By Andra Brosh, Ph. D.
& Allison Pescosolido, M.A.
Turning over a new leaf at the beginning of the year is universally compelling. Many may be surprised to discover just how much this yearning for a “fresh start” applies to couples experiencing marital difficulties. Nicknamed “Divorce Month,” January holds a somewhat dubious distinction among members of the legal community. The facts and figures speak for themselves: More people pursue legal separations shortly after the first of the year than at any other time.
The reasons for this vary. Statistics show a large increase in searches for information about divorce in the few days following Christmas. Although this increase can result from numerous factors (the stress of the holidays, having time off from work to consider personal matters, and so on), the phenomenon is most closely linked to families with children. Spouses unhappy in their married relationship prior to the holiday season will often postpone divorce proceedings in order to give their children one last Christmas as a family unit.
December’s impetus to remain together traditionally gives way to January’s push toward fresh beginnings.
For those struggling in an unhappy marriage, this fresh beginning often means a move toward independence. If you are one of the thousands who have split from their spouses this January, please consider the following to maximize your physical, emotional, and psychological well being during this difficult time. By keeping these guidelines in mind, you will be well on your way to a better and brighter 2012.
You are under no obligation to maintain your married way of life. As a separated individual on his or her way to a legal divorce, you cannot be expected to continue your previous married lifestyle. Although you may experience internal and external pressure to behave exactly as you always have, you must remember that the circumstances surrounding your life have drastically changed. Attempts to “live up to” your old way of life will inevitably prevent you from moving forward with your new one.
Expect to have ups and downs. Like most life-changing events, the divorce process is rarely a smooth one. Even the shortest and most amicable of legal separations will inevitably experience periodic “bumps.” Expect to have both good days and bad days.
Look upon divorce as a transition, not as a way of life. Although meant to sympathize with negative emotions in the wake of a separation, adages like “one never really gets over a divorce” can do much more harm than good. This idea validates feelings of victimization that when left untreated can often become permanent. Divorce is far from a never-ending process.
It is a procedure designed to usher you into a new existence – one that is free from the legal and psychological entanglements of a marriage that expired.
Plan time in your schedule for the unexpected. Many married couples lead lives in which every hour is structured and reserved for a specific task. For these couples (especially for those with children) the responsibilities of marriage are greater than the amount of hours available in a day. The divorce transition necessitates extra time for adapting to your new lifestyle, paperwork, and emotional downtime.
Transform the relationship from spouse to ex. Although this transition is often a tricky one, try to remain consistently amicable without catering or pandering. Couples should not try to remain “best friends”; nor should they resign themselves to becoming outright enemies. Seek out a healthy middle ground in relations with your estranged spouse.
Don’t feel pressure to make decisions before you are ready or make hasty decisions based on emotions. The divorce transition requires many decisions including finances, custody, and living arrangements (to name a few). Whether you are under pressure from your soon-to-be-ex and family members or feeling carried away by your emotions, don’t box yourself into any decision that you might soon regret. Educate yourself about the divorce process and seek advice from counselors, attorneys and financial advisors. The aid of a divorce expert can do wonders to clarify your thought process and separate the trivial from the truly important.
Allison Pescosolido, M.A. and Andra Brosh, Ph.D. are experts in Divorce Recovery and starting over. They co-founded Divorce Detox, a full service center in Santa Monica to transform the lives of individuals transitioning through divorce. For more information, visit www.divorcedetox.com.