You Have A Problem

© 2012 Marvin L. Chapman, PsyD, LMFT, CFC
All Rights Reserved

We as men are notorious for not talking about emotional issues which confront us, such as marital problems. We also do not like to admit mistakes. In fact, we do not tolerate confrontations well, and are typically very sensitive to being embarrassed in public.

When it comes to the adversarial family court system, we are going to have to talk to someone about the emotional issues or we will lose everything. We have no choice.

We are going to be hearing about all the alleged mistakes we made during our relationship with our ex spouse. We will be forced to confront all of these things in a public form, in a packed courtroom.
It is extremely likely, whether we have an attorney or not, that we will be purposefully embarrassed many times during this process. Therefore, we need to obtain as much information as possible, to gain as much power as possible, because this process is hell-bent on destroying us and the ex spouse, and through us, our children.

The first thing you do with you is admit you have a problem. Your problem is you are entering into an area of your life about which you know very little, and over which you have very little control.
Let me repeat myself:

Your problem is you are entering into an area of your life about which you know very little, and over which you have very little control.

Only by admitting you have a problem will you then be able to overcome the tendency to avoid discussion of it – and discussing it is the first step in gaining the information and education you need to both help yourself and your children.

Search out people who are willing to listen, preferably a support organization, or a professional who has handled similar situations. This will help you sort out the smaller details and allow you to concentrate on the important issues without all the clutter in your head. You are going to need a clear mind! You will need to minimize emotionalism from your decision making process. This means you will need to think through and evaluate the likely results of any decisions. You will need to come to the understanding you are going through a very disruptive ordeal.

Therefore, it is in your best interests to seek legal, psychological, or other guidance prior to making major decisions regarding custody, timesharing arrangements, financial issues, or any other family court related decision.

Counseling may be desired to assist you in understanding what is happening to you, how you feel about it, and what you want or can do about it. However, you need to be able to accept the fact that the anxiety you will be feeling is not uncommon or a sign of weakness on your part, it is just the typical byproduct of a system designed to overwhelm you.

When a family separation takes place, both parents will grieve in a way very similar to mourning the death of a close relative. Dr. Elisabeth Ross, internationally known for her studies of the grief process, has described five (5) stages of grief when dealing with the death of a loved one.

Since grieving the death of a relationship is similar to mourning the death of a close relative, you will also experience these five (5) stages of the grieving process. These stages are not absolutes, nor do they come in chronologically order. They are a natural emotional process when a person has suffered a significant loss in their lives – a process which affects both children and adults.

The five (5) stages of grieving the death of a significant relationship are sorrowful Denial; then Anger – possibly even uncontrolled anger at family, friends, and many times unknown members of the opposite sex; Bargaining comes next, which is where you say “I’ll do this, if you’ll do that.” Sadness and Depression come next, accompanied many times by an overwhelming sense of failure; and finally there is Acceptance, sometimes know as the “moving on” stage.

This last stage is where you finally accept the reality of the death of the relationship. It is also where you start to make more mature decisions for yourself and your new reorganized family.

The five (5) stages of grief are not mutually exclusive. This means that you may go through different stages at different times, you may go through more than one stage at one time, and you may go through some stages several times during the grieving process.

Therefore, when going through the trauma of the adversarial family court process, you are also going through the psychological trauma of the emotional process.

By seeking out a support group or a good therapist, you will be able to discover ways of dealing with the stages of grief you will be experiencing. Additionally, you may learn ways of communicating with the other parent so as to ensure your children are provided a supportive safety net.

Remain patient throughout this experience, it will not last forever. Do not sacrifice your principles, your future, or your children’s welfare by being overly anxious to “get it over with.” This is an ordeal that you must do your best to demonstrate that you are a reasonable thinking person.

Part of being a reasonable thinking person is not overlooking the fact that you are only human. Oh, come on, admit it! When you feel you have failed in some way, acknowledge it, resolve to improve one day at a time, then forget it. Do not put yourself down or allow depression to overcome the efforts you have made and the victories you have gained.

You also do not want your work performance to suffer, you cannot afford to jeopardize your job. You will be distracted and miserable at times, so you may need to increase your work effort to compensate.

Work can also be good therapy, especially if you have chosen a good attorney or paralegal and have taken advantage of a good support group to assist you during this transition.