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How To Cope When Your Partner Is In The Middle Of A Divorce

By Catherine Gordon
Updated January 16, 2015

Divorce can be an ugly and difficult business for two people who used to be in love. However, it can also cause significant problems for anyone who is in a new relationship with one member of the divorcing couple.

If you are seeing someone who is in the middle of divorce proceedings, the following advice will help you to cope.

1) Encourage Your Partner To Strike The Right Balance

If your partner is divorcing someone who is still angry about events in their marriage, this person might exhibit bullying behavior and make unfair demands (especially after becoming aware of the new relationship). You might even find that they deliberately try to create discord in your relationship; for example, they may attempt to force your partner into spending excessive amounts of time with them in order to “sort out” the divorce, knowing how this will make you feel.

When these types of issues arise, talk to your partner about finding the right balance. Ideally, you will want to make sure that the ex-partner is appeased order to expedite the divorce proceedings, but you will also want to avoid your partner becoming a doormat whose happiness and freedom relies on an ex-partner’s whims.

2) Understand That Divorce Can Take A Long Time

If you haven’t been through a divorce, you may have unrealistic expectations about how long it will take.

Unfortunately, divorce is a tricky matter involving huge amounts of paperwork, difficulties finding appropriate lawyers, long waiting periods and time-consuming interpersonal conflict. The quickest divorces can take around two months, but this is the exception.

The divorce will take less of a toll on your relationship if you avoid blaming your partner for delays. Do everything you can to support your partner and speed up the process, but realize that many of the factors that influence the time that it takes to get a divorce will be entirely beyond their control.

3) Try To Avoid Obsessing About The Marriage

It is easy to fall into the trap of allowing your partner’s marriage to make you insecure.

Firstly, you may reflect on the reasons why the marriage failed, worrying that you will make similar mistakes.

Dealing with this problem mainly requires a conscious effort to judge your own relationship at face value, though you may also find some relief from discussing some of your concerns with your partner.

Secondly, you might start feeling anxious about your partner’s interactions with their spouse during the divorce proceedings and wonder whether there is any possibility that they might reconcile or discover their old spark. If your partner has always been trustworthy, do your best to hold onto that perspective. Focus on all of the reasons why your relationship differs from the marriage, and listen to how interactions with the spouse are described.

However, carefully raise the subject if you do find some aspect of the divorce proceedings uncomfortable. For example, you may be more comfortable if a meeting tasks place in a coffee shop rather than at the spouse’s home.

4) Remember That Divorce Can Bring Out The Worst In People

Try not to judge your partner too harshly based on what you see during the divorce.

The stress, negative emotions and allegations that can be involved in the legal proceedings can bring out the very worst personality traits in the best people.

Try to remember that what you will be seeing during the divorce may not accurately reflect what you can expect from your partner in the future. For example, you may be find that they are more irritable, more insecure, or depressed.

Try to imagine how you would feel and behave in a similar scenario, and accept that this is an exceptional set of circumstances. However, if your partner’s behavior starts to become intolerable, it is time for a serious discussion that allows you both to properly reflect on how the divorce is impacting on you.

5) Consider Putting The Relationship On Hold

Finally, it is worth noting that one option is to agree to reconvene the relationship after the divorce has been finalized.

Pin It If your presence in your partner’s life makes their spouse so angry that the divorce proceedings are significantly slowed or if your partner is struggling to cope with the emotional upheaval involved in juggling a divorce and a new relationship, you may want to discuss whether it would be better for everyone if you started dating again once the marriage is legally over.

However, always make sure that the terms of such an agreement are clear.

Discuss whether (or under what conditions) you might date anyone else, and agree on conditions that ensure your expectations match reality.

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Katherine Hurst
By Catherine Gordon
Catherine Gordon (PhD) has a background teaching and researching analytic philosophy. She is also a practising therapist who works with individuals and couples on issues relating to relationship difficulties, emotional well-being and self-improvement.

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