Monday, November 16, 2009

Are You Emotionally Divorced?

It is a common misconception that people are divorced the moment the judge signs the legal documents. Not so. While they may be legally divorced, now comes the hard part. Being legally divorced is only relevant from a logistical standpoint. Yes, there is important paperwork that needs to be done. The Social Security Administration and credit card companies need to be notified. One or both spouses need to move out. Time sharing guidelines for any children of the marriage need to be negotiated. Extended family members need to be told. There are myriad ways that each of you needs to begin to create a life apart from the other. But all of this doesn’t necessarily mean you will be divorced in the most important way: emotionally. Being emotionally divorced is a process that occurs over time.

How can you tell if you are emotionally divorced?
• You no longer cry at the drop of a hat about your lost spouse, marriage, in-laws, or time with your children.
• You are no longer angry about what happened – or didn’t.
• You feel neutral about your spouse. The attachment to him/her as a spouse has dissipated, even if you still are friendly and cordial.
• If you have children, you are committed to and able to cooperatively co-parent with your ex-spouse.
• If you have residual anger, hurt, or sadness, you are able to set that aside in favor of cooperatively co-parenting with your spouse.
• You can talk with or about your spouse without blaming him/her or yourself for the end of the marriage.
• You have accepted responsibility for your part in the marital dysfunction and divorce.
• You have developed a live-and-let-live attitude toward your former spouse.
• You have released any residual resentment or longing to be reunited.

In short, when you have accepted and grieved the end of the marriage. Only then are you genuinely ready to move on.

Do these sound too hard to attain? Do these markets seem Pollyanna or pie in the sky? Then keep working on it. They are worthy goals toward which to strive.

Those who share children with a former spouse and who are forced to interact with him/her can expect to have a more difficult time with post-divorce recovery than childless couples. In the later case, you can walk away and never have to interact with him/her again. People in either situation who remain angry, vengeful, and blaming are stuck emotionally. Resentments that burn like red hot coals pose a grave risk to your psychological life going forward. You will gain nothing but loneliness and bitterness.

It is a common misconception that love and hate are opposites. On the contrary. They are merely heads and tails of the same coin. Love and indifference are opposites. Lack of any particular feeling one way or the other about a former spouse, except respect for him/her as a human being, is the goal toward which to strive. Then you will be emotionally and legally divorced.

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