When a couple comes to one of our “Make It or Break It” marriage retreats they may have already decided they want a divorce. But often they are undecided, or one partner wants a divorce and the other wants to preserve the marriage and stop divorce.
Because this is so, we spend a period of time listening to each partner describe what they have in mind. This may well be the first time they have ever, in each other’s presence, explained how they feel about their marriage and about each other and what their goals are. Also, a couple is confused about what they want; our goal is to help them find clarity.
Although the couple, or more commonly one spouse, may have already decided he or she wants a divorce we are always aware that people can change their minds, and this period of introspection leaves the opportunity for change. Unlike other programs, we advocate for marriage but not at any price. When divorce is clearly the couple’s choice, or when the discussion among the four of us leads them to that decision, our attention then moves to preparation for divorce.
Divorcing couples agree change is the major theme of divorce. Divorce changes their lifestyle, changes their roles, changes their friendship circles, changes the meaning of the world. When couples have tried all they could to save a marriage and “failed,” the losses they experience can be overwhelming, however the changes can be relieving. It is a time of significant stress for all family members emotionally, physically, financially, and spiritually.
The major goal is to desensitize to the idea of divorce and stimulate personal growth by preparing each individual for their new role as a single or separated person. It is important to learn creative problem solving regarding the many changes that occur in lifestyles after separation, such as raising children in two single-parent households, loss of social support from friends, and loss of emotional support from the former spouse. When a couple agrees to work together untangling the mystery of their lives together, they offer an invaluable gift of cooperation and a new kind of love, a love based in respect and friendship.
Learning about how their interactions with and from family and friends have molded their roles, patterns, rules, goals, and beliefs better prepare them for a brighter future. This rite of passage can turn crisis into opportunity, pain into healing, failure into success next time around.
From years of working with divorcing-couples and their families, we have identified seven (7) factors which contribute to the success of one adjusting to the changes divorce creates:
- One must first accept the fact that he or she is becoming a formerly married person, and to accept this change as a time for personal growth, rather than attributing the divorce to personal failure or blaming their spouse.
- Emotional feelings of attachment one has toward the former spouse must not trap him or her and prevent developing new relationships.
- Understanding one’s feelings such as anger, guilt, sadness, and loneliness through clarification and expression of feelings and a positive future focus.
- The decision to find and use a support system.
- Ability to develop and interact with new relationships.
- What went wrong with the past marriage is identified and clarified and given a positive spin.
- By working through such feelings as denial, guilt, hopelessness, and insecurity, an emotional relearning occurs.
Our approach is to guide individuals and couples through a life crisis that society does not prepare one for. By dealing with the common problems of divorce, one can enjoy the satisfaction of new beginnings. Divorce can be dealt with in counseling as a means of achieving growth toward a more satisfying way of life.
- The skills necessary to learn how “not to hurt”, but to self-soothe and find peace of mind.
- Understanding the difference between developing some relationships while choosing to postpone others.
- The planning and adjustment to new roles such as being a single parent, returning to school, or reentering the job market.
One final thought… We have witnessed more than once or twice a couple who have worked through their plans to separate, or even divorce, only to change their minds days, weeks, or even months later and rekindle their marriage. Truth is we have helped couples reunite their marriage years after they divorced. Relationships are complicated and ‘complicated’ is what we are best at.
The “Make It or Break It” Marriage retreat will include:
- Opportunities to discuss what you each see as the problems, as well as strengths, in your marriage
- An in-depth discussion of your personal backgrounds and experiences, including your history as a couple together.
- Understanding your feelings, building your emotional awareness, and enhancing your skills in problem solving through effective communication
- An opportunity to learn and experience how love and forgiveness can build through increased tolerance and through the recognition that personality and character differences can actually enhance your marriage and personal happiness
- Depending on the problems that brought you to Landgraf Marriage Retreats, we may together discuss and learn what you saw in each other in the first place, stages of marriage and where you are today, problems of non-communication or miscommunication, how to identify misconceptions and change your reactions, stereotypes and prejudices and how to change them, and changing self-defeating behaviors.