Two weeks ago, I provided places where you could find help for a troubled marriage and I very much hope that if your marriage had too many of the symptoms I wrote of the first week of this series, then you used those resources to avoid needing the information in this column. A healthy marriage is far preferable to a healthy divorce no matter how “good,” so I urge you in the strongest of terms to keep your marriage strong. In the interest of honesty among friends, I was divorced about eight years ago and I remarried about five years ago. The divorce, while unwanted by me, was a healthy one. Michelle and I have stayed friends over the years, I am certain our kids are much healthier and well adjusted, and I think my marriage to Dawn has benefitted from the self-reflection and growth the divorce spawned.
A healthy divorce requires a lot of work to make happen as well as a maturity and deep desire to have a healthy divorce. You should be highly motivated to achieve a healthy divorce because as the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University shows, children from divorced homes have a much higher chance of divorce themselves and suffering into adulthood with all of the social problems we as parents try to help them avoid. Many of these problems are exacerbated in a very hostile, unhealthy divorce.
Divorcesource.com notes a number of other benefits to achieving a healthy divorce:
· You will alleviate and ease tensions and conflict.
· You will possess a far greater opportunity regarding compliance with the terms of your agreement.
· You will save thousands of dollars in legal expenses.
There are now three ways to divorce: the old adversarial process of each side getting lawyers and inflicting as much damage to each other as possible, mediation, and collaboration. The collaborative divorce is becoming much more common as couples realize the benefit to the entire family. Locally, Angela Marshall with the Marshall Law Office is an Idaho Supreme Court Approved mediator and she reports, “Couples can save up to 75 percent of their legal costs by using mediation. Attorneys in the area routinely charge a 3,000-dollar retainer for each party just to get started. Where mediation typically runs 1,000-1500 dollars. What’s more, mediation is usually more successful in getting both parties to abide by the agreements they make as opposed to the courts trying to compel behavior.”
While there are a number of books and internet sources that outline in detail how to have a healthy divorce, you and your spouse should give serious consideration to a marriage and family therapist to guide you through the process. Counseling is very helpful to move the entire family into the new paradigm post divorce. Children, if any, need to see their parents being civil to each other at all times, and parents should do whatever it takes to relieve the children of any guilt they may have over the divorce. Counseling has benefits to the couple as well, both healing in the current relationship and preparing for relationships in the future.
The best possible answer to this age-old question is to be a highly functioning person who finds and marries a highly functioning person, and then as a couple do the hard work and preventative maintenance of the relationship to keep the relationship healthy. The next best answer is to find a qualified marriage family therapist at the first sign of trouble to get the relationship back on an even keel. Failing these two best options, at a minimum, you owe it to yourself and any children from the relationship, to end your marriage with compassion, dignity, grace, and emotional health.