Divorce with dignity?
A divorce very rarely is a peaceful parting of two people, after which they are able to remain in friendly relationships and cooperate on issues that require cooperation (e.g. while taking important decisions regarding their children). Of course, such situations happen, but they require significant effort and consistency from both parting spouses: governing intensive emotions, refraining from words and behaviours leading to deterioration of the situation, being consistent in holding to arrangements taken for the sake of “parting peacefully”.
Usually, while considering a divorce, we want to part with dignity. We believe, legitimately, that once we had been very important and close to each other in our marriage, and although our relationship has ended and we are very apart now, we still should be able to divorce with dignity, at peace and rationally. We want an “almost perfect” divorce, after which we still will be able to look at each other, meet occasionally or even, after some time, introduce an ex-wife or ex-husband to our new partners. We want a divorce that will result in sorrow, obviously, as every parting with a close person results in grief, but will not bring deep wounds, devastating grief, grievance and a sense of injustice.
Despite our good intentions, often on both sides, parting with dignity very rarely is successful. We become governed by intensive emotions, difficult to bear and control: anger, resentment, fear, rejection, grievance, rage. In our head thoughts arise that undermine all earlier arrangements and what we thought earlier about each other and all that undermines reaching a compromise. We begin doing things we would have never expected we could do, and of which we are ashamed later.
Even if the divorce case itself is held in a peaceful manner, we begin fighting with ex-husband or ex-wife over issues relating to raising children or to partition of property. We reach for arguments and actions that hurt the other person, who in return begins to defend himself or herself and counterattacks. After many years together we both know very well how to make the other suffer. The divorce war escalates, reaching out to further family members, friends and acquaintances. Our children suffer even more severely because of our fight, although it is already hard enough for them to adjust to the new situation of their parents parting, a new weekly routine, new schedules of parental care, change of school or place of living, etc.
Professional assistance during divorce
Bearing in mind all the above, using professional assistance is worth considering in a situation of a divorce. The professional counsellors do not only include lawyers (who will make sure that we divorce in a safe way, or that we “win” at court), but also psychotherapists, psychologists, infant psychologists or mediators. What is the role of each of them?
- A psychologist and a psychotherapist helps the divorcing people understand and manage the emotions they will inevitably feel. He or she gives information about psychological mechanisms that influence them and which may influence their current and future life, takes care that despite the difficult situation of parting and divorce they still see each other as persons that were close for a long time and that in the future they can communicate and cooperate, if needed, or even maintain a friendly relationship. A psychologist and a psychotherapist support parting people to finish their relationship in the best possible manner, which will not be devastating, but may become a source of satisfaction and strength.
- An infant psychologist advises how to communicate the parting to the children and how to support the children in coping with the situation of their parents divorcing. He or she advises what behaviours the parents may expect, what they should pay special attention to and what to avoid.
- A mediator supports the spouses to reach a compromise in issues such as the arrangements related to the childcare or partition of property. A mediator takes care that the interests of both sides are taken into consideration and that both sides are satisfied with the outcome of the mediation.
Meetings with a psychologist and a psychotherapist
At my psychologist’s office in Warsaw, I offer psychotherapeutic meetings for divorcing couples. The meetings usually last 75 minutes, longer than individual sessions, which gives each of the spouses enough time. I make sure that the sessions are balanced – I do not allow one of the spouses to dominate the discussion, I take care about the methods of communication and ways of expressing emotions, I also support and educate when needed.
The frequency of psychological sessions and the total number depend on the needs of the parting persons. While working with a divorcing couple, I usually schedule several meetings with an option to extend the number or return after a break, if needed. The meetings are usually held once a week or once in two weeks. In specific situations, especially in crisis moments that are very intense emotionally, when the spouses make key decisions, other schedule or duration of meetings is also possible, as well as additional intervention meetings.
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If you need psychological help, contact me.