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Cut out dolls, hopes and dreams, divorce and new beginnings.

Separation/ Divorce — admin @ 12:56 pm

Here at counselling connections this week we’ve been thinking and talking about divorce. It seems that there are so many losses involved in finally coming to the stage where a marriage is officially dissolved in a court of law. A very private grief is made public. But it takes quite a lot to get to this stage.

Hands up who can remember that game we played as kids with a book of cardboard cut out dolls and cardboard cut out doll’s clothes. The doll was a blank canvas on which you could place a number of different outfits (clipping the outfit around the doll’s shoulders could be a bit tricky . . . it might not stay on very well!). The exciting thing is to be able to change the blank doll from a princess to a cowgirl to a disco queen with the only limits being the availability of suitable cut out clothes. To make these clothes ourselves means the only limits are the limits of our imaginations and we can make the blank doll into anything we want it to be.

It seems to us that these childhood imaginings have some parallels in adult attraction and more particularly in how we project the cut out clothes of our hopes and dreams onto the blank doll of our chosen partner. Some may be able to meet these hopes and dreams in adult life and sadly some will not. Some pinned on roles will fit well and some will fall off. The person who we choose to fill the role of husband or wife will have their own way of being and we may find out too late that their hopes, dreams and expectations and our own are just not compatible.

In working through the losses involved in a relationship breakup in therapy we often find that the loss of the hopes and dreams are more difficult to come to terms with than the loss of the actual person who we were in relationship with and from whom we have now become separated. The love we felt for them may have long since died a slow death but the feelings of loss associated with the loss of our dream can remain. It is not the person we miss; it is the failure to fulfil the aims of our childhood imagination that is hardest to come to terms with.

These childhood aims are complex and individual to each person. In simple terms it may be the expectation that ‘when I grow up I will be married with a nice house and happy children’. Sometimes we find that these dreams include the wish to correct aspects of one’s own childhood which were a disappointment. We want to give our own children things that we feel we missed out on ourselves. The strong and holding family life that we imagined we could create cannot survive the break up of a relationship. We have to adjust our aspirations to the new and more complicated family arrangements that follow such a break up.

There are also the symbols of marriage. A wedding itself is a great public celebration of two people choosing to commit to each other and setting out to make a life together. The wedding rings swapped on that day are worn with pride and can give a sense of the continuity and support felt in a good marriage. The photo album with smiling faces showing the optimism and hope for a life together contrast with the private loss that can be experienced years later when looking over these pictures alone. The wedding dress is a particularly important symbol and is often something invested with dreams of becoming a princess that have been held by a bride since she was a girl. These are all things associated with our hopes and dreams that are painful to let go of when, for whatever reason love fades and a marriage ends.

If there are children the practical aspects of separation and divorce can be made even more difficult. Some cannot resist the temptation to play out some of their feelings about their former partner in front of the children. We can only plead with these people to try to behave both as adults and as parents and co-operate together in matters relating to the children leaving personal hurts and disputes for a different place.

Reflecting on the symbols of marriage together with our childhood hopes and dreams and our adult expectations are things that commonly arise in a therapy following a marriage break up. There is something especially upsetting seeing the details of your personal life set out and described in legal documents. It can be a time of deep personal loss, of reflection and of re-considering what we hope for and expect from life. It also represents the opportunity for new beginnings and we at counselling connections wish you well with this journey. We know that you can love and be loved and if you feel we can be of use to you in making a start and looking over all these things we’d be pleased to journey with you.

FB. Counselling Connections, Dundalk.

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