Rushing to make it legal will not speed up recuperation. Working on your own sense of stability and security, and developing a new vision for your future will.
Read about mediation and collaborative counsel, two legal processes that can actually improve your relationship on the other side of marriage, here.
Two years after moving out of the townhouse I once shared with my former husband, I still feel slightly off-kilter in my single-mom apartment. I’m always coming home, clutching piles of mail or my son’s school papers, and having no empty surface on which to put them. I can’t afford the charming bungalow I’d love to buy down the street—at least not yet—but is my frustration at home simply a problem of space and organization? Or is something else going on? Am I still resistant to, and inexperienced with living alone? Is there a design solution that would make my cheery-but-cramped living room function better and propel me into the life of my dreams?
Environmental psychologist Toby Israel is the author of Some Place Like Home: Using Design Psychology to Create Ideal Places (Wiley/2003). She’s a founder of the new-ish field of “design psychology”—the science and art of using interior design to improve how people feel and function. She works with individual clients, and offers webinars, including one starting THIS Wednesday, to help people create environments that support growth and positive change. She also works with hospitals and other institutions to use design to speed healing.
I was excited to talk to Dr. Israel and find out how we can make our post-marriage environments feel like home again.
Wendy Paris: Why is home design important for people going through divorce?
Toby Israel: Self and place are uniquely intertwined, and home and self especially. How we create our space really is a symbol of our life and sense of self. It’s important to have that interaction be a positive one.
WP: But often in divorce, people can’t afford to stay in their marital home and have to move. Or they want to leave, but have to stay for the kids. Or they wind up in a temporary apartment, maybe one that has a too-small living room with no place to put their stuff. It’s frustrating to feel that our home is so important, but we can’t really control it.
TI: I don’t minimize the need for financial stability, but, that said, the sense of self and home can be created on a number of different levels. You need basic things so your house will run: a roof over your head, maybe not a dishwasher, but a sink, a bathroom. Once your primal needs are met, there are other kinds of needs: psychological, social, aesthetic and the need for some kind of growth. I get people to think through those. You want your home to have what’s called “high positive” associations from the past to help you create a present space that supports growth and change. What is it about past places that you relate to? What does that say about your life story, your life journey? I help people come to some conceptual understanding of their journey, and then redesign their home in ways that allow them to think about the future.
Wendy Paris: What are some inexpensive ways that design can connect you to your past and support your future?