Why do people divorce, and how can you heal from a divorce?

I recently had a chance to interview Jeannine Lee, facilitator for Fisher Rebuilding divorce recovery seminars, about divorce and why the workshop can be so valuable for people who are getting a divorce or already divorced. Fair disclosure: I have gone through this course myself and am now a volunteer for the Fisher Rebuilding Divorce Recovery Seminars. This article is long, but I think it’s well worth reading.
Q: Based on my own personal experience, there are a distressing number of people going through divorces. Why do you think there are so many divorces?
That’s a big question, but I can think of several reasons…

• For the most part, as a culture we’ve moved beyond basic survival needs and onto self-actualization. We’re dreaming bigger and requiring more of our relationships.
• Relationships are hard work and unless you keep up with them the burden of unresolved issues gets so large it topples the marriage.
• Instant gratification. We want what we want right now. We’ve moved away from simple agriculture that helps us understand just how long things take in the real world (as opposed to our drive-thru window world). It’s a long time between a sprout and an ear of corn. It takes a while to correct a marriage that’s on a faulty course. We give up too soon.
• We’re blamers. Instead of looking inward and making positive changes in ourselves that will improve the relationship, we blame our partner and expect him or her to make the changes so we don’t have to. That points to how important it is for us to ‘be right’ and ‘look good’, which are killer attitudes in a relationship. Relationships are messy.
• And of course there are the dynamics within marriage that kill it from the inside out. The number one relationship killer is some kind of imbalance of power: parent/child, master/slave, tyrant/victim, over-responsible/under responsible, heel/doormat. The variations are endless but the dynamic is the same. A shift to a balance of power must be made for the relationship to survive long-term, but because these are deep character issues it takes time and a lot of TLC. We rarely have the skills to pull it off. The balance does happen, but it usually destroys the relationship in the process.
Q: Do men and women go through a different process of separation, grief and coming to terms with a divorce?
It is my experience that behavior creates the differences more than gender does. Certain behaviors have a tendency to follow gender lines more than others, but it is the behavior which creates the differences, not the gender itself.
Men are often more reluctant to give up, ask for help, show vulnerability. So far as that is true, it is harder for men to deal with their separation and the grief process (which is a lot of unknowns). There are plenty of women who resist asking for help and showing vulnerability. In that, they will have just as difficult a time as their male counterparts. Again, it is the behavior that is troublesome, not the gender.
As far as coming to terms with the divorce, men tend to be more goal-oriented and intellectual, and thus make decisions based on facts more quickly than women. My experience is that once a man decides to move on there is little that changes his mind. Women who are goal-oriented and intellectual follow the same pattern. There just seem to be fewer of them.
The key is to adapt useful behaviors that will help you recover well, regardless of your gender.
Q: Typically, it takes 1-2 years for people to heal from their divorces and get on with their lives, right? Is there any way to speed that up?
It’s hard to say how long it takes people to heal from divorce or other loss. A lot of it depends on the inner resources the person comes into the process with. If he or she is still a child in some area – whether developmentally or just knowing the ins and outs of doing life (like balancing a checkbook), the divorce process can be brutal. Divorce then is not just about separating lives, it also becomes about growing up in the lacking areas. That can take a lot of years, and in my experience, a lot of tears.
I had a participant in class once who had been divorced for 10 years. She was still stuck in anger. After Rebuilding she was finally able to ‘grow up in anger’ and move on.
Bruce Fisher estimated that it takes approximately a year for a person to recover on their own what it takes participants in the Rebuilding Class to recover in the 10 weeks of class. My experience is that people gain at least a year, often closer to 2.
There are several principles of healing and growth utilized during the courses that account for such rapid progress. It includes group process, individual process, writing, right-brained creativity, telling one’s story and being deeply heard, helping others, becoming real, and a renewed social life. Many people who take Fisher Rebuilding end up as life-long friends. It’s quite remarkable.
Q: As you know, I’ve taken the Fisher Rebuilding Divorce Recovery Seminar and found it of great value. Great enough that I am now a volunteer, helping others through this major life change. Let me ask you, though, what do you think are the key benefits that someone in the midst of a divorce or already divorced can receive from participation?
One of the reasons I love Rebuilding is that it is an educational seminar. The first few weeks are about the hard work of overcoming the emotions of divorce, but weeks 5 through week 10 are exploratory learning. That is, learning what went wrong in the ended relationship, and more importantly, what a person can do differently for next time. The program is not about blame (at least after a while); it is about self-discovery and personal responsibility. Owning one’s part of the problem is the first step toward freedom.
Rebuilding is actually helpful to recover from the loss of a love at any time and in any stage of the relationship. We’ve had widowers find help in the classes. One of the most devastated participants I had in class attended because of an aborted engagement. One does not have to be in the midst of divorce or already divorced to gain benefit.
Nina Hart, Bruce Fisher’s widow once said that Rebuilding is about turning any loss into a creative experience. I would add that divorce is a transformational experience. Life on the other side of divorce can be better than you ever imagined if you work it right. Reminds me of a quote I love: “You only live once but if you work it right once is enough.â€?
Q: Is there a book associated with the seminars?
There is. The seminar uses the book Rebuilding When Your Relationship Ends, by Dr. Bruce Fisher. The book has been translated into over 15 languages. The seminars themselves have been taught all over the world.
There is more content in the book than is covered in the live seminar simply due to time constraints so it’s worth a read even if you don’t attend a class. But before you think that the book alone is enough, also consider what Sandy, a participant from spring of 2007 had to say:
“I worked through the book on my own and wasn’t sure I wanted to take the time for the class. I’m so glad I did. It’s not possible to do nearly as much on one’s own! Plus, the new friendships were an unexpected bonus. It helps so much to hear about the experiences of others to open up and be honest with yourself.”
Not everyone can attend a live seminar. If that’s the case I have other course and coaching options available for those who want a bit more instruction than the book alone can provide. The internet is a fabulous tool!
Q: Any final thoughts?
Well, yes, actually. I would point out that different facilitators have different styles. My approach is as a life coach. Folks get double benefit from my classes. Not only do they recover from their divorce they also get a start on discovering and designing their new life. Participants get a free coaching session with me at the end of their seminar to continue the process of discovery.
Divorcing people are not broken people. Granted they are in a tough patch in life may need extra support to get through it – that is what we are here for. I am glad to hold the belief of wholeness for folks until they can believe it for themselves. These classes are a safe place to come heal.
Thanks Jeannine! If you’re in Colorado and interested in joining us in a seminar, please visit her Web site fisherdivorcerecovery.com for more information.

