You may ask yourself why a play therapist is writing about divorce. Surely, none of my clients are divorced. While it is true, most of my clients haven’t been married and never chose to divorce, many of my clients have been affected by divorce. In 2014, there were 111,409 divorces filed in Texas district courts. That is a lot. It wouldn’t be outrageous to say that most people have been touched by or influenced by divorce. There are many reasons people decide to separate their homes and end marriages, and I’m not here to tell anyone when to get divorced or when to stay together. But I have a perspective on what divorce means that could be helpful if you are thinking about divorce.
No matter who you are talking about and how good the reason for the divorce, ending a committed, longterm relationship traumatizes all involved-from the dog in the kitchen to Grandma in the nursing home. Everyone is effected. Most won’t talk about it, some won’t notice the trauma, but severing a relationship that by nature and by promise was supposed to be forever changes the people involved.
Top 4 People Traumatized by a Divorce
- The divorcing couple It may sound strange that divorce harms the people who choose to end their relationship, but even if the relationship is terrible, divorce harms the couple. It reduces their sense of safety and predictability, it reduces their ability to trust in the next relationship, and it gives them the experience that ending a relationship is a valid answer to conflict. It also effects the couple financially. Some people estimate a divorce attorney can cost $30,000 if children are involved. If you add up missed time at work, attorney’s fees, and the cost of maintaining two households-the financial burden of divorce takes a toll.
- The children It is hard for me to tell you how much a divorce can change the trajectory of a child and a family. Losing contact with a parent, discovering the world is not safe and consistent and orderly, having to adjust to different visitation schedules, different house rules, new people-the list goes on. But it doesn’t stop at that child. Families with divorces can be effected for generations by losing family traditions, changing the way holidays are celebrated, and by the financial losses incurred by the generation that divorced. Children of divorce are more likely to grow up at risk, below the poverty line, and to experience high levels of conflict that can lead to health and emotional problems. Out of all the traumas I treat children for, the trauma of a high conflict divorce is the hardest to treat. Typically, the conflict is ongoing, random, and volatile. These are indicators of chronic trauma that lead to very poor outcomes for children who survive in these situations.
- The extended family Aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, grandparents-anyone who loves the couple and their family are emotionally and possibly financially affected by the divorce. Relationships between generations are severed, many times without a word said after years of contact. Support systems are cut away and the very strengths of families can work against the children in these families.
- The community Talk to any principal or school counselor. They are dealing daily with the effects of divorce in their classrooms, in their administration offices, and in the board rooms. Deciding how to handle court cases and CPS cases and privacy issues that are caused by divorce and the conflict and broken support systems take time and energy from these educators. Pastors, community leaders and health providers must focus on helping people to heal from the wounds caused by divorce-physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually. Churches and other social groups must figure out how to deal with changing families and there are usually no good options.
In the month of love and Cupid, why did Acorn focus on communication? Why did our clinical director write about the problems that divorce can bring? We want to strengthen our community and the families and children within it. While a necessary evil because life isn’t easy or fair, divorce exists. But if we are blind to the costs, if we do not see that divorce is painful to all involved, we may fail to put the right emphasis on how and when we communicate. We may focus on the necessary ability for people to leave bad situations and forget the costs involved.
If you are suffering from the effects of divorce, call me and we can talk about ways to mitigate the effects of divorce in your life and the lives of your loved ones. If you read this and want to explore saving your relationship, call us. We would love to help you communicate with your loved ones. If we can’t help you, we will help you find someone who can. 940-222-8703
Christy Graham, LPC Supervisor Registered Play Therapist Supervisor is the Clinical Director and President of Acorn CES. She has been a private counselor in the Denton area since 2001 and has been married to her husband for almost 20 years. She understands relationships are hard, but firmly believes they are worth the work.