Going through divorce is extremely stressful where ever you live.
RED DOOR recently conducted a survey of women’s experience of divorce. As a HK based practice we were particularly interested to assess if HK women reported different experiences that women from an international group. A group of 50 women were compared. The pattern of responses indicates that the experience of divorce in Hong Kong is similar to that of women in the US, Australia and the UK. Over 75% of the women found the experience stressful, and over 90% felt changed by going through the divorce process.
What concerns women during divorce
During divorce women face a number of worries. Regardless of the stage of divorce (contemplating, in progress or having completed divorce) the pattern of concerns remains the same The highest rated concern was regarding their finances. This is probably not a surprise as much of the timing during the divorce process is spent dividing assets and coming to a financial agreement.
The second highest rated concern involves the emotional impact and wellbeing of children who will be affected by the divorce. There are separate RED DOOR blogs on this specific topic, but I will highlight that children will be affected by divorce, what can be mitigated through support, counselling and positive co-parenting, is the impact of how much they will be affected.
The third highest rated concern is the emotional state of the women as they went through the process of divorce. The divorce process is extremely emotionally taxing and it is common to feel grief, feeling overwhelmed, and experience anxiety and depression during this time. Women need to explore sources of support during this time.
Other highly rated concern include worries about lifestyle changes and career changes. These are often a direct impact from the financial arrangements that are agreed during the divorce. Many women consider changing jobs, or going back to work, after divorce.
Changes from divorce
In our survey women were asked what changes they had experienced in their lives during the divorce. Changes in finances are not rated as the strongest area of change. I suspect that women expect those changes so the manner in which they reply rates unexpected changes more highly than those that were expected.
The highest rated change after divorce is changes in the women’s level of independence. This could actually be a change for the better, not necessarily negative. Women also said that their ability to cope with change had been altered. Given the emotional elements of the divorce process, ability to cope with change is a positive by-product of the stress of divorce.
Women also reported experiencing changes in their career. Many women choose or have to change their employment situation because of divorce. This can be both a positive and negative change as a consequence of divorce.
A whole blog could be dedicated to changes in friendships that are experienced during divorce. Divorce is a stress test on existing friendships. Friends who are determined to support both sides, or stay neutral, rarely can. Feelings of betrayal coming out of the breakdown of a marriage can be echoed in the loss of friendships, and the sometimes disappointing support of friends that women have held for a long time. I promise to dedicate a whole blog to being a better friend to women going through divorce.
Unsurprisingly changes in relationship within the existing family also arise. The breakdown of a marriage, often requires reconstruction of a family. In laws may cut of all contact. This can add to some of the grief associated with going through divorce.
The best sources of support during divorce
Women were asked about the best sources of support that they relied upon during the process of divorce. The survey listed 17 potential sources of support including existing friends, new friends, parents, church members, lawyers, counsellors, and financial advisors.
The most highly rated source of support are established friends (those who stick by the person and provide support), family members – parents, children and siblings, and then counsellor/psychologist. Of all the professional services attached to divorce (Lawyers, mediators, accountants, financial advisors, counsellors, and support groups) the highest rated, in terms of providing much needed support, is individual counselling.
One third of the recipients had attending some form of divorce support group. All of those women said that a support group was extremely helpful.
It has been said that knowledge is power. We asked women going through divorce about the information or skills they wish they knew more about at the beginning of the divorce journey. The ratings included the following:
Staying emotionally strong, maintaining positive self-esteem, and the process of reinvention were considered important skills that women wish they knew more about. Building a solid financial future and plan is complicated. Many women going through divorce may not have taken responsibility for finances in the past. Financial literacy, responsibility and investment basics from a person that the divorcee can trust is important.
Many women rated learning how to forgive as an important skills to learn about. Forgiveness after betrayal is complicated and may require specific counselling.
Learning negotiation skills is essential to get through the process of divorce. We have held a series of workshops on negotiation skills, and it seems apparently that few women have received negotiation skills in any area of their lives and this can put them at a disadvantage during divorce discussions.
The period of divorce has been referred to as a “Crazy Time” with good reason. If you are considering divorce you may want to plan ahead. Check your sources of support, educate yourself on the process, negotiation and emotional elements that you may experience during divorce. And good luck.
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About the author:
Angela Watkins is a counsellor and psychologist working out of the RED DOOR practice in Hong Kong. Angela is known locally as “the divorce girl”, as a reflection of her running Hong Kong’s only English language therapeutic support group for women going through divorce, as well as supporting a wealth of individuals (both women and men) going through the process of divorce.