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The Upside of Divorce, According to Experts

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Amy Mazur spends vacations and vacations with her children and their father, even after a divorce.

“It’s so much less stressful for my children…and for myself,” said Mazur, a clinical social worker in Brooklyn, New York.

Her relationship with her ex-husband isn’t the often-painted picture of life after divorce, but it’s what works best for her family, she said. The marriage had begun when he was a young adult and when it no longer worked for the people they grew up around, she said they found a way to love and support each other while not being more married.

Divorce rates are trending steadily downward in the United States, according to recent data, but marriage breakdowns remain a common and disruptive experience.

Most people probably don’t get married anticipating divorce – but for those who find themselves in such a situation, there are ways to encourage compassion for each other and, ultimately, build something stronger, according to experts.

Grieving the loss

A divorce can be amicable but still marked by loss and grief, said Rebecca Hendrix, a marriage and family therapist in New York.

There is the loss of the life you built, including the house you lived in together, a name you were able to share and the routines you developed, she added. And then there are the emotional ties.

“It’s your family. You bonded with this person, for better or worse, even though you argue all the time,” Hendrix said. “Even though the process has run its course and you’re both not happy, you’re still attached to this person.”

One of the biggest obstacles Washington-based marriage and family therapist Marissa Nelson sees people struggle with is the grief caused by losing the vision they had for their lives.

As with any other type of loss, it’s important to find support to work through the emotions that accompany grief, such as anger, sadness and difficulty with acceptance, Hendrix said.

Support can come from a therapist, religious leader, friends, a divorce support group or even books and media that make you feel less alone, she added.

It’s even better if you can ask your support network for specific things that might help you cope with your grief, Hendrix said. A recurring weekly dinner or a walk with a friend two or three times a week to get out of the house can be very helpful, she added.

“Reach out to a few friends and say, ‘Hey, I’m going through a tough time. I could really use a little support. It’s a big step for a lot of people,” Hendrix said.

Create a new relationship together

But loss isn’t the consequence of divorce: Couples can also build a new relationship with each other, Hendrix said.

“They can create any type of divorce they want if they co-create it together,” she said.

For some people this may be friendship, but for others it may not be possible. In these cases, it is still possible to move toward a caring and collaborative dynamic, especially if children are involved, Mazur said.

Ex-spouses “can kind of come together in some kind of partnership,” Hendrix said. “We may not have been the best in a relationship, but we can partner together to share our lives or figure out how to co-parent our children.”

Mazur recommends working with a therapist to understand how to overcome the difficult feelings that accompany divorce in order to build a new, more functional relationship. And be sure to give your ex-partner space and grace instead of immediately forcing a new sense of closeness, she added.

Divorcing partners can reach different emotional stages at different times, so it’s your job to “keep it classy,” Mazur said.

“Keep coming back with good will. Keep your side of the street clean. Always,” she said. “Don’t worry about what they do…and just go back.”

How to take care of children

If the end of the marriage involves children, their experience should be a priority, Mazur said.

Co-parenting apart is very different from co-parenting as a couple because you have to make decisions together while dealing with your own hurt, Nelson said.

And just because you’re no longer together doesn’t mean one parent should unilaterally make the decision to raise the children and inform the other parent, Mazur added.

There are a lot of questions you still need to answer together, Nelson said, some of which will be negotiated as part of a custody agreement. How do you spend your vacation? What do you do with birthdays? What happens when you start dating someone? When is it okay to introduce a new partner?

Bringing in a mediator who can help navigate the new parenting system together may be one of the most effective approaches, especially when parents are still healing from hurt and anger, she said. she declared.

Co-parents need to rely on therapy or supportive adults in their lives to work through these feelings and not express them to children, Mazur said.

“Your children are watching. They notice everything,” Mazur said. “And that’s their mother or father you’re talking about.”

The goal of both parents should be to let their children know they are loved and still have a family, she added.

“You want to be able to go to school and play together and be cool, and then go get ice cream all together afterwards,” Mazur said. “It doesn’t have to be a vacation together – although that’s nice too – but they just need to know that they still have what everyone else has.”

Bright spots at the other end

Divorce may not be something you wanted, but you can find ways to benefit from it, Mazur said.

“Whenever you go through a crisis or tragedy or trauma like this, the only way to get through it is to make sense of it,” she said.

Maybe the meaning is letting go of the disconnection, anger and drain of energy that accompanied the end of your marriage, Nelson said. Finding growth could mean reconnecting with who you are, your values ​​and what you want in another relationship, she added.

Divorce can motivate reflection on how you want to make changes or even initiate the first call you make to a therapist, Hendrix said.

“In life, it is the moments of pain that help us grow the most,” she said. You can move forward by viewing your “divorce as the catalyst for an extraordinary life.”

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