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Understanding Divorce

Are you considering separation or divorce?

The reality is that many couples at some point in their relationship question if they should separate or even get a divorce. There are stages relationships go through that may reflect certain symptoms/signs which give indication that the relationship is heading towards potential separation or divorce. One thing is certain at this point, the relationship needs to undergo some major changes which can be processed in a healthy therapeutic room, as the clinician collaborates with the couple to make some difficult decisions;  one being to reconnect and work towards building a healthier and stronger relationship or work towards separating or even getting a divorcing in a much healthier way .

Couples invest so much in their relationships in one way or another, seeking therapeutic services is a priceless investment to make before making any major life changing decisions about the relationship. Our model works because we offer tailored and focused services, which allows greater opportunity for success. We know the distress couples experience, leaving them to feel desperate and hopeless at times, that is why we believe couples' sessions should be a minimum of two hour sessions to focus the time and energy needed in developing solutions.

Why do people get divorced?

According to divorce statistics, between 40 and 50% of married couples in the United States get a divorce and that number increase for second and third marriages. Partners may choose divorce for multiple reasons rather than one single problem. The following are the most common reasons for divorce (listed in no particular order):

Can divorce be predicted?

It is impossible to predict with 100% accuracy if a marriage will end, however there are some signs and symptoms that may give some indication that there might be. Psychologist John Gottman has spent much time researching why partnerships fail. His theories acknowledge divorce often stems from issues with how partners relate. In fact through his research, Gottman has identified some predictors for divorce; these are called the “four horsemen” of divorce:

  • Criticism, especially when not outweighed by frequent positive statements
  • Contempt and lack of respect. Gottman argues this is the single best predictor of divorce. He believes it can be seen even early on in a relationship.
  • Defensiveness. People who cannot take responsibility for a problem cannot fix it. They may not be able to display empathy for their spouse.
  • Stonewalling. This is the avoidance of interaction and discussion of problems. Stonewalling can make it impossible to resolve an argument.

Though Gottman has identified these as predictors of divorce, he like many clinicians also recognize it does not mean a divorce will be the ultimate outcome, assuming the couple recognizes that a problem exists, understands which horsemen/s are evident in how they relate, and commit to therapy break their cycles and develop new ways of relating.

The effects of divorce

Divorce is life-changing in many ways for all those involved, therefore monitoring their reactions and develop appropriate coping skills if needed to adjust accordingly would be beneficial.

Some common changes divorce brings include:

  • Finances. Financial changes occur when one household becomes two. Some people are used to being supported financially by their partner. Divorce may change this. The sudden budget changes that come with divorce may cause worry, stress, or anxiety.
  • Lifestyle. Single and married life are different. Newly divorced people may feel lonely or go through shock after separating. These feelings can occur even if the person wanted a divorce. Self-care and self-compassion are key in this time of change.
  • Relationships. Bonds with children and friendships may be altered by divorce. Relationships with mutual friends may be different. The children may no longer live with all the time with any of the parents. This change may cause feelings of loss or grief.

Emotions of divorce

Divorce recovery is a process. Part of the process is recognizing that change is certain and adjusting takes time accordingly. Considering lives of those around them may also change in profound ways.

An array of emotions occur as a result of divorce; some simultaneously. To name a few:

  • Worry about finances, employment, or housing
  • Sadness over losing friends or family members as a result of the divorce
  • Guilt and emotional overwhelm. Thoughts about how divorce could affect any children may cause these feelings.
  • Grief over losing a familiar lifestyle or life partner. This may hit hard if one partner did not want to be divorced.
  • Stress from going through the legal process or divorce, especially if children are involved. Stress can also occur as family members adapt to new routines and develop new support networks.

Divorce and children:

Divorce typically becomes more complicated if the couple has children. Children are often impacted by a parent’s divorce. These effects may cause mental health issues, as it may increase chances of anxiety, depressionself-harm, and suicide in children and teens.

Some signs a child is struggling with a parent’s divorce include:

  • Acting out in school or at home
  • Shutting down or withdrawing
  • Changes in usual behavior
  • Increased rule-breaking or obedience
  • Angry or irritable mood
  • Sign of self-harm
  • Displaying much more or much less emotion than usual

Once you notice any of these behaviors, you can address it. Some ways to address your child’s reaction to your divorce include:

  • Asking open-ended questions about how they feel
  • Answering any questions they have in an age-appropriate way
  • Making sure they feel safe and secure throughout the process
  • Letting them know that no matter what happens, you will be there for them

If your child is having trouble with your divorce, a child or family therapist could help. They can provide a safe setting for your child to share their thoughts, feelings, and worries.


Gottman, J. M. & Silver, N. (1999). The seven principles for making marriage work. New York, NY: Crown.

Helping children cope with divorce. (n.d.). Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies. Retrieved from

Warren, S. (2018, May 8). 10 most common  reasons for divorce. Retrieved from

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***Leading Services in English or Spanish in office or online: Individual Therapy, Family Therapy, Couples Therapy, and Divorce Counseling; Facilitate intimate transformative groups; conduct Assessments such as Emotional Support Animal, Immigration, and Mental Health Condition/Diagnosis; Mentor and supervise clinical Mental health and Marriage and Family Therapy Interns.***  

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