Dissolution of marriage is the technical term for divorce and involves the legal termination of marital bonds and their accompanying legal obligations.
One point that is crucial to know is that dissolution of marriage, often used interchangeably with divorce, varies state-by-state and the laws also vary from country to country. It is advisable then to either do research yourself or consult a professional when it comes to the legal bits.
This article will focus on the psychological components of divorce.
One thing I have learned in my line of work serving couples and families is that each person’s situation is very different: what leads to divorce, the experience of divorce, and other logistics surrounding the process.
Furthermore, each family member really does react differently. The tendency is to feel judgmental about this, whether towards oneself or towards others. Generally this isn’t the most helpful course of action to take. It doesn’t solve anything and just adds more “fuel to the fire” shall we say. It is difficult enough to go through a divorce, there is no reason to add any additional pressure.
For instance, some spouses experience symptoms of panic attacks, depression, or anxiety for the first time in his or her life during or after a divorce. Others have trouble sleeping. And yet others still, experience this period with relative grace and ease.
Commonly, a person may experience most or all of the above. It is completely normal to feel like one is on an emotional rollercoaster ride during this time.
How divorce affects children
I have also seen children react in different ways. Contrary to popular belief, divorce does not permanently “mess up” all children. Children can be quite resilient and perceptive.
For instance, one mother was shocked when her son asked her, “Why do you and Daddy hate each other?” The mother thought she was putting on a good show in front of the kids and was helping them by staying together with their father. It does raise the question…perhaps staying together for the sake of the children is not always a better option than splitting up?
Another time, I had a client who was incredibly worried about her children. She said she just kept apologizing to them. Then, one day her son came home with a project he had done for school that read, “Mom is always worried about us. I just want to tell her ‘Mom, we are ok.’
Divorces helps people discover their inner strength
Therefore, a possible silver lining within the throes of divorce can be that it forces a person to discover their own inner strength and resilience.
Psychological resilience is defined by the experience of flexibility in response to changing situational demands and the ability to bounce back from negative emotional experiences.
And guess what plays a huge role in whether or not someone rebounds quickly after setbacks, stress, and adversity?
If someone thinks they will rebound quickly.
“Those who rated themselves as having the ability to rebound effectively from stressful encounters also demonstrated this quality physiologically.”– 2004 research analysis conducted by Tugade, Fredrickson, & Barrett
If someone truly believes they will be resilient, they will be
People who thought that they would bounce back quickly from stressful events did actually experience this on a physiological level with their bodies quelling the stress response and returning back to baseline more quickly than those who did not see themselves as resilient.
Aside from discounting one’s own resilient capacities, people can also get into trouble when obsessively worrying about or trying to predict the future. I often speak with people who are convinced that they know how they will feel during and after a divorce…that they already know what it will be like for them, their ex, and their children.
Well, it turns out people are very poor predictors of how they will actually react during and after a negative experience. It is this faulty predictive system that actually leads them to make decisions that prolong the experience of emotional turmoil.
As Harvard Psychologist Daniel Gilbert states,”We underestimate how quickly our feelings are going to change in part because we underestimate our ability to change them. This can lead us to make decisions that don’t maximize our potential for satisfaction.”
Overall, divorce is a major life change and a period of transition marked by many ups-and-downs. However, I do see many people come through the otherside with a deeper understanding of themselves which continues to serve them throughout their lives.