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What Divorce Looks Like To A Divorce Psychologist

I have been a divorce coach and family psychologist for over a decade.  Before that, I was a divorce lawyer. I have also gone through divorce myself.  As such, I have had a rather intimate view of what divorce entails. 

While I knew many of the effects and challenges of divorce and single parenting before I divorced, being divorced made these experiences real in a way that changed what they meant for me and brought to life many aspects that I could not have known as a divorce lawyer.

The divorce terrain is tumultuous. Knowledge of the divorce process is not enough to guide a client through divorce.  To guide someone through divorce, one must have empathy and creativity as well as being non-judgemental.  I prepare my clients both for what typically occurs and for some heart-pounding surprises. I also prepare them for the task of solving problems in new ways, leaving them with a valuable skill that they will utilize in many different contexts over their lifetimes.

The process of divorce often begins far in advance of the word "Divorce" being mentioned between spouses and continues long after the divorce decree is issued.

Researchers have found that it takes between two and three years on average to fully recover from the psychological effects of a divorce. In a high-conflict divorce, recovery often takes longer.

The experience of divorce is punctuated by simultaneously felt emotions that are contradictory and create gnawing uncertainty. 

Divorce is a process with ups and downs, with periods of conflict and chaos, periods of feeling free and hopeful, and with periods involving major disruption to many aspects of each family member’s life.

The loss of a marriage causes intense, sometimes piercing, emotions. What makes the experience even more difficult is that the emotions we experience are contradictory and that contradiction creates added uncertainty. 

Some of the emotions that arise amidst marital conflict and divorce include:









fear, and


Some of these emotions will warm and then gradually soften while others will cling to our everyday thoughts and feelings.

The emotions accompanying divorce are full of surprises.

 Here is one so unexpected that it hangs in the air between myself and my clients.  While divorce triggers deeply felt grief in all family members, the spouse who is more in favor of the divorce often actually experiences the deepest level of grief.

Another often unexpected twist involves in laws and how they relate to the spouse who is "no longer a part of their family."   How is it that you did not see coming the change in the woman who insisted that you call her mom and who patiently coached you via Zoom through all of the family's special recipes. Now she will not look you in the eye when she picks the children up to take them on a trip to the zoo. 

There are warm, bolstering surprises as well. Acquaintances who you always wished would be closer friends actually offer more support than you ever thought possible, even from the people you have called friends for decades. 

Despite the prevalence of divorce in our society, stigma remains associated with it. A sense of failure about the ending of the marriage pervades even when both parties gave it their best and worked hard to save the marriage. Others feel they are a failure even when the ending of the marriage was necessary for their health and safety. The shame of not having endured replacing the shame that one continued to endure.  All of it so harmful and misplaced. We turn our faces away from a neighbor's felt gaze, rush in the front door and self-isolate, denying ourselves much needed comforting.

One of the most difficult parts of practicing law was watching a family enter the judicial system. One of the greatest difficulties is realizing how directly and heavily people outside of the family know what is going on inside of their family. This can be eliminated with mediation that ends in a private agreement.

Divorce changes the experience of parenting.

When spouses separate, parents divide time with the children in some manner. Each parent must learn to live for periods of time without direct physical interaction with their children.  Different parents react to these absences in different ways.

For some, time without the children is the most painful part of the divorce. I expereinced a deep mourning, whenever the children transitioned from my house to their dad's, that lasted for quite some time.

In addition to dealing with absences from their children, each parent learns how to be a single parent and care for the children without the support or assistance of another adult in the house.

Juggling work and family demands while working to balance the two becomes inevitable. If you have more than one child, you may need to prepare for the reality that you will need to be in two or three places at the same time. 

Dance and soccer, church groups and play practice, birthday parties and football games all seem to occur at once.

Another impact of divorce relates to parents’ jobs and careers.

A spouse who did not work outside the home pre-divorce may need to begin in order to cover the much higher cost of running two homes.  On the other hand, spouses who worked long hours and devoted a significant amount of time to their careers may now need to work less in order to provide direct care to the children. Childcare for children of different ages is challenging to arrange and tends to very expensive.

Divorce inevitably involves coping with loneliness. Clients have told me that while they may have been unhappy in the marriage, being separated and alone is something they have a hard time getting used to. 

Loneliness subsides.  Living an authentic life in line with our dreams and core values begins to feel much better than never being alone but in a marriage that is so riddled with conflict.  Most come to realize that they deserve to be in a meaningful, loving, supportive relationship, usually after a period of being attracted to much the same sort of person we recently divorced. 

I am not the kind of doctor who can give my patients a prescription and know they will feel better in 24 hours.  What I can do is listen with an open heart and mind and offer ways that I have seen work in terms of helping families get through divorce with the least amount of lasting harm and the most optimism for their future.

I love my work within this landscape of tough terrain because, while I can not take away the pain of divorce, I can help adults and children overcome obstacles to emerging from divorce happy and whole.   I care deeply about my clients and am honored that they have selected me to be a guide through divorce and into their full, creative, meaningful, joyful new lives. 

I appreciate you sharing this space with me. If you are going through divorce or a tough marriage, please accept my gift to you, an essential self-care guide.   Give yourself the  TLC  you deserve and need.



Protecting your children from the emotional harm caused by divorce can seem impossible. Yet the harm to children doesn’t arise from divorce itself, but from high conflict between parents. 

Psychologist and former family lawyer Dr. Jodi Peary specializes in helping divorced parents restructure their relationship with each other, deepen their relationship with their children, and get in touch with their authentic selves again — all critical steps to minimizing damage from divorce.

Her Enlightened Co-Parenting method helps parents build a healthy co-parenting foundation that makes working with an ex to raise happy, healthy children seem intuitive, rather than impossible.





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