Consider this: if you pursue your divorce with any vengeance or spite, you are harming primarily yourself. You are doing almost certain wounding to your heart and psyche, and the wounding will stay especially fresh (or worsen unimaginably) if you have kids.
It’s like tearing or cutting your hair out violently because it’s tangled in the comb, instead of calmly disentangling it.
Disentangling lives is not so unlike disentangling hair.
But is it possible to stay calm in divorce? Often people don’t get the help they need to stay calm and to feel safe through a divorce process.
They certainly don’t feel calm and safe working through court forms at the kitchen table with the other half of their collapsing partnership.
And they don’t feel calm and safe working primarily through a lawyer, because:
Lawyers don’t speak in plain English (and not with language that includes the emotional content of the divorce process);
The cost of two lawyers may be just as damaging as the breakup (and the financial incentives are lined up such that lawyers are quick to start a worse war than ever dreamed of); and
Lawyers are not trained to be a safe, calming presence.
Even my own divorce, which was non-contentious, left me with emotional scars I didn’t totally understand. It took ten years to dissolve this scar tissue, by reaching out to my ex-wife and healing some of the strands that hadn’t been tended to. My father’s divorce of his first wife was bitter and left deeper wounds; my perception is that his passion was choked off permanently to a large degree after that experience.
Divorce is often challenging and can be painful, but you can proceed non-violently, and you can even heal yourself as you go, to avoid scarring.
Biologically, scarring is a natural part of the healing process, but scar tissue is usually of inferior functional quality compared to healthy tissue, and too much of it typically interferes with body mechanics or physiology.
“Healing as you Go” almost certainly requires the support of a gifted attorney-mediator who can help you and your spouse navigate the intensity of the emotional and legal terrain of divorce. Conscious (or collaborative) mediators are trained to help people feel calm and safe through the terrifying process of divorce, which minimizes the wounding. Because mediators are neutral to the outcome and to the two parties, each spouse can trust that he or she will not be mislead. No important pieces will fall through the cracks. She won’t have to face her spouse alone. He won’t have to bottle up or stuff his emotions. Both won’t lose their life savings. The process will only take as long as it needs.
Many people are not even aware that an attorney-mediated, conscious divorce process is possible. In fact, it’s possible even if it appears on the surface that the spouses are out for blood, which is not usually the case (at least in the absence of significant mental illness). The benefits are often clear enough to incentivize both parties to commit to this efficient and straightforward process, that just might heal the pain at the same time.
I’ve mediated the divorces of many, many couples. Without question a collaborative mediation process is the easiest way to foster a healing process, but with the right attitude healing is always possible. No matter what professional support you enlist (if any) during your divorce process, you can architect a transition that allows for a natural healing to occur, right now, in the present.
The decision to divorce is not an easy one to make, but sometimes it is exactly what needs to happen. Why not work together to heal your hearts as you leave the formal marriage contract? There’s really no reason to suffer with emotional scar tissue just because a relationship is ending before death do you part. So commit together to take the necessary steps, and get the proper support, to Heal as you Go.
John Hoelle is co-founder of Conscious Family Law & Mediation LLC, offering collaborative divorce mediation, or legal representation with strength and integrity, in metro Denver/Boulder, Colorado.