There can be great benefit from counseling post-divorce to learn to navigate the waters of being The Ex. Sometimes divorced couples get counseling together to learn to draw boundaries and negotiate the parenting responsibilities. Other times individuals seek counseling to learn the tools to cope with their new lives. Sometimes the children get counseling, but we will discuss that in another article.
If you have children together, your lives will forever be intertwined, and it is best for all concerned if you can achieve at least a level of civility between you. It may surprise you (at this point) to learn that, as years go by, exes can be friends again and put the needs of the family first.
Why Are You Still Arguing?
These arguments generally center around the children and the parenting plan. Little Ricky’s hockey infringes too much on your time-sharing. Your ex thinks that you should take some time off work when one of the kids is sick; that it shouldn’t be their sole responsibility.
Your plan may have worked when you two first divorced or separated, but schedules have changed, and the kids have many more extra-curricular activities to which they need to be chauffeured. The children may have been at home in the early days of the divorce, now they are in school. Times change; lives change.
The appearance of new romantic partners in the other’s life can be a source of conflict, and counseling can help deal with that change. If you are saying things like “I don’t want that person near my children” you need to determine if they are really detrimental to the health and well-being of your children, or if the statement is really an emotional reaction to not wanting anyone else in your ex’s life.
There may an issue of conflicting loyalties – you have always loved your in-laws, and now they are not your in-laws anymore. Friends may feel they have to ”choose sides” in the divorce, and that can make for hurt feelings and awkward moments.
One very big issue is that of consistent discipline with the children. You may have imposed a “no television (or phone, or internet, or…….) for a week” punishment, but once your ex gets the child, that punishment is suspended. You are made to look like the bad guy, and the parent suspending the punishment – at least for the moment – is the good guy. This can be confusing for the children, and sends them the wrong message. Counseling can help you come to agreement on these matters so that you can present a united front to the children. Professionals agree that constancy is a good thing in helping children to cope with divorce.
What are the Benefits?
There are many benefits to be gained from getting help after the divorce. If the adults are experiencing less stress and conflict, chances are the children will adapt to the new situation more easily.
Counseling can help iron out all the small details that perhaps weren’t addressed in the parenting plan, such as who drives whom to what activities, or establishing a rotating schedule of staying home with sick children, or any other situations that were not anticipated in the early days of the divorce. This can help resolve the conflicts surrounding such things as “I ALWAYS am the one to take time off work when the children are sick” or “You NEVER drive them to their practices.”
Any time you can work together to achieve less hostility between you, then the entire situation becomes better. You feel less put upon and also feel that the arrangements are a fair resolution to your concerns. The children are less tense about the relationship between the two of you, and your ex is less defensive about issues. It is truly a win-win-win situation.
Other Reasons to Get Counseling
You may be having difficulty getting past the divorce. It can be extremely difficult to adjust to all the changes in your life, and some people do not deal well with change. There may be financial stress, or emotional stress or fears.
Many undergo grief counseling after a divorce, even if the divorce was their idea. It can be tough to adjust to being single, especially if the marriage endured for a long time before the divorce. It is often said that divorce is like a death in the family, and grief is a normal emotion, expected to occur.
Mediation is an Option
Yes, even after the divorce, mediation to resolve conflict can be an attractive option. If the parenting plan needs to be revised to reflect the changes in schedules or life situations, then a mediator can help you achieve that necessary agreement.
With mediation, the parties are the ones who actually come up with the solutions to any conflict; the mediator acts as a facilitator and a neutral third party. When the parties come up with the solution, they feel invested in it, and are more likely to feel it is a very fair outcome.
Where to Get Help
There are numerous counseling services available everywhere in Florida. Mediators are listed online and in the yellow pages. Some family law attorneys act as mediators for these matters, and if they offer those services, it is usually listed on their website or other advertising.
It may be the family law attorney that facilitated your divorce can help iron out these issues. They are not certified counselors or therapists, but they have a great deal of experience in the area and may be able to help. Also, they may know of good family counselors if you ask for a recommendation. Whatever avenue you pursue, if you are taking steps to resolve conflict in your family, you are doing them a great service, and ensuring that any emotional damage from the divorce is minimized.