Dr. Jill Murray Dives into the Threats That Cause Paralyzing Fear in Divorce

Breaking out of Paralyzing Fear in Divorce

“You’ll never see your children again.” “You’ll be destitute.” “I’m going to ruin you.”

“You’ll regret it.”

Threats, verbal abuse, anger and fear can create a toxic divorce that is painful for everyone involved, including children. It also tends to drag the divorce out longer than it should take. But with threats to their livelihoods, their children, their homes, and their futures, it’s no surprise that many people contemplating divorce can find themselves paralyzed by fear.

But the fear isn’t simply about the anger of an ex or retribution, it can also include fear of the other side effects of divorce that can plague divorcees for years. And there’s just no two ways about it—it’s worse for ex-wives.

  1. Financial distress: especially for women, this isn’t an unrealistic fear. In general, women tend to suffer greater financial distress in divorce because of her (more likely) role in raising children (and not in her career).
  2. Emotional distress: according to the report “The Short-Term and Decade-Long Effects of Divorce on Women’s Midlife Health”, divorced women report higher psychological distress levels than married women in the years after divorce with stresses of being in an unhappy marriage replaced by different worries, like not being able to trust a man again, struggling to find her perfect partner or a fear of being rejected.

The worries are both legal and emotional. And they’re compounded by our culture’s interest in dramatic disaster stories of “women in peril”. All of this makes it easy to see why some people are afraid to take the next step and discuss divorce.

This week I spoke with the authors of The Empowered Woman’s Guide to Divorce, Dr. Jill Murray and Adam Dodge. Dr. Murray is one of the nation’s leading experts on unhealthy relationships. She has published a number of books on unhealthy relationships and mental health. Her therapy practice is based in Laguna Niguel, California. Dodge is a former divorce attorney who now devotes his career to empowering women to represent themselves in family law proceedings as the legal director of Laura’s House where he advocates for the legal rights of domestic violence survivors and their children.

Moving Beyond Fear

In her practice, Murray looks at the psychological side of this “threat” equation. She sees women who are paralyzed by the fear of splitting from a partner who is toxic to her. According to Murray, it’s important to consider not just what an ex (or soon-to-be ex) says but what he does. She suggests viewing “love” as a behavioral, not just emotional concept. That means that a partner should look at not just the words, but the intent (to frighten or threaten perhaps?) and at times, the actions, behind the words.

Women can work with professionals like therapists and lawyers to help determine whether the threats are real or perhaps punishable by the law.

If you’re considering divorce but would like to try an approach that might mean a brighter future, call my team to schedule a confidential consultation.