How can I be getting divorced after working so hard for marriage equity?
You worked for and celebrated joyfully when marriage became legal. It was so emotional. You finally married your love. Now you’ve tried hard, but you are unable to happily stay together. Are you betraying the community?
As a therapist, a mediator and a coach in collaborative divorce I have worked with individuals and couples struggling with these questions. Yes, it is sad. It is painful. It is not what you wanted. But with or without legal marriage, we have always coupled and uncoupled, just as everyone else has.
The LGBTQ community has a history of transforming love relationships into friendships.
This is one of our biggest assets, and one to be proud of. If you can make this happen—even over time, this will help you and our community thrive and be strong. Additionally, if you have children, you are going to help them through this. You will want to have as peaceful a divorce as possible. This is what helps children the most. They need to feel loved and connected with both parents no matter what happens between the adults. If friendship is not in the cards, at least minimize the conflict. Put them first as you think about all the decisions that you make.
Coming out was so hard and now we’re divorcing.
So, you finally told your loved ones that you are gay, lesbian, bi, queer, or gender queer. They finally accepted your spouse. You had to be patient and have a lot of difficult conversations, and now you’re divorcing.
First, you will face your own disappointment.
You did not marry or commit to your spouse thinking that it would come to an end. The fact that this relationship is ending doesn’t change your sexuality or gender identity. It is helpful to take some time to adjust and manage your own emotions about this before you approach difficult friends or family members. You know who will support you easily and who will be more difficult. Trust your own judgement.
Take excellent care of yourself during this time!
Eat well, exercise, soothe yourself with healthy activities like being in nature, listening to music, and talking with supportive people. It is likely that you will feel down, question yourself, struggle with your feelings. If you are too depressed or anxious, get help.
Shame is often just beneath the surface for both the LGBTQ individual and for the divorcing individual.
You have a right to be who you are, and there is nothing wrong with that. Stay away from people who don’t accept you for who you are as much as possible until you are ready to cross that bridge. Hunker down in your community. Divorce may feel like a failure, and you may feel guilty for things that you really have done wrong. We are not perfect, and you may owe some amends. You can take your time in thinking about that and figuring out how you want to express your regret. But, take the time also to come to see whether your guilt is warranted. Sometimes we feel guilty when we do not deserve it. You do deserve to be in a relationship that works for you.
The way you approach your divorce makes a big difference.
Again, minimizing conflict and maximizing peace is the goal. Consider attending a Divorce Options class. Learn about the process. Choices range from do-it-yourself to mediation, to collaborative to litigation. Pick the best approach for you that preserves and facilitates the most goodwill.
When you are ready to tell more people about your divorce, keep your support close by.
Those who have had trouble accepting your identity may think this is an opportunity for you to change your identity to something more comfortable for them. You can kindly and calmly let them know that your identity is about you and not about this relationship. Let them know that you would like their support and give them the opportunity to support you.