Endings Aren’t Failures, An Interview with Marriage Therapist Maura Matarese
(Part Two of a Two Part Series)
Maura Matarese is a Massachusetts based therapist who helps individuals and couples navigate the muddy waters of relationships. Maura is a licensed mental health counselor and registered yoga teacher who helps her clients understand the underlying cause of their current struggle, and then make authentic choices for their future. Maura works with both individuals and couples.
Maura was interviewed by Divorceify Co-founder, Casey Shevin. In part one of our conversation, we discussed marriage infidelity and when it’s time to call it quits. In part two, we discuss kids and divorce, conversation coaching, and uncoupling counseling.
Casey Shevin: What do you say to people who feel they should stay married for the sake of their kids?
Maura Matarese: My advice would be different for every person, but I believe in modeling. You can show your children that endings are part of life and you can model how to handle them. You need to remember that your children pick up on implicit messages – your kids take your legacy and act that out. The message to your children is – the family isn’t breaking up, the marriage is.
Shevin: People really struggle with how to tell their kids they are getting a divorce. You offer a service called conversation coaching to help people prepare for difficult conversations – can you tell us about that?
Matarese: I help people learn to articulate what they want to say in a kind, but a clear and boundaried way. I had one client who wants to end her marriage and her husband does not, and she has been in therapy for years over this conflict. We worked together to come up with the way she would tell her husband that she had finally decided she wanted to leave – “I’ve loved you enough to try my best, now I ask you to love me enough to let me go.”
You have to accept that although you want this conversation to be a smooth process, your partner may not. I help my clients prepare for their partner’s reaction and I give them the language and the tools to do that.
Shevin: Logistically, how does conversation coaching work?
Matarese: I can do a conversation over the phone or in person – and typically it’s with individuals.
Shevin: Have you helped couples plan how to tell their kids about an upcoming divorce?
Matarese: I have and it is very specific to the circumstances. It’s best if parents are a unified front and are both ready to tell the kids. If both parents aren’t ready we try to take the time to get both parents ready.
Shevin: When one parent really wants to tell the kids about the upcoming divorce and has a sense of urgency, but the other parent is dragging their feet – what is your advice?
Matarese: Slow down. Take a breath. Telling the children is hard no matter what, but the message for the children is the family is not breaking up – the marriage is breaking up. It’s much better for the children when this is delivered as a unified message from both parents. When I work with parents together, that’s usually as part of uncoupling counseling.
Shevin: Uncoupling counseling – what is that exactly?
Matarese: A couple might come to me already planning to break up, and I’m going to want to know why and I’ll ask them about their relationship. If they are both on the same page about divorce, then the work is processing the loss and saying goodbye to each other; in that situation, uncoupling counseling typically lasts about three to four sessions. We think about what the couple accomplished together, what they liked, what they regretted, what we would do differently and what we hope for each other going forward. Saying goodbye is important and it can get lost.
Shevin: What type of couple is a good fit for uncoupling counseling?
Matarese: When both people come in on the same page about separation, then the process is about next steps – how do we talk to the kids? How do we deal with the grief? How do we say goodbye to one another? Typically, these couples are looking for a way to do their divorce in a way that is right for their kids.
Shevin: I have developed a hypothesis in my practice as a divorce attorney-mediator that when couples leave their marriage with an understanding of what went wrong and a sense of closure, it paves the way for a healthier co-parenting relationship as divorced parents. Do you think there is any truth to that?
Matarese: Absolutely. Because they won’t keep having the same fight. When you are co-parenting you are going to have conflict, you are going to get triggered. You want to be able to be a united front for your children on issues such as discipline. If you aren’t on the same page as to how you are going to talk to your children, the children will try to split you – if Dad says no, they go to Mom and she says yes. And then Mom and Dad get angry, there is a fight, and now the kids are assuming roles in the family system.
Ultimately, I want to help people divorce in a dignified way. They are going to feel better about themselves if they are able to do it that way.
Maura Matarese is a Divorceify professional. Read more about Maura and view her profile in our professional directory. Missed part one? Read the first part of our interview here, where we discussed marital infidelity and how to know it’s time to call it quits.