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5 steps to moving on from your divorce

4 Oct

Divorce is a journey and a process, here are the necessary steps to moving on and letting go of your past.

Footsteps in the sand

When people talk about the 5 stages of divorce they are often referring to the 5 stages of the emotional part of divorce. These are a subset of a wider 5 step process which includes the following:

  1. Mental separation
  2. Physical divorce
  3. Legal dissolution
  4. Emotional unbonding
  5. Emotional divorce

Each stage is a process that takes you one step closer to moving on, making peace with your past, redefining yourself and building a happy future. No stage can be skipped and there isn’t a one size fits all on how long each stage will take, but with the right support you can get to the best outcome quicker.

Mental Separation

The mental separation isn't so much a decision to divorce as a setting of intention, and often proceeds the actual decision to divorce. Generally, people set goals or a course of intent before they are emotionally and physically ready to carry them out, such as a job change.

Once the decision is verbalised, the reaction, coping behavior and crisis experienced after will vary depending on how much the other party feels the same way. If the couple can talk openly and problem-solve together, then the quicker they can all move on.  However, where there's no talking, fear/anger intensify leading to mistruths and reactions escalate. If the decision wasn't mutually arrived at, the spouse being left behind is less prepared and will feel greater anger and pain. This can result in confusion/guilt, and parenting may deteriorate.

Physical Separation

The physical separation is exactly that; there is a lot to agree and do in terms of the logistics especially where children are involved. This stage  can create a lot of admin and involve taking  on new responsibilities that have previously been shared. There is also an adjustment to a new normal that needs to take place. A daily routine that focuses on your own self care makes a huge difference. Taking care of yourself mentally and physically will provide you with head space and resilience to navigate these stages effectively.

Legal Dissolution

The legal part of a divorce can be a long, drawn out battle in which couples stay connected through anger by breaking agreements or ever-changing positions. Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way. The better you can communicate and be fair/rational in this situation, the quicker you can get to a good outcome for both of you.

Emotional un-bonding

Emotional separation involves un-bonding romantic and dependent aspects of the relationship, and coming to terms with your divorce. In some cases this happens before the divorce is discussed which usually will lead to a quicker smoother road to success.

This is the stage where growth and transformation happens. It includes disengagement, changes in role definitions, reflection and understanding; for example understanding why you selected your partner, why you stayed, why it is not right now and what you want for your future.

Growth comes from taking responsibility for the marital problems, rather than blaming the other person, and changing the pattern you have fallen into with your partner.

If the process of emotionally un-bonding does not happen, the emotional connections will undermine the couple's attempts to move on in their separate lives. This leaves the couple basically still "married" years after the formal divorce, maintaining their connection through arguments, court battles or family rituals ‘for the children's sake’.

Emotional Divorce

This stage deals with the emotions of ending a relationship. It is often likened to the grieving process following a death and tends to happen in the following way:

  • Denial – this is a state of disbelief. Your mind has put you in a state of shock to cushion you from the pain of what is to come. This is a transient stage and doesn’t usually last long
  • Anger –  you may find yourself lashing out through fear and pain or feeling resentment for your ex partner
  • Bargaining – at this stage in the process you are looking to cut a deal to make the pain go away. This is usually a sign of progress, that you are coming to terms with what is happening although it may not feel like it at the time
  • Depression – feelings of isolation and loneliness as you process and reflect on what you have lost and what might have been. You may even feel numb or withdrawn.
  • Acceptance – At this stage you begin to feel calm. The fog is lifting and you can think more clearly and rationally about what you want, what is best for you and your family and look to the future with hope.

Your ability to make good decisions is greatly impaired through stages 1 - 4, it is only when you get to stage 5 acceptance, that you can really start to move on in and grow as a result. Allowing this process to take place and getting the right support is key to your successful transition and a happy future, and not just you but your children as well as.

Divorce is up there with death in terms of severity of stress and is often combined with other stressors, such as marital discord, serious financial problems, moving house, single parenting and in some cases litigation. It's a life cycle that presents a crucial period of increased vulnerability as well as heightened potential all at the same time. Although it is not easy, change never is, it can be incredibly rewarding because you can come out of this feeling better, stronger and learn from the experience. Ensuring you don’t repeat the mistakes of the past is key to having a good divorce.

If you are struggling adapting to all these changes please get in touch there is support here and elsewhere to help you navigate this successfully so you can come out of this stronger and happier than before.

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