The process of letting go of unhealthy relationships through divorce or loss is quite challenging. However, closing this chapter in the book of life allows one to move forward and make healthier decisions. Thus, divorce and death are similar in that both require a sense of loss. The ones who address this process are the ones who give themselves permission to experience the bereavement and to become more introspective. Most individuals are fearful of facing this enormous emotional suffering.
Clearly, one may not be able to control or manage every single event that occurs within the life cycle. Many tragedies or disappointments occur that may create a sense of loss or sadness. As an illustration, when our love ones die we typically experience grief or bereavement which takes approximately eight seasons or two years to work through this process. The various stages of grief are as follows:
- shock and denial
The following story illustrates how death may impact all ages:
A very young boy named Aaron had a beautiful black Labrador retriever named Onxy that he had known since birth. At the tender age of four, the dog suddenly died and this was Aaron’s first experience with grief. Initially, he was in shock and he could not accept that his dog had died. In hopes that Onyx would return home, he continued to provide food and water for him on a daily basis for approximately three weeks. Once he experienced the initial stage of grief, he began to become increasingly agitated and irritable. For example, he tested limits with his parents and was easily provoked to anger which is the second stage of the grief cycle. During the third stage of the bereavement, he experienced childhood depression whereby he isolated from his playmates and family and suffered from a decrease in appetite and disruptive sleeping pattern.
Finally, his parents took Aaron along with a bouquet of beautiful flowers to Onyx’s grave and explained to him the process of death. He asked all of the precious questions that children often ask about death such as “Can he breathe under the ground and will he go to dog heaven?” It was at that point that Aaron began to move towards the last stage of grief which was acceptance. His parents proposed the idea of allowing him to select a new puppy and he was thrilled! His response was the following: “I don’t want just one puppy, I want 101 puppies with big black spots on them.” As the story goes, Aaron did get only one new Dalmatian puppy!
Likewise, as adults the grief and bereavement cycle can be very painful. The sense of loss may also create a fear of embracing new relationships due to fact that one may worry about experiencing another loss. Similarly, when an individual experiences a separation or divorce it is also perceived as a significant loss that one may or may not be able to control. Studies show that approximately 91% of divorces and termination of relationships are initiated by the female gender. According to some studies, a women’s standard of living goes down 73 percent after divorce while a man’s goes up 42 percent. Currently, divorce statistics are rising, but a couple of years ago it was estimated that one out of every two marriages end in divorce. Why is the divorce rate soaring at this time?
Perhaps one explanation would be that women often report that they feel deprived of affection that they cherish and are clueless about what to do with this issue. Another theory is that the divorce rate may be blamed on the women’s movement. Clearly, women have become more independent emotionally and economically and they feel more financially able to terminate a bad marriage. Men often report that they harbor resentment towards their spouse because they have tremendous financial responsibilities for the family. Men also acknowledge that being committed and monogamous is very difficult. Moreover, extramarital relationships exist in American marriages in more than half or more of all distressed couples entering into counseling. In some cases, it may improve the relationship or it may lead to separation or divorce.
However, the list of consequences that couples often report that stem from an extramarital affair are as follows: violation of trust, guilt, dishonesty or lies, anger depression, humiliation, anxiety, regret and remorse, disruption of careers, sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, jealousy, and/or separation and divorce. If the consequences are so severe, why do individuals risk having an extramarital affair? Simply, most individuals report that the extramarital affair allows them to have unmet needs in their marriage be met in their affair. Men are more likely to seek out an extramarital relationship due to the fact that their sexual desires are not met in their marriage. Whereas, women are more likely to seek out an affair due to the lack of intimacy in their marriage. Therefore, males often report that they are more devastated if they discover their wife is having an affair due to the emotional attachment that she may develop with her partner. In addition, the stigma and shame that once existed regarding divorce seems to be more acceptable in our society.
Aside from the aforementioned reasons, both genders will hopefully learn to take more responsibility for choosing a more compatible partner and learn to meet some of their own emotional needs. However, it is important to examine various reasons for the decision-making process and to take responsibility for exercising poor judgment. If someone has been in an mentally or physically abusive relationships it would be helpful to take a closer look at why that individual elected that particular partner and why they were not attracted to a healthier partner.
In other words, look in the mirror at yourself instead of picking up the magnifying glass and pointing the finger at your partner. In the process of psychotherapy, it is typically effective if the individuals gains insight into their own personal issues and choices versus focusing on what is wrong with others. After all, you are the one that chose your partner and you are the one who is accountable for future choices that you make in interpersonal relationships.