How to make separation easier

Now that the children are back at school, the fridge is empty and the Christmas Tree thread bare, you might be thinking about separating or divorcing. It’s a big step and it’s likely that you’ve been thinking about it for a while. This month’s blog How to make separation easier is about the steps you can take to make your separation as easy as possible.

1.  Talk with your partner first.

This may sound obvious, but it’s surprising how many people share this news with their friends and family before telling their partner. Sometimes you do just need to talk to someone else to help you make the decision, but choose that person wisely and speak with your partner as soon as possible after the decision is made. This way, there is less chance of the ‘news’ leaking to your partner before you get chance to speak with them.

If you want to end your relationship with ease, take responsibility for its ending.

2.  Be clear about your decision

As difficult as it might seem, being clear is the best gift you can give your partner. If you are confused and uncertain about what it is you want, you are only going to pass that lack of clarity to your partner. This leads to confusion, frustration and often false hope that maybe it isn’t the end. If you’re not sure and want to explore options such as relationship counselling, make that clear. If you are clear it’s over, say so.

3.  There’s no need for confrontation or blame

When we are fearful, when we want to justify our actions, it’s easy to play the blame game. Blaming is a way of making ourselves feel better, but when it comes to separation and divorce, confronting your partner and blaming them for their failings is a recipe for a long, bitter and protracted separation which will cost you emotionally and financially.

If you want to end your relationship with ease, take responsibility for its ending. That doesn’t mean that you have to accept you are to ‘blame’ or that it’s your ‘fault’. What you are taking responsibility for is wanting the relationship to end. That’s it. Even if you feel that your partner is to ‘blame’ because of things that they have, or haven’t done, in reality, it takes two people to make a relationship work and two people for it to end. People in happy relationships don’t separate and divorce. If you want to leave, it’s because something isn’t working in your relationship. You are both responsible for that to some degree. Accepting this means that you can take responsibility to end the relationship.

Taking responsibility for ending your relationship allows you to talk from your point of view using the word ‘I’. I statements are powerful because from your point of view, you cannot be wrong. No one can say to you that you don’t feel the way you do! Using ‘I’ statements allows you to take ownership of the situation and negates the need to blame the other person.

For example ‘I feel that our relationship is over’ or ‘I’m leaving because I’m unhappy’ keeps the conversation about you. If you feel that you need to make comment on your partner, talk about their behaviour and not them.

So how do we do this? It’s actually easier than you might think. Rather than saying ‘You’re annoying!’, (which is directed at the person),  consider instead being more specific. For example ‘When you talk over me, I find it really annoying!’. This statement becomes about the behaviour, not the person. It’s less confrontational and aggressive. It will make a huge difference to your communication.

4.  Give your partner time to adjust

Have you heard of the Grief Cycle? Developed in the 1960s by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, the grief Cycle outlined how terminally ill patients came to terms with their diagnosis. These stages are Shock, Denial, Anger, Depression and Acceptance. This model has become synonymous with how we deal with grief and change generally. If you have been unhappy in your relationship for a while, it likely that you are already moving more towards accepting that your relationship is over, particularly if you are the instigator of the separation. However,  if your desire to separate is a surprise to your partner, it’s  is likely that they will be some way behind you in the cycle.

You may be thinking ‘What does this mean for me?’ Well, what it means is that although you may be seeking solutions and wanting to push separation forward, your partner feels shocked, confused and angry. This makes communication challenging. For both of you. It means that you can both feel ‘stuck’ and discussions fall apart leading to lengthy court proceedings and hefty legal bills.

Giving your partner time and space to accept the situation, without pushing for a resolution at your speed will help. Answer their questions as honestly as you can. If you don’t know the answer, say so.

5.  Consider Family Mediation

Considering Family Mediation at the outset of your separation is one of the smartest things you can do. You can use a Family Mediator with or without the support of a lawyer. Mediation isn’t about taking sides. Lawyers take sides (that’s their job), and sometimes taking sides too early on means that each of you becomes fixated on the legal advice you are given. Mediation is about both of you coming together to communicate your thoughts and feelings and to look at solutions to those tricky end of relationship decisions. Mediation works because you work it out together, with the help of the mediator who remains neutral throughout. Together, you’ll be encouraged to explore options and how they could work for you and your family. Family Mediation works at a pace that’s right for you. Family Mediators are trained to reflect both of your points of view and to support you when your communication gets stuck. There’s no waiting for lawyers to send you a letter. What happens in mediation stays in mediation (subject to some exceptions) so you both always know what is happening and why. It’s the two of you who are in control, not the mediator or a court. will mediation be easy? No. Mediation isn’t a soft option. But it is the best option for moving your separation forward so you can both move on.

Emma Heptonstall is a Family Mediator at Crombie Wilkinson Your Family First in York. She can be contacted on 01904 697760 or via email mediator@yourfamilyfirst.co.uk Evening and weekend appointments are available