A-Z of Divorce: C is for Counselling

I’m continuing the alphabetical exploration of divorce with ‘C’ for ‘counselling’…
My passion is to see people emerge as happier and healthier individuals, despite the difficulties of divorce and separation, and to help others navigate those difficult day to day decisions, which is why I have set up a separate divorce specific blog too – the entirety of divorce.

Please click on the link below to keep reading, and give my new sister site a follow on WordPress or a like on Facebook!

I like to talk.

This is unlikely to be a revelation. There is little I like more than a good heart-to-heart and a laugh with a trusted friend, especially if the event involves food and drink. But talking and opening up to someone you don’t know, about some very deeply felt personal pain, is not easy – even when you like talking as much as I do. A common misconception is that counselling is about talking. I mean, yes, in part, it is. But it’s also so much more than that…so if you hate talking, and especially with a stranger, you might still like counselling – and even this post…

…I was, as everyone ideally is, married to my very best friend – it seems strange to say that now, but back then it was true. So when that best friend and I split up, I didn’t just lose a husband. I lost my confidante, the one who understood me with a look, and who could unravel an entire back story behind a word or half finished sentence.

One of the hardships of divorce, and of course there are many, is that loss of a companion. The irony is that they are the one person whom you most want to talk to, and the one you are least able to. Perhaps when you do talk, they don’t say what your heart yearns for them to say, or they listen but disregard your emotions and utterances to focus on their own happiness. Where there was once understanding, intuition and compassion, the conversation just doesn’t quite fit as it used to.

So when we separated, I decided to get counselling. This wasn’t the first time – I had also had counselling at college, working through the death of a close and much loved relative and coping with a sense of failure.

This time around, I decided to get counselling for a few reasons.

  1. I wanted to emerge from whatever this process ended up being as better than I went in, and I thought counselling might help.
  2. I wanted help to see the way forward and to work through the many issues that were cropping up.
  3. I didn’t want to bore all my friends all the time with all my problems: maybe that wasn’t how they felt, but I was acutely aware of this.

My desire to not bore my friends over the continual angst and anguish of my heart, meant I felt counselling was worth investing in. I was paying someone to listen. People would have happily listened for free at length, and did, but I felt justifiably able to talk for so long when I was paying someone to sit with me. Now counsellingis expensive. I chose to see it as an investment in my mental health, and I would still argue that to be true now. There are also places to go to get counselling for free, or at a subsidised rate. If I was going to emerge, in whichever direction that happened to be, I wanted that to be as a healthier me, rather than one crippled by the variety of problems and issues. (This is not to say I am now a 100% sorted individual, we all have our hang ups and difficulties!)

Having made this financial decision, I chose to have Christian counselling to enable me to talking freely about my faith which lead to a small selection of people in the town I lived in. I chose the person less recently associated with my family. I would not say this made it easier. In fact, in many ways, not knowing the person at all and being able to be totally anonymous and therefore say whatever you want and need to is infinitely preferable. Even with a slight knowledge of one another, the counsellor did not know the me then. Truth be told, I barely felt I did. In the same way as with a friendship, we both had to invest time in making this relationship work, formalised though it was. This is a good reason to give counselling a few sessions before making a decision about whether to continue. As we got to know one another a little more (or she got to know me a lot more), I was able to open up more, helping me to gain significantly in each session.

Choice made on counsellor, I had a second dilemma.

Hardly any one knew we were separated. And the counsellor’s office was in town. So I approached the counsellor and asked if they would mind meeting in my home, to which they kindly agreed. This may not be possible for every counsellor, but I am so thankful they said yes to that suggestion. I will never know whether the familiar surroundings made it easier or harder to talk…it certainly made it easier to kick off my shoes and curl up on the sofa…perhaps the neutral space would have given me space to offload in a different way.

You get as much out of counselling as you put in. I believe you come away with infinitely more, but need to be willing to share thoughts, events and emotions for it to be a useful experience. While talking is important to share these things, counsellors can hold a mirror up to your way of thinking about those scenarios, which may be painful but can also be hugely enlightening. It encourages you to think about new questions and ways of looking at situations. It can challenge your assumptions and world views you didn’t realise you had. It can give you strategies for thinking about and approaching emotions and situations that you might otherwise not have experienced.

There is often a fear that counsellors will judge you, but that’s not at all true in my experience. These people became counsellors to help people see their way forward, not to critique life decisions. They might challenge you on why you make a particular choice, but this is to encourage you to think it through, rather than to condemn your decision making. You will probably feel quite, or even very, exposed, but then being exposed making those decisions with a wise and trained ear is maybe better than a rash choice made alone at 2am exposed to Facebook.

If you’re looking for someone to give you the answers, I would suggest that counselling isn’t it. If you want to be gently challenged and begin to think things through for yourself, then invest. If you need to not feel like you’re boring your friends, invest. You don’t have to be Shakespeare, or an eloquent speaker, you don’t even have to like talking – just open up about one thing you don’t mind talking about so much, and see where the conversation takes you…

A…is for Adulting

B…is for Belonging

C…is for Counselling

D…is for Dating

E…is for Eating (or not)

F…is for Failure

G…is for Generosity

H…is for Hope

I…is for Intimacy

J…is for Jealousy

K…is for Keepsakes

L…is for Love

the entirety of divorce

I like to talk.

This is unlikely to be a revelation. There is little I like more than a good heart-to-heart and a laugh with a trusted friend, especially if the event involves food and drink. But talking and opening up to someone you don’t know, about some very deeply felt personal pain, is not easy – even when you like talking as much as I do. A common misconception is that counselling is about talking. I mean, yes, in part, it is. But it’s also so much more than that…so if you hate talking, and especially with a stranger, you might still like counselling – and even this post…

…I was, as everyone ideally is, married to my very best friend – it seems strange to say that now, but back then it was true.So when that best friend and I split up, I didn’t just lose a husband…

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