6 Secrets to a Healthy Divorce

Two people standing facing their back at sunset

When you think of divorce, you may envision screaming matches, resentment, and manipulative behavior. A divorce can be one of the most difficult events for a couple, or a family, to go through. Even divorces that start amicably can erupt in anguish as the process unfolds.

However, separating from your spouse doesn’t have to turn into a nasty divorce. Couples can choose more positive and productive ways to work through this difficult event.

Partners who are separating promote a much more peaceful experience simply by using some forethought, kindness, and awareness. Read on for 6 ways you can create a healthy divorce and a happier outcome for the entire family.

Going with the flow, without holding resentments, helps the entire family unit make the transition through divorce far less painful. Click To Tweet

HOW COMMON IS DIVORCE?

Divorce is painfully common. Data from the National Center for Health Statistics shows that 673,989 divorces occurred in 2022.

In fact, about half of all first marriages end in divorce. Second, third, and subsequent marriages have even higher divorce rates.

WHAT IS THE LEADING CAUSE OF DIVORCE?

According to a 2023 Forbes Advisor survey among 1,000 Americans who are divorced or going through the process, there are a variety of reasons for ending a marriage.

Lack of family support (43%) and infidelity (34%) were the top 2. The next 3 most common claims each received 31% of respondents’ votes: lack of compatibility, lack of intimacy, and too much conflict/arguing.

Other motives that made the list included financial stress, lack of commitment, parenting differences, marrying too young, opposing morals/values, and substance abuse.

Additionally, many couples don’t realize the myriad ways in which brain and mental health issues can spark the relationship problems that often lead to the dissolution of marriage.

The brain-imaging work at Amen Clinics using SPECT scans shows that underlying brain dysfunction is a common contributor to conflict in relationship.

In other words, if you’re facing the pain of divorce, you’re not alone. But you can make the process easier for all parties by adhering to a few basic principles.

HOW TO DESIGN A HEALTHY DIVORCE

Keep in mind the following steps to create a healthy divorce process:

1. Keep RELATING.

Even though your relationship in its current form is coming to an end, it’s wise to use the same relationship skills you’d want to employ if you were remaining a couple. Remember the acronym RELATING when it comes to fostering healthy relationship habits:

  • Responsibility: Each person should take responsibility for their actions and contributions.
  • Empathy: Put yourself in your partner’s shoes.
  • Listening and good communication: Don’t interrupt, jump to conclusions, or be dismissive.
  • Assertiveness: Be clear about your needs while staying calm.
  • Time: Remain present and emotionally available when you’re together.
  • Inquiring: Ask yourself if your automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) are really true.
  • Noticing: Look for positives and share them.
  • Grace and forgiveness: Give these to yourself and your partner—often.

2. Face your emotions.

Marital conflict and divorce are bound to bring up a whirlwind of emotion. Partners may feel fear, anger, grief, sadness, hopelessness, overwhelm, and anxiety.

They may also feel positive emotions, such as relief, which can bring about feelings of guilt or confusion. Because these emotions can be uncomfortable, many people push them down or stay busy to distract themselves.

But remember that feeling is the way toward healing. Find natural ways to process your feelings and boost mood. Taking up a new sport or hobby, journaling, starting psychotherapy or counseling sessions, meditating, or joining support groups can greatly improve your mental health during difficult times.

It’s also important to tend to fundamental self-care, including a healthy diet, regular exercise, and proper sleep. Prioritizing these basics ensures you’re in the optimal state to process your emotions and deal with difficulties if they arise.

  1. Care for any children involved.

There’s no question that divorce is not good for children. However, staying in a chronically unhappy, conflicted, negative relationship is even worse. You can navigate a divorce to minimize the fallout on your kids.

Studies have shown that effective parenting will affect children’s ability to cope with stressors such as divorce. The mental health professionals at Amen Clinics typically recommend a few strategies to soothe children amid a divorce:

  • Protect kids from witnessing active conflict, which can increase their risk for negative social or psychological side effects.
  • Be honest with your kids about the situation, preferably with both parents speaking to them together.
  • Try to prepare children for any changes in advance, such as with sharing custody. When possible, avoid initiating other life changes right after the divorce.
  • Don’t badmouth your spouse to your children. Ensure the kids maintain healthy relationships with both parents.

When arranging child custody and living arrangements, you and your partner should act as a team working in the best interests of the children.

Meanwhile, keep the lines of communication open with them, so that they’re comfortable sharing their feelings. Ensure they feel supported and as stable as possible during this tumultuous time.

  1. Explore alternative divorce methods.

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR), such as negotiation, mediation, and arbitration, may be a great way to avoid draining legal proceedings. Any of these options can help reduce the emotional and financial toll on a divorcing couple.

Such alternatives are designed to reach agreements between the partners that are more peaceful and mutually beneficial. The end result can be much less stress on both partners, compared to a traditional divorce carried out in the courtroom with lawyers.

  1. Keep an open mind.

Remain flexible and open to changes—whether it’s a scheduling issue that arises when co-parenting your children or a conflict over who will keep the family pet. Understand that not all things will flow smoothly when separating two lives.

Also be willing to make some concessions and compromises. Going with the flow, without holding resentments, helps the entire family unit make the transition through divorce far less painful.

  1. Acknowledge endings and beginnings.

Divorce may be a closing of one life chapter, but it also signals a new beginning for both partners and the entire family. If possible, take time to process the experience with your partner and attempt to establish some closure.

Then, on your own, reflect on what lessons you’ve learned through the relationship. Take accountability and consider what you might do differently in the future. Embrace this opportunity to begin again, this time with more knowledge about what does and doesn’t work for you within relationships.

However, be careful not to rush into a new partnership. Healing takes time after a marriage ends. And, in the case of longer marriages, it may be necessary to learn first who you are individually, without being part of a couple.

OVERCOMING THE PAIN OF DIVORCE

Divorce, understandably, turns a couple’s world upside-down. It’s normal to feel disillusionment or despair when the secure, happy future you envisioned at the altar is no longer a possibility.

But with half of Americans facing divorce, it’s important for everyone to brush up on the conflict-resolution and communication skills that can ease the process for all parties. With a little bit of patience and a lot of forgiveness and flexibility, you can turn a painful experience into a springboard toward a healthier, happier future.

Marital conflicts, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

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