Do I need Marriage Closure Therapy?

By Susan Bulfinch J.D.

In the Collaborative Divorce process you have the benefit of a team of knowledgeable professionals who work closely with you and your spouse to negotiate and reach agreement on all issues incident to divorce from the legal, financial and emotional perspective.   

Communication coaches help you respond appropriately to any emotional triggers experienced during the process.  They will help you understand what parenting plan may be best for your children given their ages and the level of conflict between you.  And, your collaborative attorneys will educate you about your legal rights and help you negotiate with your spouse an agreement that addresses division of property and amount and duration of support.  Certified Financial Divorce Specialists help understand and make decisions regarding finances.   And, collaborative mediators may be used to help with your communication and problem solving.

How do you resolve the relationship between you and your spouse?  Or, do you?

It’s important to recognize that both of you are striving for control—control over money, over children, over property, over yourselves.  Divorcing couples, no matter how well intentioned or how cooperative they may appear, must make personal adjustments as they transition from pre to post divorce.  The personal transition piece can be especially difficult where there is lingering resentment, where one of you may not want the divorce, when there is great sadness, or when you are angry and that anger is expressed, or, simply, you are just ambivalent about the whole idea of ending the marriage.  

Marriage Closure Therapy is a type of therapeutic intervention that assists couples in their transition pre and post divorce and may be especially effective for couples who have not make up their minds about their relationship and are not at peace with the decision to stay together or to divorce.  The external goal of this therapy is to bring closure to the relationship through reconciliation or through dissolution.  The internal goals may be co-parenting, facilitating grief, establishing clear boundaries and easing the hurt of the spouse that seems most hurt.   Instead of seeing marriage as a failure, this type of therapy allows each spouse to learn how to take responsibility for the decision to get married, understand each other’s contribution to the dissolution and experience a catharsis of emotions.   Feelings such as sadness about losing the dream of living happily ever after or anger at losing the relationship with extended family members or in-laws or loss of a lifestyle may be expressed.* 

For those who practice mediation or work as collaborative mediators in the Collaborative Divorce process, having an understanding and appreciation of marriage closure therapy is important.  It can be added to the “mediator’s toolbox” when a spouse is withdrawn or unable to focus on the issues at hand.  It is an opportunity to explore the marital relationship or to bring closure to the marriage with understanding and dignity.  Then, the couple may be prepared to engage in productive settlement discussions with their collaborative team of professionals.       

*For more information, go to “Marriage Closure Therapy:  Tips for Family Mediators

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