There is no “one size fits all” answer, but there are things you can do to make divorce less difficult for you, your kids, and your loved ones.
A study from Michigan State University shows that the negative health impact of divorce is worse for younger people, as opposed to older ones. More specifically, sociologist Hui Liu said that baby boomers react more negatively to divorce than older generations do.
She was surprised by these findings, saying “I would have expected divorce to carry less stress for the younger generation, since divorce is more prevalent for them,” she said. Her study found that those who transition from marriage to divorce experience a more rapid health decline than those who remain married.
Liu’s research suggests it is not the status of being married or divorced, per se, that affects health, but instead is the process of transitioning from marriage to divorce that is stressful and hurts health. To learn more about her research, read Divorce Hurts Health More at Earlier Ages.
How to Make Divorce Less Difficult
“It’s clear to me that we need more social and family support for the younger divorced groups,” said Liu, assistant professor of sociology. “This could include divorce counseling to help people handle the stress, or offering marital therapy or prevention programs to maintain marital satisfaction.”
I believe in the power of counseling (in fact, I’m studying to be a counselor right now!), but I know not everyone benefits from therapy equally. If you’ve never been to counseling, read Does Psychotherapy Work? 3 Tips for Analyzing Your Psychotherapist. It may help you decide if counseling can help you transition from marriage to divorce more easily.
Explore why divorce is so difficult for you
I dreamed the other night that I had to tell Bruce I wanted a divorce. It was a painful, terrible, sad feeling – I felt as if my heart was being crushed. I couldn’t bear the thought of the pain I’d cause him, our families, and even the people who know us. I don’t know why I had that dream, because I am extremely happy in my marriage.
Divorce wouldn’t be difficult for me because of what people think, but because of how they’d feel. I wouldn’t have a problem saying “I’m divorced”, but I hate the thought of causing people I love pain.
If divorce is difficult for you (as it is for most people), it may help to think through the reasons it’s causing so much pain. You may then be able to cope with that pain better. For instance, if I was getting divorced I might write Bruce and other loved ones a letter, explaining my reasons and apologizing for the pain I was causing.
What does divorce mean to you, and what does it say about you?
Hang on to your spirituality
I’m reading Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection. Her chapter on resilience is particularly interesting to me because, after all, I’m the Bounce Back Babe! Maybe the reason I’ve survived so much is because I love reading about resilience, healing, and moving forward with life. I love self-help books.
While reading The Gifts of Imperfection, I wrote an article on how spirituality helps people transition to divorce because of Brown’s insistence that spirituality is one of the main components of resilience. I believe this because spirituality changes how you see yourself in the world. I feel loved, cared for, secure, and watched over by God. I believe things happen for a reason, and God has my best interests at heart.
Can your spirituality make divorce less difficult for you and your family? Sometimes a crisis like divorce is what you need to take you back to you spiritual side and reconnect with the activities, people, and places that keep you grounded and whole.
Stay focused on the ups
The reason “staying positive” is such a cliché is because it’s true, and it works! One of the most recent difficult things Bruce and I have had to face is infertility. We can’t have kids, and it sucks. The more I focus on the negative, sucky parts of it, the worse I feel. The more I focus on the positive aspects of being childless, the better I feel! What do you think I focus on most?
Sometimes making divorce less difficult is about finding the silver lining in your marriage AND in your divorce. Sometimes the silver lining isn’t visible yet, such as the strength and compassion you’re developing for other people who will be divorcing in the future. Sometimes the silver lining is wrapped up in a black cloud, such as the full-time job you have to find to support yourself because your husband refuses to pay enough alimony or child support, and you discover that you love working.
I don’t know what your silver lining is, but I know life is better if you wrap yourself up in it.
Here’s a book that offers many more ways to make divorce less difficult: Divorce Care: Hope, Help, and Healing During and After Your Divorce.