Newswise — MAYWOOD, Ill. -- After his 20-year marriage ended in divorce, psychologist Michael Hakimi, PsyD, was able to remain good friends with his former wife following an amicable divorce.
In his practice at Loyola University Health System, Hakimi strives for the same outcome for couples he counsels who are considering a divorce.
“It’s very important to try to have an amicable divorce,” he said. “You don’t have to put on boxing gloves. When it becomes a fight, the only winners are the lawyers. The losers are the couple.”
Hakimi recommends nine tips for trying to achieve an amicable divorce, based on his personal experience and 35 years of experience in the field of mental health:- Make every effort to speak in a calm, clear and rational manner, and accept responsibility for your own actions. - Avoid blaming each other, pointing fingers and digging up all the issues of your entire history together.- When having a difficult discussion, do it in a place such as a restaurant or cafe. Spouses tend to act more appropriately in public. And do not consume alcohol while discussing marital issues.- Do not use your hurt feelings as a weapon to lash out at one another. Rather, try to resolve hurt feelings in therapy constructively.- Do not bad mouth your spouse or discuss your marital problems in front of your children. Tell your children you both love them, and that they are blameless for the divorce. Get therapy for the children, if needed.- No matter how emotionally your spouse reacts, you do not have to react the same way. You have the power to control your own behavior and emotions. If you can stay calm, this could have a calming effect on your spouse.- If your spouse gets upset about something you say or do, try saying: “I’m sorry; I did not mean to upset you. I apologize. Let’s continue our conversation at a later time when we are calm.”- The right marriage therapist can help you achieve an amicable divorce. Ask around for a recommendation. The state psychological association where you live also can make referrals. Talk to a few therapists, look at their websites, education and experience, and decide who you feel most comfortable with. A PsyD (doctor of psychology) is equivalent to a PhD. An experienced therapist with a master’s degree also is a good choice, provided the therapist is a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) or a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW).- If you can’t agree on child support, dividing property and assets, taxes, etc., hire a divorce mediator to help you negotiate an agreement. Look up the mediator’s qualifications and online reviews. Pick one you both feel comfortable with.
Hakimi is an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.