Going through a divorce, even when you know it's definitely the right choice, shakes up your entire life and can make you feel a range of complicated emotions. You may feel a combination of sad, angry, depressed, relieved, anxious, or guilty. In fact, divorce ranks just below the death of a spouse on the list of most stressful life events, according to many experts. Seeking counseling during or after your divorce can help you navigate this challenging time and come out whole and happy on the other side.
Here are five specific ways counseling can help when you're going through a divorce:
Counseling Can Help You Identify Relationship Patterns
Think back to your dating life before you met your ex-spouse. Have you always been drawn to partners with similar personalities, or those who trigger your insecurity or defensiveness in similar ways? Do your relationships tend to break down in similar ways over time? Do you have a history of finding yourself in dysfunctional or abusive relationships, even if the details are different each time?
Counseling will help you recognize and identify these patterns and teach you how to break free of them in the future. You will learn to find partners who are a healthier match for you so you can break free of destructive patterns when you start dating again.
Counseling Can Help You Practice Genuine Forgiveness
Perhaps your spouse cheated on you, was cold and distant, or regularly belittled you. The decision to divorce often involves confronting the ways that your partner has hurt you over the years, which can leave you feeling resentful and bitter. Instead of allowing these negative feelings to permeate your life, counseling can teach you to take a big-picture view of your partner and see how their behavior was more about them and their own dysfunction than anything you did.
This can help you gain empathy for them and learn to forgive them so you can truly move on. In addition, counseling can help you forgive yourself if you are experiencing feelings of guilt for things you did during your marriage or for deciding to get a divorce.
Counseling Can Teach You Better Relationship Skills
In any marriage, both partners make mistakes and resort to defense and coping mechanisms that are not beneficial for the marriage. In order to move on to healthier and happier romantic relationships in the future and also experience stronger relationships with friends and family, your counselor will teach you better relationship skills. This may involve learning to be a better listener, to be more assertive, to be more empathetic, or to set clearer boundaries, depending on your unique personality and needs.
Counseling Can Help You Process Trauma
If your marriage was emotionally or physically abusive, you are likely experiencing symptoms of trauma, including emotional numbness or a feeling of disconnect, insomnia, nightmares, or intense feelings of shame. Your counselor will help you process the trauma from your relationship in a healthy way so that the scary experiences from your past begin to lose their hold over you and you can begin to feel free and happy again. It is very important to work through relationship trauma before you begin dating again.
Counseling Can Help You See the Positive
While divorce is difficult, it can also be the start of a positive transformation. Counseling can help you begin to focus on yourself again and re-learn just what it is you want out of life. Your counselor will help you identify your strengths and passions and set positive goals for yourself regarding your love life, friendships, hobbies, and career. Counseling can help you reframe your divorce into an exciting new beginning.
As you can see, seeking professional help when you're going through a divorce can be beneficial on many different levels.