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Divorce Adjustment: Self-Forgiveness is Mandatory!

Going through a separation or divorce? Having trouble managing the shame, guilt, anger, depression, self-loathing, hopelessness, fatigue, irritability, sleep disturbance, loss of interest in work/hobbies, aggression, reckless behavior, and/or substance abuse?

There is good news for people who are struggling with post-separation adjustment:

According to a 2011 study from the Journal of Divorce & Remarriage (52:109-124, 2011), authors Juliet Rohde-Brown and Kjell Erik Rudestam found a strong relationship between depression and lack of self-forgiveness—that the more depressed a person is, the lower their levels of forgiveness (of themselves, an ex-spouse, or both).

Make no mistake about it: divorce is a severe life stressor that can negatively affect a person’s mental health, physical health, emotional health, economic health, and social health---it can have a global footprint on a person’s Bio-Psycho-Social-Spiritual welfare.  Researchers Amato (2000), Kitson & Rashcke (1982), Kitson (1982), Kitson & Holmes (1992), and Sweeney & Horowitz (2001) found that the process of completely integrating the stressor of divorce into all areas of an individual’s life stages takes approximately 2 years—regardless of how long the marriage lasted—and that these first 2 years of post-separation are the most critical time for disequilibrium to occur and healing to be fostered—and that the capacity to forgive, at least in regard to the self, promotes divorce adjustment.  

These research findings suggest that it is critical for people to adopt positive self-regard and self-forgiveness during the first 18 months of divorce adjustment—that the early promotion of forgiving oneself and others (daily forgiveness practice, anger reduction, regulation of emotion, empathy fostering, compassion nurturing) are critical components of adjusting to divorce—before post-separation difficulties (shame, guilt, anger, depression, self-loathing, hopelessness, fatigue, irritability, sleep disturbance, loss of interest in work/hobbies, aggression, reckless behavior, substance abuse, etc.,) are fully realized. 

The early promotion of forgiving oneself and others seem to be the most important findings of this research—and Mental Health professionals who work with divorced clientele might want to take a closer look at facilitating forgiveness of self/others into clinical therapy treatment. 


James McLintock, MA, Clinical Psychology, MFTI, co-facilitates Divorce Care Workshops at North Coast Calvary Chapel in Carlsbad, California. He is an MFT intern at Living Water Counseling Center in Carlsbad where he focuses on working with divorced adults, separated adults, and specializes in meeting the counseling needs of police, fire, and emergency responders. To learn more about James—or to make an appointment, check out www.LivingWaterCa.com 

11 Comments to Divorce Adjustment: Self-Forgiveness is Mandatory!:

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Karl Stenske on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 5:19 PM
Wonderful article! It is always so difficult to remember that forgiving ourselves is crucial to forgiving others. Not only crucial in importance, but crucial to our ability to forgive and attain the peace that lies on the other side. I would love to know your opinion on long-term relationships. Is the same self-forgiveness necessary along with the 2 years of recovery? Or is this specific to marriage and divorce?
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Divorce Attorney Gilbert on Tuesday, February 18, 2014 1:10 PM
Well divorce is a bad decision made by the couple but some times it is necessary.
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James McLintock on Thursday, March 06, 2014 2:11 PM
Divorce Attorney Gilbert brings up a good point--divorce stats related to first marriages in California range between 53% and 64% (research varies), with 2nd marriages and 3rd marriage failing at an even higher rate. I think the question to divorce should be taken very seriously and I wonder if the divorce stats would be lower if couples (who were not in any kind of safety issue), paused and took a deeper look at their relationships. Dr. Phil McGraw wrote an article on the decision to divorce, and I like what he said: I've pasted the article below, and the link is http://www.drphil.com/articles/print/?ArticleID=23 Are you ready to get divorced? If you're unhappy and think you're ready to call it quits, answer the five questions in Dr. Phil's Divorce Readiness Test: 1. Have you done everything you can to save and rehabilitate your marriage? 2. Do you have unfinished emotional business? 3. Have you researched, planned, and prepared yourself legally for divorce? 4. Are you ready to adopt a new standard of conduct with your children? 5. Are you willing to create a new relationship as a co-parent? Dr. Phil believes most people in America are too quick to get divorced. You shouldn't get a divorce, he says, until you've turned over every stone and investigated every avenue of rehabilitation possible; you have no unfinished emotional business; you've researched, planned and prepared yourself legally; you're ready to adopt a new standard of conduct with your children and you're willing to create a new relationship as a co-parent. For more on his first two questions, read on: Have you gotten help for your marriage? Have you exhausted all avenues of putting your marriage back together? That means everything from reading books or going to a marriage counselor, to speaking to a clergy member and spending time focusing on you and your role in what's going on. You need to ask yourself: What was your marriage like when it worked? When did it go wrong? Why? Is what you're fighting about worth breaking up your marriage? What do you want? What is it costing you to be in your relationship? Are you willing to put in the effort to make the relationship work? What are you doing to contaminate the relationship? "You know you're ready for a divorce when you can walk out the door with no anger, frustration or hurt. Otherwise, you've got unfinished business," says Dr. Phil. "Unless and until you look each other in the eye feeling peace, no hatred or resentment, you're not ready to get a divorce." Do not make life-changing decisions in the midst of emotional turmoil. Such consequential decisions should not be made when tensions are high. Get on flat ground first so you can look at things more rationally. Ask yourself: Are you still in love with your spouse? Are you hurt? Are you scared? Are you angry? Are you confused? If you answered yes to any of those questions, you've failed the test. This is not the time to make life-changing decisions. You have more work to do.
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Demetra Cowher on Thursday, October 15, 2015 5:44 AM
demanding requirements?
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Cruz Orlove on Tuesday, October 27, 2015 9:35 AM
Surely everybody will?
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Kelli Stansell on Tuesday, October 27, 2015 11:51 AM
house, also it significantly better end up being avoided?
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Reed Miro on Wednesday, November 04, 2015 8:54 AM
with him or her their particular choices?
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Hip Pain Treatments on Tuesday, February 09, 2016 11:25 PM
I'm really impressed by the way you detailed out every thing. It is actually seriously going to help me quite a bit. Thanks for sharing your thoughts so clearly
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Muhammad on Sunday, March 27, 2016 10:28 AM
Separation details identified with first relational unions in California range somewhere around 53% and 64% (examination fluctuates), with second relational unions and third marriage fizzling at a much higher rate. I think the inquiry to separate ought to be considered important and I think about whether the separation details would be lower if couples (who were not in any sort of security issue), delayed and investigated their connections. Dr. Phil McGraw composed an article on the choice to separate. Thank you so much for this issue.
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Eleanor on Wednesday, March 30, 2016 1:47 PM
Awesome article! It is generally so hard to recall that generous ourselves is significant to excusing others. Crucial in significance, as well as urgent to our capacity to forget and accomplish the peace that lies on the other side. I would love to know your assessment on long haul connections. Is the same self-absolution important alongside the 2 years of recuperation? On the other hand is this particular to marriage and separation? Thanks and let me know please.
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n songs on Wednesday, October 05, 2016 4:33 AM
very nice article thanks for sharin.
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