Finding Help When Splitting Up

Finding Help When Splitting Up

Divorce Support: The Internet Can Offer Support for Those Seeking Advice, Help

When Vic’s marriage of 32 years suddenly ended in 2000, she did what most people do when faced with a broken relationship. She turned to friends and family for advice and support. But now, in the age of theWorld Wide Web, complete strangers turn to her.

When I blog, I think about my audience, and I think about how I felt six years ago ““ how devastated I was, how every day was just a struggle, and about how I’ve changed. I think about the people who read this who are in such pain. I see the times that they come (to the blog) ““ at 3 a.m. or in the early morning and they can’t sleep, they can’t think straight.

Some will stay on a very long time and never say a word and some will send me tentative little notes saying ‘thank you, you don’t know me, but you just don’t know how this helps.’ And you realize they are hurting and that they are not thinking straight, so you try to think straight for them and to tell them they’ll be okay.”

Vic’s blog is one of thousands of dedicated websites to the subject of divorce that have sprung up on the Internet in the past few years. Unlike some of the commercial Web sites that provide directories of attorneys and services or storehouses of legal and financial information, blogs reflect a more human side of divorce and present a wide range of opinion and perspectives.

Some are outlets for bitter rants about ex-partners who did them wrong while others focus on divorce laws, children, and financial considerations. Still others, like Vic’s < http://divorcedat50.blogspot.com > provide solace and support ““ especially for her target audience: women over 50. I began to blog when I felt emotionally ready. This was five years after the divorce, and six years after Bob left me. Interestingly, I found that the more I wrote about the painful incidents, the less they hurt,” said Vic, who asked to use her pseudonym and not to be identified. This blog has been cathartic, surprisingly so.”

FINDING HELP ONLINE

And it’s not surprising that many find relief online, says Dr. John Grohol, who publishes
www.pyschcentral.com which has been providing mental health information and research for more than a decade. The Internet gives people another social outlet, one in which many people feel very comfortable in interacting and sharing with others. It is, at its heart, a very social medium.”

And a medium that is littered, Grohol says, with information that may not be accurate. He cautions anyone seeking help to consider the information they get online very carefully. With an issue like divorce, I’d suggest people seek out articles on larger, well-respected Web sites. I inherently trust an article I find on Psychology Today”
www.psychologytoday.com or on the American Psychological Association’s Website www.apa.orgas offering basic, factually-correct information. If it comes to randomly finding an article on the Internet, I look at things like the author, their background, and whether they have a self-interest in promoting something that explains their writing or interest in a topic.

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I stay away from ‘free content’ Web sites or anonymous blogs when it comes to trusting the information I’m reading. Such sites can be entertaining, but rarely would I trust them with any health or mental health question.”

Vic said she looks at blogging as a way to reach out to those seeking insight into the feelings they’re having. She, like many bloggers, doesn’t claim to provide the most recent or relevant information or say her writing is a substitute for genuine counseling. What they do, however, is use the growing new medium to potentially reach out to millions who might be going through the same experience.One reason I am simply known as Vic is because I want to be honest,” she said. People in crisis can spot a fake. “There’s safety in anonymity. One can actually speak from the heart with impunity. This is quite liberating. So, I think a divorce blog like mine would have an overall effect on ‘healing.’

OTHERS LIKE YOU ONLINE

Experts, like counselors and psychologists, are valuable, of course, because they put things in perspective, but they can’t give that first-hand account.”
Currently, there are more than 12,000 blogs and about 90 million web pages containing the word divorce” cataloged by Google.com. As the population continues to connect to the internet (currently about 60 percent of all homes have some kind of access) and with about 1 million new marriages a year ending in divorce, there are more and more eyeballs to attract and e-mail boxes to fill. For marriage reform activists like Maggie Gallagher, that means she can reach a lot more people than in the days of letter writing, manual dialing and doorbells.I think it would be very difficult for me to do what I do without the Internet,” said Gallagher, who runs a Washington think tank www.marriagedebate.com dedicated to disseminating information about divorce and its effects on society. As a communication tool, it can’t be beaten as far as making it easy and relatively inexpensive. I’m somewhat of an introvert so if I had to make all the phone calls or maintain all the relationships I do with e-mail, it would be really difficult for me.”

But does she think the sudden availability of information ““ everything from the latest statistics to reviews of divorce attorneys or strategies for hiding money from a spouse ““ will have an effect on the divorce rate or even encourage people to go that route? I don’t think the Internet is adding anything to it,” Gallagher said.

Generally speaking, people get divorced because of things that are happening in their living room. They’re more influenced (by) what they learn when they (talk to) their best friend or their sister”¦ or by what their counselor or their clergy says. I don’t think the Internet is any better than those at disseminating the risks or information about divorce.”

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