When our expectations are in-check we are usually better prepared for what we encounter. But, many people going through the transition of divorce have no idea what to expect. And, not knowing what to expect typically escalates divorce-related stress and anxiety. During a recent divorce mediation training program a multi-disciplinary group of professionals (Stacy Beaulieu, Mark Bilawsky, Tonya Cromartie, Mari Cullen, Susan Daniel, Ed Dieguez, Elizabeth Ermel, Adam Farber, Ruth Gordon, Susan Jacobson, Mike Kesselman, Ray Leon, Elizabeth Mackenzie, Anne Mazer, Goldye Meyer, Nicole Paulino, Lee Rubin, Dawn Saddik, Jennifer Schettewi, Donna Greenspan Solomon, Mark Solomon, Stella Suarez-Rita, Evelyn Tarud, Rick Yabor and me - Elinor Robin) created the following list. Knowing what to expect can ease the divorce transition. Here are eleven things you need to know.
1. Expect change. Your social network and your standard of living are going to change.
2. Expect that dislike for your soon-to-be-ex will be difficult to conceal. However, while it may not be easy, it is important that you avoid sharing this dislike with your children.
3. Expect a sense of failure (as to the failed relationship and the “wasted” years) and loss (of clarity, identity, connection, and self-control) as well as a roller coaster of emotions – fear (psychological, physical, and financial), anger, sadness, depression, joy, relief, anxiety. Pay attention to the duration and intensity of these emotions.
4. Expect – but do not give into - the impetus for a knee-jerk-reaction that puts your children in the middle – where they are used as weapons.
5. Expect more of the same. If you have children and an on-going connection to your ex, divorce may not put an end to the negativity and “issues” that were present in your marriage.
6. Expect that your children will be impacted by your divorce. (Divorce impacts children of all ages.) Keep in mind that the impact your divorce has on your children will be related to the degree and duration of conflict and negativity - before, during, and after the divorce.
7. Expect your ex to have a different experience. There is a big difference in the experience of the “dumper” and the “dumpee.” The initiator has often had time to plan and/or gather information. The other spouse is often caught off guard and needs time to catch his/her breathe after the initial shock.
8. Expect that divorce will take you out of your comfort zone. And, as you wade in unchartered water you will need extra support.
9. Expect to regress into a second adolescence where dating will be difficult, dangerous, and overwhelming.
10. Expect parenting alone to feel overwhelming.
11. Expect that you will make mistakes. Don't beat yourself up over your mistakes. Instead, learn from your mistakes so that you emerge from this divorce better, stronger, and more aware.