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When Divorce Hurts Too Long - Stages of Divorce ( #3 in a series of 15)

{ 12:51, 16/6/2008 } { 0 comments } { Link }

There is the thought in the mental health community that anyone who feels they had no idea their ex-spouse or ex-girl/boy friend was unhappy, may not have been reading the signs. They may have been ignoring them hoping they would go away if no attention was paid to them. This is not typically the case. If a spouse or significant other is unhappy or dissatisfied in their marriage or relationship, they are more than likely exhibiting behaviors that reflect this dissatisfaction.

Some examples of these behaviors include:

being a workaholic and being disengaged from the family

main interest is being with the guys or gals and partying

living separate lives – different interests, different friends, different goals etc.

change in level of affection

change in level of interest shown in being with spouse

There are so many different kinds of behaviors that can indicate dissatisfaction with a relationship that a whole book could be written just to cover all of them. These examples just scratch the surface.

The Stages of Divorce identified below were developed based on the different feelings, sensations, thoughts, and fears that occur in the midst of the divorce process, when the divorce process is over, and when someone, who has slipped into Post Marital Stress (PMS) disorder, finally walks away from it. If you haven’t read either of the first two articles in this series, here is a brief description of PMS.

Everyone deals with grief and loss differently and at a different pace, most people move on after a divorce or ended relationship within 2-3 years. This is a bit hard to quantify precisely because humans are unique. The key element to look for over those two to three years is forward progress.

Some people who have gone through a break-up or divorce get stuck and do not make forward progress. This is evidenced by continuing to grieve the loss of a spouse and the family they had known and bemoaning their lot in life. Even more than just getting stuck, they veer off and go down a path of bitterness, anger, victimization, and martyrdom. When this occurs they have a full blown case of Post Marital Stress disorder.

The Stages of Divorce theory is based on change theory which purports that when something changes in a person’s life, there are a series of stages or steps that accompany that change. These stages can range from hardly noticeable to excruciatingly painful…depending on the change.

A well known example of this type of change theory is the developmental milestones children go through from birth to about the age of 5-6. There are hundreds of different developmental milestone charts that map out what children should be doing developmentally at different ages.

So, taking this concept of developmental milestones to the next level, there are divorce or relationship break-up developmental milestones for recovery too and they are:

STAGE ONE is wondering if you want a divorce. This stage may have two possible endings.

The first possibility is when a spouse or partner begins thinking about whether they want to break-up or get a divorce. If the answer is YES then they moves into Stage Two.

The second possibility is that the spouse or partner, thinking about whether they want a to break-up or get a divorce, decides they DO want a divorce but decide NOT to move into Stage Two for various reasons. These reasons may be healthy viable reasons but more often than not they are unhealthy because they are made out of fear of retribution, fear of being alone, fear of being physically hurt etc.

STAGE TWO is asking for a divorce or being told by your spouse that she wants a divorce

STAGE THREE is going through the divorce proceedings

STAGE FOUR is becoming single. This is the stage where someone begins to become a healthy happy individual or starts to move down the path of PMS.

STAGE FIVE is learning how to be a happy well adjusted single person. If an individual gets stuck in Stage Four they will not move to this level until they receive intensive individual therapy of some sort.

The author is a survivor of Post Marital Stress (PMS) disorder. She has a Ph.D in Educational Psychology with years of experience in the fields of human development and mental health. This blend of personal experience and education and work experience make for a well rounded and solid look at relationships, divorce, marriage, and love.

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