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By Irving H. Zaroff, JD LMFT and Dana Schutz, MA LMFT
All experiences of life seems to prove that the impediments thrown in the way of the human advancement may for the most part be overcome by steady good conduct, honest zeal, activity, perseverance and above all, by a determined resolution to surmount
~Samuel Smiles (1812 – 1904)
Each year most of us use the “New Year” as an opportunity to start over. We reflect on the past year’s unfulfilled dreams, regrets, failures, bad habits, etc. The New Year gives us a chance to wipe the slate clean – a chance to “do it right,” achieve our dreams, get rid of our bad habits, and make our lives better. But what is really different? Only our attitude. We substitute optimism for pessimism. Disappointment becomes motivation. Loss turns into opportunity.
Families in the process of divorce often grieve the deepest during the holiday season. The winter holidays are inextricably bound to family gatherings and rituals. Divorce challenges these customs with questions of alliances – where will the children spend their time; how does the couple engage their respective families; who goes where, when and how? Divorce means change not an end. It can be like a New Year. It can bring relief to regrets of the past and new opportunities for the future. Couples can often work together in ways they found difficult or impossible during the marriage. It’s a question of attitude and choice.
Divorce is a journey that starts with a choice for change and ends with a plan for the future. The marriage is past, but the journey of the divorce provides new opportunities. Will the couple resolve to find common ground and common purpose? Or, will they choose to forego the opportunity to do things differently? Will they be stuck in the past? Or can they carve out a better, albeit separate, future? Divorce changes how “things” are, but will it change how “you” are?
How will each party to the divorce choose? Will divorce be the end of a dream or a chance to dream anew? Will the chains of regret be dragged behind or will there be trust in new opportunities? By letting disappointment become motivation, by seeing the opportunities through the losses, and choosing optimism over pessimism, lives can be made better.