Wednesday, October 07, 2009

What Next?

Ok, so now, after months and months of legal wrangling--you're divorced. Congratulations! What next?

This question is one I have seen many newly divorced people, both men and women, struggling to answer. Whether the end of the divorce comes in mediation, collaborative divorce, or litigation, it seems to arrive with unexpected suddenness, leaving the newly single people relieved, weary, and bewildered. Having spent so much time, energy, and money focused on getting divorced, few are prepared for "what next?".

Research which has followed divorced people for 10 years after their divorce found that 90% of the men and 60% of the women were emotionally "unchanged" at the 10 year mark. For some, the emotional scars of a "failed" marriage or contentious divorce means that counseling or therapy is the first step toward a new life and a new approach to relationships. For a few others, because of counseling or some other helping relationship during their marriage and divorce, the end of the divorce signals the opportunity to renew and change the dirction their lives with a freedom previously unknown. That dissolution of life structures creates the promise for "positive divorce". Unfortunately, few have a "positive divorce" experience.

As a director of a divorce recovery program, I saw many people begin to heal as they shared their divorce experience with others who were "in the same boat". Most left the six week program with a good start down the road to recovery, but as the research cited above has confirmed, that process does NOT continue for most post-divorce people. For most women, and nearly all men, divorce doesn't lead to a new life, but a return to the "old life"--same values, same habits, same choices in work and relationships. For men in particular, most remarry too quickly (within a year) and then divorce again just as quickly, creating a sense of increasingly cynical disillusionment. For these men, life balance is usually the first casualty, leading to a retreat into too much work, too much drinking, or too much casual sex.

It has been my observation that those divorced people with a clear life purpose, a solid value system, and a supportive network of friends bounce back from the trauma of divorce better than those without those fundamental and foundational elements. It is in these areas where coaching can be invaluable in transforming life after divorce into a "positive divorce" experience and the beginning of a new and different life.

Coaching, not therapy, is intended to:

*improve life planning and performance
*clarify personal values
*re-discover life purpose
*re-define life balance
*return to or begin a habit of service to others,

with a focus on action learning as vehicle toward a more purposeful and meaningful life.

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