4 comments on “Why do people divorce, and how can you heal from a divorce?

  1. The list at the beginning of the interview pretty much covers it. We (Better: I!) tend to look at others to blame since it is the easier route than to do some hard work ourselves. I have fallen into that trap.
    Our expectations of relationships are distorted due to modern day media. This doesn’t only affect our kids but us as adulsts as well.
    Not everyone has the opportunity to study psychology to deal with their own stuff and create the self awareness to understand what is going on.
    Therefore a program likes this sounds like a very good alternate route.
    Many relationships could be saved (or avoided?) with a little more awareness earlier in the game.

  2. I have to agree with the first commenter. Relationships are hard work but you have to seek help when the problems first start. Usually people don’t go for counseling till they are have already been festering anger for years and by then usually it is too late.
    For those that figured out they are too far in to turn back I would suggest going to http://www.firstwivesworld.com. They just launched a social network for women that are contemplating, navigating and moving beyond divorce. It’s a safe haven for women of divorce to mentor each other and connect.
    I’m all for saving a marriage, my parents divorced when I was 12 so I have seen first hand what divorce looks like, but I’m also for helping women that are going through that very tough time in their lives. I wish something like this had been around when my parents were going through their divorce.
    All my very best,

  3. I was looking up attachment parenting and stumbled onto your Blog~ Its refreshing to see a male bloger blogin about fatherhood and parenthood,way to go!!!
    Peace in Christ,
    Married Mom Of 6 kiddos,

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