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Divorcing During the Pandemic: 4 Tips From a Therapist

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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD - Blogs
By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhDPsychologistAugust 26, 2020
From the WebMD Archives

As anyone who has been divorced knows, ending a marriage is not a single event. It unfolds in various stages requiring differing amounts of emotional strength, patience, strategizing, and actions along the way. If you are divorcing during this pandemic, this already difficult process is even more complicated. Below are some tips to keep in mind:

Proceed with caution. Not being happy in your marriage is one thing, but deciding to divorce is a serious decision. If you had not made that move before COVID-19, be especially cautious in how you go forward now. This pandemic has strained people and their relationships in many ways that will hopefully lessen as we make progress in managing the virus and its impact. So, if you had hopes of improving your relationship before the pandemic, you might want to wait it out a little longer. As stresses lessen, you may be in a better position to decide whether you can make positive changes that were just too much to take on during the pandemic.

That said, if you do not feel emotionally or physically safe in your relationship, or you had already been planning to divorce pre-COVID but had just not taken that final step, separating and divorcing sooner rather than later may be the wisest course of action.

Communication is key. Talking in a caring, or even civil, manner can be particularly difficult when tensions have mounted. Still, it is often in your best interests to try to maintain open and positive communication. During a divorce, you are managing emotional and more practical issues. The more you can work together, the smoother the process will go for you both.

Effective communication involves, to the best that you can, maintaining a focus on healthy back-and-forth expression of thoughts and feelings. Venting anger and criticism may feel good in the moment, but it probably won’t move you in a good direction. Instead, remain focused on the issues of immediate importance; avoid rehashing relationship issues that you’ve already decided to divorce yourself from. Try to remain calm and listen objectively to what your spouse has to say, even when you disagree. Remember, you no longer need to work on resolving much of what irked you during your marriage. Also, keep your statements about topics that need to be addressed as short and simple as possible (such as who gets your recently purchased Smart TV).

Lean on your support system. Creating a positive working relationship with your soon-to-be ex-spouse can be emotionally difficult, so it’s a good idea to turn to people close to you for support. If your spouse was your go-to person before, now is the time to transition to others. This will help you to freely express your hurt, anger, sadness, and whatever other emotions are swirling around inside.

Do your best to parent as a team. COVID-19 or not, sharing children means continuing to share part of your lives together after divorce. With schools scrambling to figure out how to teach and children limited in being able to play with others, parenting has gotten much harder. So, for the sake of your children, it’s important to figure out a way to “play well” together. Be as matter-of-fact as possible as you address managing shared responsibilities.

Divorcing is difficult in the best of times, but our COVID-19 world makes it much harder. But if you can manage the dissolution of your marriage and keep it from exploding into angry chaos, you will save yourself from greater hurt and the need for even more healing.




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About the Author
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

Dr. Becker-Phelps is a licensed psychologist in NJ and NY, and is on staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset. She is dedicated to helping people understand themselves and what they need to do to become emotionally and psychologically healthy. She accomplishes this through her work as a psychotherapist, speaker and writer. She is the author of Bouncing Back from Rejection and Insecure in Love.

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