A dissolution of marriage does not end the relationship between you and your former spouse.
Rather, it begins a new, and often painful process of restructuring your relationship. working together, you can create a new relationship as friends and Co-parents of your children.
This process, however, requires time. You should be aware of the various stages which may be encountered along the way. These may occur separately or simultaneously.
The Mourning Stage
During this period one or both parties may feel separation pain of varying degrees. There is mourning over the loss of the marriage relationship. Feelings of sadness may be accompanied by hurt, anger, or guilt. There may be a strong need to place blame, “get even”, or punish the other party. These feelings are normal although they can be frightening and upsetting to the person who is experiencing them.
This stage can’t be rushed through. Allow yourself to experience your feelings and seek counseling assistance if necessary.
If you are the spouse who is the target of these feelings, you can help by listening sympathetically and dealing with your spouse while he or she is going through this stage. it is important to reassure the children that these feelings are not directed toward them, and do not affect their relationship with either parent.
The Dependency Stage
During this stage, strong emotions may have subsided, but a need for various types of support – financial, emotional, help with daily problems – may continue.
The long-term habit of depending on one another for help and companionship may persist for an indefinite period. Especially where there are children, or a long-term marriage, this interdependency may continue for many years. This can be a healthy and positive relationship unless it delays the process of personal growth or burdens either party.
If this occurs, the party who feels burdened may need to be more assertive in expressing his or her own needs. The party who feels overly dependent may need to work on developing a new support system, and seek counseling, if necessary.
Building a New Identity
Each spouse in a marriage bases a part of his or her identity on the marriage age relationship. When the marriage ends, a period of time is required to establish a new identity as a single person. This is an often painful process of self discovery. It can involve purchasing a new home, exploring new interests and activities and making new friends.
During this period, it is a good idea to call on trusted friends and relatives for moral support and companionship.
The Final Stage
Integration This is the desired end result of the restructuring process. Each party feels comfortably established in his or her new identity as a single person. (If there is a new relationship, he or she feels free to acknowledge that new relationship without guilt or resentment.)
There is a new sense of the ability to cope with the problems of daily life and of personal well-being. Each person sees him or herself as a capable individual, with strengths and weaknesses, and feels more accepting of his or her ex-spouse.
A friendship may develop which is based on a realistic understanding and appreciation of each other as individuals, and on common interests and responsibilities, especially as co-parents.
What You Can Do Now
You can speed the restructuring process by acknowledging and accepting your feelings, by keeping communication open with your spouse, your children, and trusted friends and relatives, and by seeking counseling when necessary.