In 2008, I was interviewed by Dave Taylor, blogger extraordinaire. (If you’re interested, he has a great blog about Single Fatherhood.) He asked me a question to which many people would like to know the answer. Perhaps it is one of your questions too.
Q: I’ve heard it takes 1-2 years for people to heal from their divorces and get on with their lives. Is that right? Is there any way to speed that up?
A: It’s hard to say how long it takes people to heal from divorce or other loss. I’ve seen people get over many aspects of a divorce but still remain stuck in anger, or can’t quite get out there and make new friends, or date again. To clean out the closet of all the “stuff” takes some doing. Divorce impacts every area of life and it can take a while to put it all back together. There is a formula I’ve heard (that people really don’t like at all but in my experience is pretty true) and that is that it takes one year for every 5 years of marriage. So for a 30 year marriage it would take 6 years of recovery. I think that’s about right, actually — to be ALL the way through.
Depends on Inner Resources
Does you know how to do tangible things like balance a checkbook? Get the oil changed? Do laundry? Braid a child’s hair? If so, recovery will be easier. Often in a marriage we divide tasks. It’s easier that way. But there’s a learning curve if you do’t know it.
Then there’s emotional maturity. Things like boundaries, anger, grief, forgiveness, thought control have to be matured. Divorce will force that maturity and that’s one of the reasons it’s so damn hard. You have to grow up on the fast track.
Attending a divorce recovery program can dramatically reduce recovery time. My experience is that people gain at least a year, often closer to two. (I taught one for years and now offer the material as a one-to-one coaching program.) There are several principles of healing and growth utilized during the program that account for such rapid progress. Among them are group process, individual process, intellectual learning, right-brained creativity, telling one’s story and being deeply heard, helping others, becoming real, and a renewed social life. Having a community is very important. Group process helps to clear out some of the “stuff” that remains hiding.
It takes as Long as it Takes
The best thing to remember is that it takes as long as it takes. There is no formula. There is no cookie-cutter divorce. We can add extra pain to an already painful process by believing we “should” be different, better, going faster, be more evolved, cry less, past anger, through it by now, or whatever story we are making up about ourselves. THAT part we can change. Much better to put down the whip and be gentle with yourself wherever you are in your process. Slow down.