New divorcees rarely ask, “What did I do wrong?” In fact, many of my clients tend to march into my office and deliver a long list of complaints about their soon-to-be ex before they’re ready to discuss anything else. As a divorce lawyer, I don’t have the time or bandwidth to take the reins and ask them what they did wrong in the relationship. Unfortunately, most of them don’t take a moment to ask themselves this question either.
I’ve heard judges in divorce cases sometimes say, “Mother Teresa doesn’t marry Attila the Hun.” In other words, a saint won’t marry a killer. In almost every divorce, both parties have contributed to the dysfunction. Your spouse may have had problems, but chances are, you’re not perfect either. Following that logic, if you want to move on from your divorce, it’s imperative that you start with some self-reflection. Ask yourself questions like:
If you skip the self-assessment phase, you risk making the same mistakes based on the same bad behavior—and as a result, your next marriage will be far more likely to end in divorce too. No one wants that. That’s why, in this chapter, we’ll be discussing the many ways you can make the most out the opportunity divorce has given you for growth and reflection.
Therapy is the easiest and most efficient way to move on from your divorce, and I strongly recommend it to all my clients. It’s the perfect environment to dig in and begin the process of self-reflection. Think of it as a weekly chance to speak with someone who is completely neutral on the subject of your divorce; your therapist is there to listen to you and offer advice—nothing else.
When selecting a therapist, don’t worry about finding the most expensive or acclaimed person out there. Instead, look for someone you’d be comfortable meeting with once a week for the next few months, someone who can lead you through some uncomfortable conversations in a way that feels productive.
Once you’ve found a good fit, start with the basics and explain why you’re there: you were in a bad marriage. For the first two or three sessions, feel free to share all the things your partner has done to make the relationship untenable. Go ahead: get it all out. Then, switch the conversation to yourself. With the therapist’s aid, ask yourself, “What did I do or what did I draw out of this person, why did I do it, and how do I fix it?”
My first experience with therapy came when I was training to be a psychologist, though it was invaluable in the months after my own divorce as well. Decades ago as a psychology student, I was required to attend training counseling where, in addition to providing therapy to others, I would see a therapist myself every week. I found the sessions to be a tremendous opportunity to take a break from my life and talk about my practice, my personal life, or anything else I could think of. This was instrumental in helping me leave my personal life at the door whenever I entered sessions with my own clients. Further, I enjoyed the goal-oriented aspect of my sessions; learning to recognize what I wanted to work on and how to go about doing it was the most valuable therapy experience I’ve ever had.