The Chicago Family Law Blog

Writing in Your Diary Post-Divorce Might be Bad for You

Dear Diary,

My ex is SUCH a P.I.G. PIG! Yeah, we broke up like three years ago, but she is totally dating a younger man right now. What is this, cougar town? What is wrong with me? Why was I not good enough? Ughhhh, I'm totes gonna have a bottle of white zinfandel tonight.

Sincerely, Me

Traditional wisdom says that writing about one's feelings helps them to deal with those feelings. This has led to many therapists recommending that the recently divorced keep a journal or diary. However, according to a study recently completed by a professor at the University of Arizona, that's probably a bad idea for some people, reports the Science Codex.

The problem is, some people are prone to ruminate. These are the people that constantly whine about "what went wrong" and "why does everything bad happen to me?" You know them. You try to avoid them. They are whiny and no fun at all.

The problem with journaling is, it provides a medium to continue ruminating about the past. For these people, it rehashes the past and allows them to keep reliving the bad times instead of moving on.

The study originally intended to measure the effectiveness of narrative writing versus traditional expressive writing. The former group was told to write the story of their failed marriage, from beginning to end. A third group (the control group) was told to write about their daily activities, without any emotion or expression.

Who fared best? The control group. Why? They focused in their writing on mundane day-to-day tasks. Their likely uninteresting journals probably consisted of "I went shopping. I ate an avocado." The expressive writing folks wrote about emotions and feelings.

The effect was significantly more pronounced for the "high ruminator" or whiny folks that we mentioned earlier.

While this only has a bit to do with the legal side of divorce, the truth is, even when it comes to the legal side, emotions do play a part. They cloud our judgment. They cause fights over children, fights over assets, and if the parties continue to refuse to move on from the mistakes of the past, it will eventually result in more legal fees. Though an honest attorney will call you out on the emotion-fueled fights for naught, let's be honest - not everyone listens to their good ol' attorney.

The legal process of divorce should be a cold, emotion-free process. Journaling about your feelings may well make that less likely. Move on, distract yourself from the past, and try to establish a workable relationship with that nasty ex-spouse.

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