June 19, 2013

Guilt and Ambivalence About Divorce

GuiltDebra Messing recently expressed guilt over her divorce and the fact that she and her husband couldn’t give her son “the fantasy” that her parents gave her in a marriage that was now ending. She said she and her husband both wanted to make it work and last forever but weren’t able to make it “go the course.”

If you and your spouse are uncertain about whether you want to end your marriage, there are resources for you to use before making the final decision about a divorce. This is not marriage counseling for people who already know they want to continue their marriage and need help in making that happen, but ambivalence counseling which helps couples figure out whether they really want a divorce.

Some trained mental health professionals who do this work in the collaborative divorce community are Brian Burns and Karen Haase. If you ultimately decide to get divorced, this ambivalence counseling work may help you understand each other’s perspectives about what happened during the marriage and the differences that led to your decision to divorce. Ambivalence counseling could also result in your decision to stay married or hold off the divorce.

If, after counseling on your uncertainty about whether or not to be divorced, you decide that you do want to be divorced, don’t dwell too much on guilt or past mistakes in your marriage. Yes, you can learn from mistakes made, but assigning guilt made for past mistakes won’t be a strong foundation for final agreement in your divorce. You may have different memories and perspectives about why the marriage ended and may not reach agreement on these issues.

Instead, you should focus on the present and future issues you face – where you will live, what your parenting schedule will be, how you will pay for your living expenses in two households and how you will divide your assets and debts. Focussing on the future and problem solving about these issues will be more productive for your family than attempting to assign blame or allow guilt to guide your decisions in a divorce.

During the collaborative divorce process, these feelings of guilt or anger are acknowledged and addressed but don’t drive the process. A couple who had these feelings of guilt and anger during their collaborative divorce have shared their experience in a video which follows the steps in their divorce process.

Linda OjalaABOUT THE AUTHOR
Linda Ojala
Attorney, Baker Vicchiollo Law

Linda Ojala, J.D. has been practicing collaborative divorce since 1993 and believes that most people want to avoid court and make their own decisions about their future. As a Financial Early Neutral Evaluator for Hennepin County Family Court since 2007, she has helped couples make realistic assessments of possible outcomes in court. Learn more at www.TwinCitiesFamilyLawAttorney.com

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2 Responses to Guilt and Ambivalence About Divorce

  1. Emily Murphy says:

    Linda, this is a great post! I wish that every couple seeking a divorce would seek the help of a mental health professional or coach BEFORE coming to an attorney. So much work can be done before involving attorneys to help couples through the divorce process minimizing conflict and negativity.

  2. I believe in saving the marriage and trying and doing everything before coming to a decision which is divorce. I agree with counseling. I know about couples who seeked marriage counseling and it did help their marriage but if the couple is already decided on having a divorce, there’s nothing that can do to save their marriage, even counseling won’t help. Great source of information by the way.

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