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Healing the Wounds of Separation and Divorce

by Lauren Mackler

What causes a relationship to deteriorate to the point of a separation or divorce?
The things that draw people together in a relationship are the same ones that drive them apart. People typically fall in love with partners who have the qualities they lack in themselves—their opposite—in an unconscious quest to feel complete. While they’re initially enamored by those differences, over time, they often become points of conflict and disdain. And since most people lack good communication and conflict management skills, the real issues never get addressed. Over time, resentment builds, trust is eroded, and the relationship becomes a constant battlefield

It’s one thing not to get along, but in many relationships, things become downright ugly. What causes such intense anger and bitterness?
Intimate relationships tend to invoke our deepest wounds. We’re all the product of our life conditioning. And since most people come from families with some level of dysfunction, most of us carry emotional pain and dysfunctional patterns into our relationships. Many of these patterns are like viruses, infecting our self-esteem, our lives, and our relationships. Those closest to us know exactly how to invoke our deepest wounds, which is why people react so badly in the midst of divorce. They think it’s the other person who’s causing their pain, when, in fact, they’re both replicating the dysfunctional patterns learned in childhood in their own marriage.

How can people stop the cycle of anger and destructive behavior in the midst of a separation or divorce?
When a relationship deteriorates to the point where the partners become what I call “intimate enemies”, the best approach is to find a professional who can help them cut through the symptoms of their issues—which are often disguised as anger, resentment, jealousy, or infidelity—and  address the root causes of their problems. This is especially important when there are children involved, because they still have to interact as parents. Regardless of whether the couple stays together or divorces, the only way they can co-parent in an amicable and constructive manner is for them to become aware of the dysfunctional patterns they each brought into the relationship. Once they’ve identified what they are, they need to do the personal-development work needed to change them. If the destructive behavior continues, it will inevitably cause deep emotional and psychological damage to their children, and the legacy of dysfunction will pass on to the next generation.

© 2012 Lauren Mackler

Lauren Mackler is a world-renowned coach and author of the international bestseller Solemate: Master the Art of Aloneness & Transform Your Life. To sign up for her free Live Boldly e-newsletter, click here.

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Posted in Article, Family Health, Mind-Body Tagged with: , , ,
  • Kiki

    Wow, awesome article. My BF broke up with me 3 months ago. We were so in love and believe we still are, but we used to fight a lot and the fights escalated to higher levels. He comes from a broken family and his father was an abusive man, he used to beat his wife (my ex’s mother) and my ex remembers every single episode of his childhood, he always mentioned to be afraid of becoming someone like his father…my friends and relatives have told me: good riddance!…he was never aggressive with me though but jealous and kind of macho yes…I still love him and miss him…it hurts so much…

  • Greg Hagin

    Hey There Brett,

    Just stumbled onto your site while eating lunch today. Great work! I really like your site and like how real your advice and information is. You may remember me from the spa world. You and I are both Mary T’s students, and we first met at La Costa at a Cornell tour a few years ago.

    I really want to compliment you on a great site/blog, etc. I’m enjoying the articles immensely.

    These days, I’m re-married happily and running a small hotel out here on the north coast of California. If you ever get out this way, please do look me/us up.

    Best Regards,

    Greg Hagin

  • Nikki

    I understand your pain, however your BF has been willing to deal with what happened in his parents’ relationship. I know men shy away from counseling so maybe he would benefit from a male mentor. He has to get himself emotionally stable before he can proceed in a healthy relationship. He has to changed those negative behaviors bc if he doesn’t the relationship will continue to be toxic. I know when you love someone, you want it to work out so badly, but allow him the time he needs to work things through. I will pray for you.

  • lynn

    Thank you for the article.
    My husband and I both come from dysfunctional families. We are constantly arguing about everything. I say it’s because I resent having gotten married so young(21) and his past infidelity, I feel I never got to finish my college education to be with our 2 sons, aged 9 and 17.
    Even if we decide to stay together, I feel they will always be emotionally damaged and am trying to cope with all we are going through, speaking to my pastor, etc. I care about my husband, I just don’t see us getting better after 16 year marriage.
    It’s good to see articles like this addressing what some of us are dealing with!