Divorce: for Better or Worse?

Divorce counseling and divorce mediationToo often people head down the divorce path without getting some good marriage advice. If more people did seek out some good relationship counseling then they might save themselves a lot of heartache and money. They might also help reduce the pain for themselves and their children (young or older). There is no doubt in my mind that some couples need to get divorced and there is also no doubt in my mind that many couples can work their marriage around and create a happier relationship. Marriage is a tough relationship and requires work. When it seems there is little hope, a couple would be wise to seek out a good Marriage and Family Therapist, especially if they’re in need of divorce counseling. If they have kids and are not 100% sure then my advice would be to try keep themselves on the marriage side of mid-way between marriage and divorce.

Why try to save marriage?

Because they are in a serious contract and have children and a whole life style. When a couple divorce each will have a reduction in financial stability. Before changing their status they need to get objective relationship counseling and marriage advice and, if they are healthy people, the outcome will be more life giving and help minimize the damage and pain. The Therapist should be one who specializes in Couples issues and the two partners need to feel ‘comfortable’ with the Therapist. Every therapist will not fit every couple. If you don’t like the Therapist’s approach try another Therapist!

For those who learn and decide to stay together

Through the therapeutic endeavor they will learn more about themselves and how to enhance their personal lives and marriage relationship. Too often couples have carried unhealthy ways of dealing with life into their marriages and then tend to think that their partner is the cause of all pain. Not true! The pain that I have seen in marriage is mutually caused and often comes from each person’s learned behavior from their Family of Origin. We all have some issues coming from our pasts and the marriage relationship tends to accentuate those issues. Often we feel if we get rid of the other person we will also get rid of the pain. The problematic issues from our past help form a dynamic that the couple become entrenched in. In therapy they see some of their own issues more clearly and speak about needs they have. The couple learn to approach each other differently and this can help them build love and connection anew. This is what most of us want.

For those who learn and decide to divorce

They too have learned a lot about themselves and the dynamic that they have mutually created. They too have learned of the need to express needs and of the impact of their past on the present. However, they see that the relationship is not a viable one and move towards divorce. In most of the cases I have dealt with it is one person who usually ends up coming to that conclusion first. There is a lot of pain for both people because their dream is coming to an end. Now they enter divorce with more understanding and try to reduce blame. They will be more inclined to approach the divorce process less angrily and this will reduce the potential for escalation of anger in divorcing. This will minimize their costs in money, time and emotions. Most importantly, they will reduce the pain for their children. The divorcing couple are in a better position to approach the co-parenting of their children into the future. The kids will feel less torn between the parents and structures will be developed to try help the kids feel they still have 2 loving parents who are going to continue to look after their needs. Divorce is change and changes usually involve some pain. As I work with and listen to my clients I know that parents hurt their kids much more than divorce. Making accusations, talking disrespectfully to or about the other parent, sending bad messages through the children, not allowing the kids easy access to the other parent, court battles, etc. are the things that damage the children’s lives the most. The Collaborative Law approach to divorce can also greatly help reduce escalation and pain, if you make sure to choose a truly Collaborative attorney when it comes to divorce mediation. All attorneys are not the same. Interview them and choose wisely because this is a huge milestone in your life and the lives of your children!

Tony Fryer

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Infidelity in Marriage

Tony Fryer, MFT can help counsel families through infidelity in marriage

“Why did you do it? How could you do this to me and the kids? What were you thinking? Do you love me? Can I ever trust you again? Was our relationship a lie?”

I have listened to so many couples coming for marriage advice and relationship counseling after infidelity and the questions are many. No couple is ever the same as another and yet there are some similar situations around the experience of infidelity in marriage. Often we are lead to believe that it is only bad people who have affairs and yet I can say that my experience has been quite the contrary. I think most people can accept that the action of having an affair is bad, as it violates the bonds and contract of marriage.

Marriage is a relationship with huge expectations and when the expectation of fidelity is broken the pain is immense. Many people will decide to divorce and others will move on with the marriage and never really deal with or try to understand the trauma that has occurred. Most of my work has been with couples who want to try to understand what has happened, forgive and see if they can find a way to save their relationship. These are the couples that I am talking about here. They usually come in with very intense emotions and wonder if they can turn things around. Often the person who had the affair is guilt-ridden and wants to leave the whole thing behind and move on. They can be frustrated that their partner is unable to do likewise. The partner is often deeply wounded and angry and unsure whether they can ever again trust their spouse. They doubt every aspect of the relationship and the affair seems to block out or call into question any positive relationship attributes.

As time moves on I find that the vast bulk of couples come to understand their life and relationship differently. I see them leave with a relationship that is more communicative than it has ever been. They don’t forget, nor should they. They learn more about what they want from a relationship. The person who had the affair accepts full responsibility for the terrible choice they made, that could have destroyed the marriage they want. The couple both put more effort into how they relate and develop more openness with their feelings, needs and desires. My experience has been that this couple ends up with a relationship that, ironically, is deeper than it has ever been.

Traumas are never desirable (including an affair) but when they are worked through healthily, can often immensely increase our understanding. It requires both partners being prepared to work hard in couples therapy.

Tony Fryer