Going through a divorce is one of the most stressful events you can experience in your life. The experts say that the stress experienced in a divorce is just as stressful, if not more so, than experiencing the death of a spouse. From my observations, the couple that experiences the most stress during a divorce is the couple that constantly argues.
A colleague of mine recently provided me with a series of e-mails written by therapists to one another in response to an article that appeared in The New York Times Magazine about the negative health effects of a distressed marriage. The article, which appeared in the April 18, 2010 issue and was written by Tara Parker-Pope, stated that “(A) stressful marriage can be as bad for the heart as a regular smoking habit. It can also weaken your immune system and make wounds take longer to heal.” Although the article referred to the stresses in a marriage, the same holds true with a divorcing couple. The remainder of this article is my interpretation of what I gleaned from these e-mails. Please remember that I am a lawyer, not a therapist. However, I wanted to share what I learned so that people going through a divorce, or having troubles in their marriage, could benefit and hopefully, reduce their stress.
The therapists, in their e-mails to one another, suggested various tips to reduce the stress. A recurring theme was to suggest that when arguing with your spouse, ask him/her and yourself, “What is the outcome you’d like from this discussion?” You will probably struggle with trying to figure out what the outcome is that you would like to see. That is because when you are speaking from emotions, it is difficult to attach logic to it. However, if you can figure out what that desired outcome is, your argument will tend to reach a level of a calmer discussion. If you take it a step further and explain to each other why the outcome is so important to you, it will help to open up the lines of communication between the two of you, hopefully reducing the stress level. It may even cause your spouse, or you, to re-think their position. When the emotional component is removed, and you look at it logically, you may find yourself, or your partner, shifting from being rigid to being more flexible. My advice is to try it. If it works, you will find yourself communicating at a level which will reduce the stress in your divorce. Ultimately, reducing the stress will benefit your health.
Pamela Edwards-Swift is a Certified Family Law Specialist