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Author Topic: The Emotional Roller Coaster of Divorce - Pauline H. Tesler, M.A., J.D.  (Read 471 times)
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« on: May 31, 2009, 07:45:13 AM »

www.womansdivorce.com/emotional-stages-of-divorce.html

Guilt and Shame

Experiencing guilt and shame is also a normal reaction to the end of a marriage. These feelings arise when we feel a sense of failure -- of not having fulfilled our own or our community's expectations. In the case of divorce, people often feel guilt and/or shame because they have failed to stay married for life. That's partly a matter of personal expectations -- not fulfilling the promises made to a spouse -- and also partly a matter of not fulfilling what our culture seems to expect from us. If our culture's expectations about marriage and divorce are reasonable -- if they fit well with how people actually behave in that culture -- and we don't measure up, the guilt and shame felt at the time of divorce may be appropriate. If the culture's expectations don't match well with the reality of marriage and divorce as people actually live it, the guilt and shame can be much more problematic -- difficult to see clearly, difficult to acknowledge, difficult to manage in a divorce. In addition, there are some marriages in which one or both partners have engaged in extremes of betrayal, deceit, or even criminal behavior that almost always involve feelings of guilt and shame.

Regardless of whether the feelings arise from not having met one's own or the culture's ideals or from actual wrongdoing, we know that for many individuals, guilt and shame can be so painful that they change very quickly into other, more tolerable feelings, such as anger or depression -- often without the person's even knowing that the guilt and shame are there. This is why it is so common in divorce for each partner to blame the other and why it can be so difficult for divorcing partners to accept responsibility for their own part in a failed marriage.

We've encountered few divorcing people who find it easy to see or accept their own feelings of guilt and shame. These powerfully negative feelings often remain under the radar, hidden and invisible, where they do the most harm. Strong feelings of guilt or shame can make it difficult or impossible to take in more balanced information, to maintain your perspective, and to consider realistically your best alternatives for how to resolve problems.

Guilt can cause spouses to feel they have no right to ask for what they need in a divorce, causing them to negotiate unbalanced, unrealistic settlements they later regret. Family lawyers have a saying that "guilt has a short half-life," and because guilt is such an uncomfortable feeling, it can easily transform into anger. We often see people who have negotiated guilt-driven agreements having second thoughts and going back to court to try to set aside imprudent settlements.

Similarly, shame often transforms into blame, anger, or rage directed at the spouse. Bitter fights over children or property can be propelled by feelings like these, because modern divorces seldom brand either partner as Snow White or Hitler, Prince Charming or the Wicked Witch, and therefore the anger, which needs to go somewhere, goes into fights over matters that courts are permitted to make orders about.



taken from

The Emotional Roller Coaster of Divorce

By Pauline H. Tesler, M.A., J.D., & Peggy Thompson, Ph.D. - Authors of Collaborative Divorce



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