How often have you read about or heard someone reflecting back on their divorce, how awful it was at the time, how it wasn’t their choice and yet, how they wouldn’t go back to that marriage again, how much they’ve learned since then and how much they themselves have changed?
Compare that to the person who talks bitterly about their ex, even years afterwards, the person who doesn’t have a new circle of friends, doesn’t have new interests and says that everything would have been OK if they hadn’t gotten divorced?
Two completely different perspectives – victim and survivor. The difference comes with healing from the emotional trauma and that’s what divorce recovery programs are designed to do.
And there are many different formats so what can you expect, when’s the right time to participate and what things should you take into consideration when choosing a program?
Joining Mandy for this Conversation is Zina Arinze who is based in London, England. Zina is a divorce coach and author of Reinvent You: How To Move From We To Me After Divorce. Find out more information about Zina at her website BelieveAndLiveAgain.
Listen in to the Conversation below or keep reading for a synopsis.
Do You Want To Grow Or Move On?
The truth is that no one wants to keep feeling the way they did with the end of their marriage. Nobody wants to stay stuck there but there is a difference between growing and simply moving on or even just going through it.
Arinze says that when you go through it you feel, “Good riddance. I’ve moved on. I’m OK.” But often people are not. At some point, there will be an event, perhaps a friend’s wedding or a funeral and all of a sudden, that will trigger a flood of emotions stemming from the divorce. When that happens, it’s clear that the person may have gone through their divorce but they haven’t grown from it.
The person who says, “I’m fine” and is blase about the divorce, “It’s common. It’s no big deal. Most of my friends are divorced,” is likely emotionally disconnected and while that may be a self-preservation move, the danger is that it blocks emotional intimacy for future relationships.
Arinze stresses the importance of taking the time to process all the hard emotions that come with the end of a marriage. As an example she talks about grief and how there’s grief with divorce, much like there is grief with death. If we don’t allow ourselves to grieve, when we do meet someone new, we may unintentionally take baggage into that new relationship.
Growing from your divorce is about asking what are the lessons I need to learn from this. However, “this is not about blaming yourself or someone else. It’s about taking responsibility for your life,” said Arinze. That might mean learning to set better boundaries, letting go of bitterness, developing your emotional intelligence or becoming more assertive.
“When you get a divorce, it’s a wonderful opportunity to relearn who you are,” said Arinze.
Make A Conscious Choice
Up until maybe five years ago, many people didn’t have access to a divorce recovery program or weren’t aware they existed so they muddled through their recovery. The good news is that’s changed and programs are available now online, in person and through books and Arinze says you’re better off participating in a program because then you have someone to support you through this.
“Family and friends are fantastic but don’t truly understand what you’re going through and you end up feeling guilty because you’re offloading on them,” said Arinze.
The benefit of a structured program is that the healing is more intentional and often means you’ll recover faster. With that comes clarity for the future.
Do Separately From The Legal Process
Ending a committed relationship takes time and it takes emotional energy. Given that most people are working and parenting, then there’s limited bandwidth for the additional tasks of getting divorced. There are only so many hours in a day and you have to choose where to spend your money.
Since the legal process is consuming, both Arinze and I recommend participating in a divorce recovery program either before you start the legal process or after the legal process is complete but definitely not while it’s going on.
If you and your spouse have agreed your marriage is over but neither one of you is ready to move forward with the legal process, then doing a recovery program prior to the legal process may make sense. If either of you needs or wants to push through with the formal process, then you’re better off waiting until those are complete.
When you’re thinking about what timing that would work best for you, remember to consider not just the program schedule, such as three hours, once a week for eight weeks. Most programs involve assignments in addition to what is covered during structured sessions and to get the most out of the program, you’ll want to commit to doing these assignments.
Group or Individual?
You can choose to participate in a structured program either working one-on-one with a coach or in a group. The advantage of working solo is that the program can be tailored to your specific concerns both in terms of what you work on and the order in which the topics are covered. You move at your pace at a time that works for your schedule and you’re assured privacy. On the other hand, because this is one-on-one, this is likely to cost more.
Conversely, you could participate in a group. Most program leaders will be agreeable to adapting their program to ensure your concerns are addressed (assuming those concerns are divorce-related) and these programs are more affordable. While you won’t be able to control the order in which different topics are presented, these courses are structured so that everything does come together.
“Group programs are exceptionally valuable because you can bounce ideas off each other,” said Arinze. It’s less threatening because everyone is in a similar situation.
If privacy concerns alone are pushing you to one-on-one then that may be a sign of feeling shamed and embarrassed about your divorce and that may be the very reason to do a group program.
Probably the least effective program would be working solo through a book but even that is better than doing nothing.
Same Sex or Mixed Groups?
Some programs are open only to men or only to women while others are mixed. Those that are mixed usually have a no dating rule requiring participants to agree that they will not date another participant while in the program. The downside with mixed groups is that even with the no dating rule, the dynamics are different. And a participant may project the actions of their spouse onto another participant and become triggered by that person’s comments and perspectives. This demands expertise from the coach in managing these dynamics.
The power of mixed groups is the different perspectives that get shared. They can bring a greater understanding to your own situation and they may create a greater awareness that is helpful once a person is ready to start dating again.
In Arinze’s own practice, her longer programs are gender specific.
Most people are eager to know how long it’s going to be before they start feeling better, before they can get through a day without crying or before the actions of their ex no longer trigger them. That’s a tough question to answer because it depends on an individual’s circumstances.
Some programs are structured over an eight or ten week period, some programs are designed as intensive retreats and some are organized in levels with each level being just two or three weeks.
“I tell people divorce coaching is not like how to make more money or how to look for a new job. This is something to do with your emotions so you can’t cram it over a weekend,” said Arinze.
A practical consideration is how will the program work with your current schedule. Are you able to commit to an eight week program without missing any classes? If you miss a class what provision is there to make up that class? While a weekend intensive may not be as immediately effective as a program that is more spread out, if that’s the time that works with all your other commitments, then it’s still going to be better than doing nothing.
It’s worth remembering that even at the end of a program, regardless of its duration, you may still be struggling with specific issues. The difference however will be that you now have tools and strategies to help you.
“Trust me, wherever you are in the world, you can bounce back, you can make lemonade, you can reinvent yourself,” said Arinze. “The golden rule is to be better not bitter.”
Based in London, England, Zina Arinze is wears many hats including divorce coach and author of Reinvent You: How To Move From We To Me After Divorce. Find out more information about Zina at her website BelieveAndLiveAgain.