What to Keep in Mind When Separating
Common issues, crucial things to keep in mind when separating
On a scale of stressful life events, divorce/separation is ranked second after the death of a spouse/partner. True as this is, it is misleading to think of separation as a one off event. It is in fact a long process which typically starts two years before the separation and can take, on average, another two years to get over. Separating is not just about living physically apart either; it actually involves a whole series of adjustments. Each adjustment requires you to change your way of thinking and doing things. When you consider how hard it is to deal with one change in your life, you can be forgiven if you find dealing with the following all at once hard going.
Emotional and psychological adjustment
Irrespective of who ended the relationship, you will both feel sadness that your dreams and hopes for the future for yourselves and your child are ended. You will need to grieve for the relationship by going through a series of stages – feelings of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Although painful, this is a normal and necessary process. You will not necessarily go through the grieving process at the same time or same speed as your ex which can be confusing.
The emotional and psychological adjustment can take a long time to process and can’t be rushed. It is important that you look after your emotional and mental health.
Economic and financial adjustment
This involves the practical task of working out where everyone will live, how the bills will be paid and what kind of lifestyle you can expect to have in the future. Dealing with these issues can be a challenge; money is a common source of difficulties in families at the best of times. It helps to be familiar with the family finances – knowing what you own and what you owe. It’s also useful to have a picture of what comes in and what goes out.
It’s natural to worry about how the children will deal with family break down and how you will cope being a single parent. Many parents feel guilty that they may have let their children down. Although you are no longer partners you will always be parents and as long as you develop a good co-parenting relationship, the children will be okay. Parenting will feel very different though. You will need to get used to sharing the children - missing them when they are with the other parent and having no rest when they’re with you.
Other useful articles on being parents after separation or divorce can be found here:
Social and community adjustment
There is a great sense of security from being part of a stable couple and family. It’s the reason many couples stay together even though the relationship is not a good one. Don’t worry if you feel panicky about being alone – this is a normal reaction. If you’ve been together a long time defining yourself as ‘me’ rather than ‘we’ may take some getting used to. Eventually though, you will find a way to accept your new identity as a single person.
If you are married, divorce legally ends the marriage. You may find the legal forms, procedures and jargon confusing but a solicitor can guide you through this. Financial decisions can be made legally binding on divorce. Going through court can be expensive and a mediator can help you negotiate a financial settlement if you want to be cooperative.
It is not surprising that couples can feel completely overwhelmed by the separation process. Not only are you in the middle of a family and personal crisis, you probably feel unable to calmly and rationally sit down with your ex and make important decisions. It’s best to give yourself time and when you feel ready, deal with what you can.
Being aware of the adjustments that need to be made can help you make sense of what’s happening to your family. It may also help you to decide what your priorities are and where you want to start.
Follow this link for further information on what to expect when separating