For the past 15 years of being a divorce mediator, I’ve seen countless scenarios of divorce. Every single case is unique. That said, there is one thing I find almost always in couples: sadness. Whether you were totally blindsided by your spouse’s decision, or getting divorced was your decision after years of trying to make your marriage work, divorce can be a really sad time for both partners. I’ve had clients ask me, “I wanted the divorce so why am I so sad?” My answer is, for many reasons.
People going through a divorce feel like they have failed. They feel maybe there was something they could have done better or differently to stay together. How many more years of therapy or couples counseling, or a different counselor, might have made the decision different?
They might feel guilty for not trying harder. They might feel sad that their future isn’t what they thought it was going to be; that they will never be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary with all of their children and grandchildren around them. Sadness can also stem from loneliness, from thinking about the kids, and from missing the spouse even though you know staying married isn’t right.
If you are getting divorced, mediation is the most amicable and friendly way to go though the process, thereby alleviating some of your sadness.. Not only does mediation keep you and your spouse on the same page to make decisions for your children and your family, but divorce mediation is empowering—you are in control of what your post-divorce life looks like.
One of the benefits of mediation is improved communication between the parties. By advocating for yourself to make decisions for your children and about your finances, you are presenting your position to your spouse and coming to agreements together about everything you need to resolve to get divorced. This eases the sadness and the feeling of hopelessness by the end of the mediation process. People are calmer, more determined to be good co-parents for their children and more focused on the next chapter of their lives.
Oftentimes, Brian and I complete mediation with a couple and we have no idea what happened in their marriage. They may seem friendly and calm while going through the process. Perhaps one spouse cheated on the other. Even though they are trying to stay together to work on the marriage and go to counseling, the other cannot forgive and wants to move forward with the divorce. Perhaps one has an addiction like alcohol, drugs, gambling or pornography and the other is tired of trying to work through the problem. Perhaps one matured more quickly from being together when they were young and the relationship just does not work any longer.
My answer to: “I wanted the divorce so why am I so sad?”
Whatever the reason for your divorce, you are entitled to be sad. It is normal and understandable. Your life did not turn out the way you thought or planned. You are perhaps now a single parent and it is difficult to handle everything on your own. You are required to co-parent and make decisions together with someone you no longer love the same way. Mourning the relationship and your marriage is quite normal. There is nothing wrong with you. If you are the one who wanted the divorce, hopefully you will be relieved down the road, regardless of your sadness.
There is no timeline for those feelings of sadness to go away, unfortunately. Some people are ecstatic, relieved, and much more calm not to have to deal with their spouse. A lot of times, the sadness comes later, after the dust of the divorce process has settled and reality sets in, and their anger starts to fade.
In closing, if you wanted the divorce and are now wondering, “Why am I so sad?” please remember that your feelings are valid and normal. And, if someone—a friend or family member says something like, “Why are you so sad? You wanted this!” you don’t even owe that person a response. They have no idea what your situation was or is, and it is an ignorant questions. With time and good decision making, your sadness will fade, and feelings of hope, acceptance, peace and joy will take its place.
If you are interested in discussing divorce mediation with me, I am happy to consult with you.
Ellen Feldman has been working as a mediator since 2007. A graduate of Smith College and Indiana University School of Law, Feldman previously worked as an attorney for 15 years practicing commercial litigation. Since 2006, Ellen has been a volunteer for The Lilac Tree, an Evanston based nonprofit organization assisting women through the process of divorce. Additionally, Feldman completed Family and Divorce Mediation Training through DePaul University Center for Conflict Resolution and Advanced Family Mediation. She is a court-approved mediator for the 19th Judicial Circuit Family Court of Lake County. Learn more by visiting the C.E.L. & Associates website.
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