Robert A. Evans, Ph.D.
Divorce has morphed from something shocking, embarrassing and difficult to get into a routine, matter-of-fact occurrence of American life. Although common place, divorce can be a traumatizing experience that continues to have a profound effect on those that live through it; and yet it doesn’t have to. Each year millions upon millions of children witness their parents’ breakup and many are swept-up into the drama and are forced to live a life of misery caused by an unfeeling, unsympathetic and at times an uncaring system, run frequently by unthinking adults.
The consequences of divorce for the children include an increased likelihood of their getting their own divorce in their life time and the increased probability of their experiencing or developing mental-health problems ranging from relatively mild to severe. Studies are showing that socio-economic status is correlated to the consequences of divorce. Better educated and better paid members of our society are getting married and staying married. Lower levels of education and pay are correlated with fewer marriages and more divorces and more break-ups. College educated adults are half as likely to get a divorce as their less educated counterparts. In addition, the younger the parties are the more likely they will go through a divorce or get separated.
These correlates of divorce do not hint at a means to prevent such devastation in a person’s life. How can one avoid or circumvent these outcomes? What factors does one need to learn in order to avoid a potential lifetime of misery?
Individuals, when completing divorce, frequently seek refuge in the legal system. A system, by the way, that they frequently know nothing about and certainly knows nothing about them. They will hire an attorney, a person who knows the ins and outs of the court system and who puts into motion the machinery or processes necessary to affect a dissolution of marriage. The frightening part of this approach to divorce is that the people involved, the family, are about to turn over their lives, the fate of their children’s future, to an absolute and total stranger, i.e. the judge. The spokespersons for the parties, the attorneys, have only been introduced to just one side of the family and know nothing about the other side and frequently know nothing about the children. Yet, these spokespersons are going to manipulate the system such that it will ultimately “resolve” this marital dispute, again, all the while not knowing the parties or their families. This would be analogous, obviously not a good analogy, to bringing your wife to a doctor and telling the doctor to operate on her based only on your input; no prior examination by the doctor, no input from your wife, simply from your verbal input. A judge has to make a decision in a divorce case based on the adversarial system we use in America. The only information a judge hears is information from each attorney, obviously based on the input from the parties, and then makes a decision based on prior case law, his or her opinion of who is telling the most truth and quality and quantity of evidence presented. Judges, being human beings for the most part are left with this extremely difficult task of deciding a family’s fate that they don’t really know and probably will never see again, unless the litigation continues, as it sometimes does. We would like to think there is a better way.
We would like to think the factors subsumed in our program of the On-Purpose Divorce provide a 360 degree of healing for the divorce situation. Wayne Dyer, the renowned author and speaker has said “When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.” If we change the way we look at the process of divorce, we will change the divorce or if you will, the way the divorce will effect us. Consider for a moment and admittedly this may be difficult, but what if this divorce is happening for you and not just something that is happening to you? What if there is a purpose for this divorce? And in fact, you are supposed to learn something or get something from this experience. If that were true, clearly one could see how going through that kind of experience would be different than something that was thrust upon you.
And because everyone is different, everyone is probably at a different place in the process. Some may already feel comfortable with their knowledge of the divorce process; some may have successfully been through counseling or psychotherapy, etc. So individuals need a way to gauge or assess where they are on this path through the process. For this we developed the Strengths and Gaps Inventory which helps individuals pinpoint their present location on this journey and allows them to focus on areas of greater need. Before we get into the inventor, let’s look at the components of the process.
The On-Purpose Divorce presents the following components:
· Community & Friends
· Family & Children
· Mental Health
If one were to address each of these components in their journey through the divorce process, in all likelihood they would minimize the pain and trauma that they would experience and minimize the negative effects that divorce can have on their children.