Stereotypes and generalizations can be so unfair. Unfortunately, women who are going through divorces are often not afforded the sympathy and understanding they deserve. Divorce may be common enough for us to understand that just about anybody can end up in a marriage that isn’t good for them, but the stigma persists.
Although divorce is often accompanied by anger and bitter feelings, the real things that are important to women during divorce aren’t all that difficult to understand. If you’re the male half of the soon-to-be-parted couple, understanding your partner’s needs will help you to negotiate an amicable settlement more easily. If you’re the woman, it can be hard to put your concerns into words. When you’re an outsider, you may find yourself wondering if you can (or even should) help.
1. She’s Worried About the Kids
When couples with children face divorce, the question uppermost in just about every mother’s mind is “What’s going to happen to my children?” We’ve all read inspiring stories about how women are willing to go through all manner of trials and tribulations for the sake of their children. Now, she’s faced with a situation in which the family unit will be dissolved. How that impacts her children will be highest on the list of things that matter to her.
Although couples getting divorced may become involved in bitter exchanges, most women realize that the ideal is a situation in which her children still have the benefit of an active father figure. As long as he isn’t an actual danger to her kids, she will be willing to negotiate custody and visitation arrangements. Needless to say, that can turn into an argument of its own. In most instances, a child custody attorney can act as a mediator, explaining various options and helping the couple to reach an amicable agreement.
2. She’s Concerned About Living Arrangements
Even when a woman facing divorce has a career, it’s likely that both she and her partner covered living costs. Chances are, there will be several shared assets that the couple paid for together. Stay-at-home moms have made a big sacrifice in giving up careers to care for kids. Their concerns are even greater. Reentering the job market is no easy matter.
During divorce, women worry about the home, whether they will be able to keep it running, and how they will pay the bills. When there are children, those concerns are magnified. Of course, men share these concerns from their own perspective.
Ante-nuptial contracts usually indicate how assets will be divided in case of divorce, but the reality is likely to be that both husband and wife wind up half as well off as they were before. The stereotype is that he or she wants to “keep everything” out of greed or spite, but that’s an overly simplistic viewpoint. It’s wise for couples to consider mediation from family law specialists in the hopes of finding the fairest possible settlement instead of entering into a messy dispute.
3. She Needs Help Processing her Anger and Grief
Divorce represents the end of what was once a couple’s shared hopes and dreams. Pain and grief are natural reactions when relationships end in divorce. While it would be unfair to say that the husband is not experiencing his own emotional turmoil, it is widely acknowledged that women are more likely to express their emotions than men are. They’re also far likelier to seek and need emotional support from friends and family.
With emotions finding greater expression, there will be times when what both parties say is colored more by emotional content than reason. Simply put, it’s unlikely they’ll be saying exactly what they mean from a practical perspective at times. While this is true of both men and women, women are more expressive. Those close to a woman going through divorce can be most helpful by listening – allowing her to express and process her emotions her own way.
Odd though it may seem, the expressiveness that leads many to brand women under stress as “unreasonable” helps them to recover from negative emotions more quickly. Society encourages men to hide their feelings and this emotional repression can lead to longer-term issues with their physical and emotional health.
Respect, Patience and Courtesy Plus a Lot of Understanding
Whatever the grounds for a pending divorce, those close to women who are having to go through the dissolution of a marriage may be unsure of how they can help. Often, close friends will avoid the “uncomfortable situation” saying they don’t want to get involved. But even when there aren’t clear deal-breakers like infidelity, substance abuse or physical abuse, your help can be invaluable.
While the practical issues like child custody and the division of material goods are up to the couple and their attorneys, friends and family can help by providing love and support. Respect, patience, courtesy, and understanding on the part of close friends and family members will help wives facing divorce to weather the storm. Knowing what matters to her under the circumstances helps you to give that support – even if you can’t help on a practical, nuts-and-bolts level.