A divorce coach works with you to safeguard the process of divorce, centered on minimizing the emotional trauma for you, your spouse and your children. You might talk about painful feelings with your coach, but this isn’t therapy. Your divorce coach will guide you through the process with the goals of minimizing conflict and building respect and trust as you navigate your divorce.
Your divorce coach will help you recognize and manage your and your spouse’s personal “faultlines,” while providing a neutral buffer to calm, protect, and support you both. An emotional “faultline” is where you may feel shaky or where you feel most hurt. While it is normal to feel grief, guilt, anger, helplessness, or confusion, when faultlines are triggered, you can’t take in information or make thoughtful decisions. In private meetings, your coach will help you identify the faultlines that will be triggered, and develop a plan about how to handle the surge of emotions when you are in divorce meetings. Unlike therapy, where you might unpack your “faultlines”, coaching will give you the tools and resources to help you manage them during the course of your divorce.
Faultlines might include betrayals in the marriage, or conflicts about money or the children. When discussing financial settlements or parenting plans, these faultlines can trigger a cascade of unhelpful emotions. Your coach will help you develop strategies for managing your own faultlines, and respecting those of your spouse as well.
Your divorce coach will help you translate your emotions into being able to articulate what matters to you most. Your coach will help you indentify your goals, needs and interests, without becoming adversarial or positional. With the coaching, you will be able to voice these needs and interests in a more neutral way, without tripping your own or your spouse’s faultlines. Your coach can also help you restructure your relationship with your spouse, so that you can co-parent with trust, honesty and respect. Unlike in therapy, a coach will help you restructure your future role with your “ex” without “working through” all of the feelings you may experience in your divorce.
Your divorce coach could actually decrease the cost of the divorce. In your divorce process, conflict and arguments in attorney meetings are not only hurtful, and pointless: they drag out the process and are expensive! Your divorce coach will help you look at the process as a problem-solving effort, without pulling in the faultline issues, so that you can make rational decisions for yourself and your family. As your coach helps you separate your emotional faultlines from what is most important to you, you will gain control over moving toward your new life, and the goals that you envision.
When you are flooded with intense feelings, this biologically limits your brain’s capacity to deal with the enormity of the divorce process. Divorce coaching helps you maintain your integrity and dignity during a painful and stormy transition in your life. As your coach helps you and your spouse learn to communicate in new ways, you are able to keep your family’s wellbeing in focus, make the most well-thought-through decisions together, and begin to heal yourself.
Avvy Mar, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist practicing in San Francisco and Marin County.
photo credit: Ann Buscho, Ph.D.