Magazine article Work & Family Life

Coping with the Early Stages of Separation and Divorce

Magazine article Work & Family Life

Coping with the Early Stages of Separation and Divorce

Article excerpt

Whatever your reasons may be for a separaion or a divorce, it's normal to feel disillusioned and sad because your marriage is not what you wanted it to be-or thought it was. At this time, it may be hard to imagine that you will be able to resolve many of the heated issues of the moment, regain a sense of control and move on-in other words, that you will survive.

Here is what you need to know about your own reactions to get through this painful period. (Next month we will discuss ways to stay close to your children during a divorce.)

Don't fight your feelings. Even if it was you who initiated the divorce, you may still feel a sense of loss-of your trust and of the dreams you had when you first came together. If you're not behaving as well as you would like to during this time, perhaps you have not come to grips with your feelings. When you do, it should be easier to cope with the situation in more effective ways. But there's no straight emotional path in the divorce process. So don't be surprised if you are civilized and magnanimous one moment and petty and mean-spirited the next.

Acknowledge your anger. Anger is a natural emotion. If you can identify it, you may feel less helpless and more in control. This will allow you to make better choices and cope more effectively. Once you understand your emotions, you may be able to talk about them with your ex. Instead of blowing up, for example, you might say, "I'm angry because I could use some help driving the kids to school." Talking calmly and rationally about your feelings is more likely to lead to a constructive interchange.

Manage your anger. It's critical to get your anger under control as soon as possible. And if your ex-spouse explodes, try not to overreact. Rather than fire back, temporarily disengage. When you are verbally attacked, try relaxation techniques: taking deep breaths, counting backward or giving yourself a time-out: go running, work in the garden, soak in a bath-or whatever works for you. Find a phrase you can say to yourself that can help control your anger too. Try to detach yourself mentally and assess the situation objectively. Or just walk away and suggest that you talk later.

Identify a support network. Think of people you can count on. …

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