It has been said that divorce makes sane people act crazy. This is because the dynamics or pressures of a divorce push normal emotions to the extreme. A divorce is expected to create feelings of separation and loss in people.
Also, we realize that the expectations we had in the beginning of the relationship will not be fulfilled and we become disappointed. The anger and rage that result can push us to act competitively, which, if strong enough, may become adversarial.
Let’s examine each of these emotions, how they can become extreme, and how to cope:
1. Separation causes anxiety that, in the extreme, may become panic. The panic dissipates when we gain faith in our own ability to take care of ourselves and our future.
2. Loss causes sadness that, in the extreme, may become depression. The depression can be successfully reduced or eliminated when we do grief work with appropriate trained professionals.
3. Unfulfilled expectations lead to disappointment that may become betrayal and rage. Forgiveness is the antidote. By releasing the anger and our feelings of being victimized, forgiveness enables us to leave behind the rage that keeps us connected negatively to our ex-spouse.
4. Competition with an ex-spouse leads us to focus on our self-interest and self-protection, which can escalate into greed. This urge will dissipate when we can identify value in the other aspects of our life.
5. If our sense of competition with our ex-spouse becomes adversarial, this can lead to suspicion that in its extreme may become paranoia. We can put aside this suspicion as we develop trust that, although the marriage is ending, we can still cooperate with each other as a couple in the areas of our mutual interests – particularly the well being of our children. Thus, we learn to trust that our ex-spouse will do the ”right thing” in relation to the children.
These ideas are derived from the writing of Howard Yahm, MSW, who practiced social work and psychology in Monsey, New York.