues related to separating and divorce.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted July 9, 2011

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