Read an Excerpt
Divorce Possibilities: Action Versus Fear
Divorce no longer carries its old stigma in our society, but it hurts just as much as ever. With the divorce rate as high as it is, few of us fail to cringe, at least inwardly, when the word is mentioned. Most marriages have a tinderbox with at least a few combustible issues. At frustrating times when our differences flare, just thinking about divorce may be a safety valve. But we're not serious. We'll keep the lid on and work out our problemssomehow.
Then the time comes when one-half of a couple decides that solutions to the marital problems are not going to happen. Working it out has failed. We have failed. At least, that's how we feel.
So we divorce and the marriage is over. But divorce recovery has just begun.
Is it the end of the world? Or the beginning of a better world for us, in which peace, greater fulfillment, and enhanced self-esteem aren't dreams but realities?
No one can doubt my response to that question. We're not only talking about divorce survival in this book. This is about taking hold of our experience and using it to turn our lives around.
The Event of Divorce
We're taking an event that some see as primarily negative and bending it into a life enhancer. As a result of divorce we're going to be learning so much about ourselvesand othersthat we'll eventually say, 'Divorce was one of the best things that ever happened to me!'
I did it. I came to a positive attitude about divorce. Many others have, too. All it takes is understanding, commitment, and, most of all, action. The ability to change also helps.
There are no 'victims' of divorce in the classic sense. There are only victims of the myth that divorce is something to feel guilty about or lose confidence over. Divorce prompts a wide range of feelings: relief, anger, hope, hopelessness, sadness, excitement, shame, regret, vengefulness, pityand almost everything in between. Divorce is about the shattering of fondest hopes and fantasies about a life partner that didn't materialize. No wonder that recovering from all of this presents the challenge of a lifetime. But it is a challenge we can accept with so much help available to us in many forms, including the often underdeveloped source, which is ourselves.
Many variables impact each divorce. They include:
- Young children
- Older children
- Adult children
- Child support problems
- Alimony problems
- Custody problems
- Affairs and betrayals
In addition to these are a host of other issues. There are those supporters and criticizers among friends and relatives; the different perspectives of a first divorce compared with a second divorce; even variables when we talk about either short-term marriages or long-term marriages; and the 'excess baggage' that we bring to a marriage from our childhood families or a previous marriage.
We could talk endlessly about how every variation complicates or simplifies divorce, but the focus of this book is on healing from the trauma that divorce presents to us. Whatever they are, the forms are not insurmountable. Our concern is: Can we surmount them? We need to know we've got what it takes, and we need to learn why it's been hidden within us. How can we bring forth our remarkable latent capacities to cope and thrive? How can we live without a spouse and like it? How do we deal with the children, the relatives, and the mutual friends? How do we keep from making other mistakes in relationships?
Our questions may be seriously tinged with self-doubt. Erasing this doubt will be our main goal.
In a perfect world, all marriages would succeed because we would all be psychic and aware of every present and future need of our own and our mate's. This book is not about promoting divorce as a means of growth, even though that is frequently the result. It is about releasing people from the past to pursue with confidence the new direction their personal lives are taking.
Society has been changing rapidly and radically. People change in response to it, and some marriages need to end as a result. If a divorce is going to happen, let's make it an event marking renewal not useless regret.
In addition to my twenty-plus years of working with couples and families, I have interviewed more than 200 divorced people to find out what the divorce recovery process felt like and ultimately meant to them. Some of these ex-spouses will be sharing their stories with us as we explore the challenges we face.
In talking to many people about what caused and contributed to their divorces, the number-one marriage killer was perceived to be a lack of basic emotional connection between husband and wife. When people were asked to be more specific, the most common reason cited for the end of their marriage was that one partner simply lost passion for the other.
Many of the people I interviewed said they sensed something was wrong quite early in the relationship. Half said that even though they knew something was wrong, they hung in there for four years or more, refusing to believe their marriages couldn't get better.
Here are the most frequent reasons for divorce among my surveyed ex-partners, starting with the most common problem:
- Lack of emotional intimacy
- Affection dissatisfaction
- Work interference
- Child-rearing disagreements
- Husband's inability to accept wife's work outside the home
- Husband's inability to make money
- Sexual dissatisfaction
- Lack of friendship
Obviously, any of these is a serious problem to live with. No wonder happiness was the word agreed upon by half the people I surveyed in response to my question 'What emotion did you feel most often after divorcing?'
All too frequently, people afraid of divorce assume that divorced people are always lonely and depressed. And those who are lonely and depressed tend to think this is the way it has to be. As my survey shows, many people are in a position to view it as a life-affirming, self-affirming changeand we all can achieve that viewpoint! That's what this book is about.
One thing most of us learn from divorce is that the experience is far more than getting over a separation and getting used to living alone. That's jumping a step. For many, divorce introduces us to ourselves, which for several years was at least partially hidden by adaptations to the needs and personality of someone else. Finding out what we would do and want if we were free to choose can be a little frightening. We've changed since before the beginning of our marriages when we were single. Who are we today? Worry about our new status can delay that discovery.
In all our post-divorce transactions, we need to concentrate on action more and imagining calamities less. 'To thine own self be true,' Shakespeare said, with good reason. When we cling to old images of ourselves or ideas of how others expect us to be, the outcome will never be positive. It's mainly through doing something about our situations that we learn how strong, how adaptable, how clever, and how capable we really are. Convincing ourselves of our positive points just by imagining them doesn't work. If you don't know who you are, you won't know where you are going. But if you don't start going, you won't start finding out who you are.
©2012. Sharon Wescheider-Cruse. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Life After Divorce: Create a New Beginning, Revised and Updated. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.