Understanding the Pain of Divorce

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An Interview with Dr. Jim Talley

Dr. Jim Talley is a pastor and professional Christian counselor with over 25,000 hours of counseling experience. He is the head of Relationship Resources in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Dr. Talley is also author of the books Life After Divorce, Reconcilable Differences, and Too Close Too Soon. The main focus of Dr. Talley’s ministry is to help people suffering from a broken relationship reach spiritual and emotional maturity. In the following interview, we asked Dr. Talley to explain why divorce is so painful and what divorced people go through in the separation process.

Dr. Talley, you have counseled many people who have gone through a divorce. Tell us about the pain that is associated with divorce.

TALLEY: Divorce is the most painful thing you can go through. It impacts so much of our lives and there’s no easy way out. Everybody’s looking for a painless way out of this whole situation. And because it’s so devastating across so much of our lives, there’s just no way that we can really respond to it except by just walking through it and experiencing it. You find out what it means to really recover emotionally and spiritually by going through the whole process.

Are there any common themes that people going through divorce experience?

TALLEY: There really are. They experience intense pain, especially if they are the ones who were left or abandoned. They feel lostness, meaninglessness, uselessness, irrelevance. All those feelings are uniform throughout the whole process. There is some degree in which the depth of the pain is related to how long the relationship lasted. But even more directly — it’s related to how intensely the person was committed to the relationship. The deeper the pain, the longer the recovery cycle.

In your writings you have discussed a concept called “alienation.” What is alienation?

TALLEY: Well, you experience alienation as you begin to move through this. It’s that feeling of lostness, of being able to detach yourself and almost float. It’s almost like an after-death experience. You’re looking back at your own life and realizing that you’re not really in touch with reality and that things aren’t working the way they’re supposed to work. It’s as if you can flip on your mind, but you can’t ever turn it off. You lay in bed at night and it just keeps rolling. It’s like a video tape with no off button. It just plays the old tapes of your old life and all your memories and all those experiences. And it so consumes all of your energy level that it becomes the whole focus of who you are. You are caught up and spinning and floating without gravity, without direction. No meaning. No purpose. You lose the capacity for creativity. It’s that whole feeling of being detached from the world.

What happens to a person’s energy level with divorce?

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TALLEY: In the process of separation and the divorce process, we go through what is called a total energy collapse. All of our energy is being burnt up. Emotionally we’re spinning. We’re just going round and round. It’s like we’re running our engine wide open but we’re in neutral. We’re not going anywhere, yet we can’t shut the motor off.

Up to 85% of our energy is being consumed in the emotional area. That leaves us with 5% mental, 5% spiritual, and 5% physical. Mentally, we can’t make decisions; we can’t decide things. Physically, we get up and do something and we’re just exhausted. Not just tired — but totally exhausted. Spiritually we have a loss of faith. We’re not sure God even exists. We’re not even sure if we care. And we go through that whole process of being someone who was committed, walked with the Lord, and had a great spiritual life. As we go through this experience we lose that. Mentally we’re not able to read books. We can look at the front and the back and flip through the index and a few pages and then we’re just exhausted. Compare this when you go into the hospital. You take three or four books to read, but when you come back from the hospital, you haven’t read any of the books because 85% of your energy is being consumed by the physical. So we have to come to a point where we accept that alienation and the loss of energy is normal in the divorce process.

Dr. Talley, what do you say to those who may be feeling guilty about their lack of spiritual or physical energy?

TALLEY: You need to be really aware that these things are normal and they are to be expected. You will recover and things will be fine. It’s a matter of just going through the process and allowing God to help stabilize you. Put yourself back on the right track and allow God to really walk through this process with you. The other thing to know is that this is not a quick fix. The painful reality is that you have two choices as you walk through this process. You can either have extreme pain by doing it the right way or excruciating pain by doing it the wrong way. There’s no pain-free way out.

How long does it take for a divorced person to recover?

TALLEY: I have eleven thousand hours of counseling experience and have been doing this for twenty-two years. My professional opinion is that it takes about five years to get over a divorce. Everybody thinks that it’ll be over in five months and they’ll be well. But the reality is that it’s going to take several years.

Originally seen at ChurchInitiative.org.

Copyright © 2003 by the author and/or CaringChurches.com and The Church Initiative, Inc. unless noted otherwise in the text of the article above. Used with permission.

Dr. Jim Talley can be reached at:
Relationship Resources
11805 Sylvester Dr.
Oklahoma Cit, OK 73162
Phone: 1-405-720-8300
drtalley@drtalley.com
www.drtalley.com

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