Divorce Well: The Greatest Gift You Can Give Your Children, Your Ex and Yourself

Divorce doesn't have to be as horrible as some try to make it.
Divorce doesn’t have to be as horrible as some try to make it.
Getty Images

The divorce rate for first marriages is 48%. Couples marrying for the second time divorce at a rate of 67%. And unfortunately, third marriages end at an abysmal rate of 73%. Clearly, people need to do a much better job when it comes to making what I believe is probably the most important decision of our lives: Deciding who they choose to marry.

I have identified three things that we need to learn and do, if we ever hope to have a successful marriage or relationship with anyone.

LESSONS TO BE LEARNED: ARE YOU ONBOARD?

Each of us needs to be in a good place emotionally and psychologically. We need to be willing to work through — as best as we can — our past hurts, traumas and skeletons in the closet. There are always lessons to be learned from our good, bad and ugly histories. Hopefully, in moving forward, people will find better and healthier ways to live and cope, so as not to repeat destructive, self-destructive or self-sabotaging patterns.

We need to have clarity about the ingredients that actually go into a successful long-term relationship. Over the years, I have found that despite more media attention being paid to relationships and mental health, many people still seem to be unaware of the importance of educating themselves about what it really takes to have a healthy relationship.

We need to be willing to actually use my 10-step formula, based on my research and book, For Better for Worse Forever: Discover the Path to Lasting Love, for assessing who’s right or wrong for you before committing to any serious relationship. After all, we assess everything in our lives. We read Consumer Reports and the never-ending reviews online about services and products that we are contemplating using. We fool ourselves into believing that we don’t need to go through the same kind of rigorous process when we are contemplating having a serious relationship.

Marriage counseling session divorce well
Effective marriage counseling requires talking to partners together and apartGetty Images

HOW TO DIVORCE WELL

HOWEVER …

Despite our best intentions, divorce is a reality, and the emotional, psychological and financial consequences of divorce cannot be minimized. Children suffer in unimaginable ways when their parents’ marriage and family life is dissolved.

However, I believe that people have the capability of deciding how well or how badly they choose to divorce. So even though you may feel like inflicting as much pain, damage and vengeance on your former spouse as possible, take time to think about how you might channel your emotions in healthier ways.

REMEMBER …

This is not the time to be taking this painful journey on your own. Hopefully, you have friends and family who will offer you love and support.

However, give yourself permission and reach out and ask for professional help, if and when you feel that despite all of your efforts, you are struggling and are unable to cope with the reality of your divorce.

Dear Beatty,

John and I have been married for over 25 years. We have three teenage children. I have been a stay-at-home mother and my husband is a financial advisor for a major international lending institution.

Although we’ve had the usual ups and downs in our marriage, I never could have dreamed that my husband, the love of my life, has been leading a secret life for the past five years with another woman and family.

I discovered the devastating news in a series of emails while using his computer last week.

When I confronted him, he confessed to everything, showing no emotion or remorse. I think that he was actually relieved that I discovered the truth about his other life. I asked him whether he wanted to try and save our marriage. His answer was a definitive no.

He wanted a divorce. My initial instinct was to try and find ways to destroy him in every possible way. We decided to tell the children together, leaving out the part about his other life. I need some good advice as to how to proceed.

-Jasmine, B. of Sagaponack

Dear Jasmine,

What a shock to discover that your husband, someone who you have loved and trusted for 25 years, has another life! I can’t begin to imagine the pain, anger, disappointment, betrayal and abandonment that you understandably are feeling.

What’s really important for you, your children and even your husband is that the end of your marriage be handled in the best possible way.

I know that this probably sounds like an impossible task to even consider at this moment. However, for all of your sakes, this does need to be the goal. First, you need to find yourself a divorce attorney — someone who will be available to you — someone who you can count on to protect you and your children’s legal and financial interests.

Ideally, mediation is a viable and less contentious choice in working out all the details including custody, visitation, child support, alimony, etc. However, given the fact that your husband has proven to be such a good liar for so many years, I would not trust him and therefore, would not recommend mediation in your situation.

I would also suggest that you and the children find yourself a good therapist who will be able to help you emotionally work through the reality of your new situation and guide you in constructive ways to help you to move forward. As for your children finding out about their father’s other life, I believe that honesty always wins out in the end.

Please remember that there is life after divorce.

Beatty Cohan, MSW, LCSW, AASECT is a nationally recognized psychotherapist, sex therapist, author of for Better for Worse Forever: Discover the Path to Lasting Love, columnist, national speaker, national radio and television expert guest and host of the weekly Ask Beatty Show on the Progressive Radio Network. She has a private practice in New York City and East Hampton.

Beatty would love to hear from you. You can email her your questions and comments at [email protected]. For more information go to beattycohan.com.

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