Working on a Separation

One of the most difficult periods any family can go through is separation. Even if ending the relationship was your idea, you might still experience fear, anxiety, uncertainty and sadness. Some tips to cope:

1. Don’t assume

This might seem logical, but this is an emotional time for everyone and your now ex-partner may not behave as they usually would. They might be angry, emotional and sad. Things that didn’t get a reaction before, might now. Separation is a time of change and nothing is certain, so don’t assume anything. Don’t assume they agree with what you’ve said or will do what they say they will. Don’t assume that just because when you talked about separating and made a plan, that now the separation is real, it will actually go to plan. People change, perspectives change. If you’re going to assume anything, assume there will be big change that’s different from how you thought it would be.

2. Avoid making complicated plans

When the separation is new, keep things simple. Keep decisions about your children and property focused on the short term and keep them very simple. Make arrangements around your existing day-to-day routine. Make dates to review your agreements and seek professional support if you need it. Talk about going to mediation or contact a mediator if things are getting tricky. There’s so much value to seeking support early. This is an opportunity for you to create a roadmap for how your separated life will be.

3. Don’t rush to make long term agreements or settle your property division

You might be keen to move on, get it all sorted and just start afresh. You might have been thinking about separation and divorce for a long time and you’re totally fine with it. More than likely, you and your partner are in different emotional and practical places with the separation. Maybe you both really are ‘fine’. But if either of you is okay when the other is still processing it all, rushing to make long term decisions might create more conflict than is necessary. Take a breath, realise that it will all sort itself out eventually, and move at a pace that is okay with BOTH parties.

4. Don’t keep your friends up to date with every single thing that happens

If there’s one thing you’ll discover very quickly – who your friends are. Sometimes we find out that people we thought we were close with are actually acquaintances or ‘fair-weather’ friends. The other thing that will hit you like a brick to your head, is which friends are ‘yours’ and who belongs to your now ex-partner. Finding out who you can trust and who will throw you under the bus at first opportunity will add to your already fragile state. Even if you’re coping well, hearing through the grapevine that your ‘friend’ is out with your ex or giving them information about you is not easy.

People are in our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Which one is not always up to us, but whichever it is, there was value in their being there. Try to let go of the abandonment, disappointment or betrayal as it won’t serve you. You’ll make new friends as your life changes and as you change. You’ll be different now and it’s natural to move toward new people with whom you now have more in common. Friends who tire easily of hearing every minute detail might gravitate to you again once things settle down. We’re all different and we all need different things from our friendships. Just know that it’s not always about you, when someone drifts away.

5. Don’t listen to urban legends or the grapevine

This is important. Once you separate, everyone you meet and even people you already know will have a war story to share about their sisters best friend’s cousin who got divorced. The best advice you can take is that of a specialist mediator or counsellor. The second part is equally important. Your ex-spouse will do things, date people, go places and have experiences of which you don’t approve. They might start doing things they’ve never been interested in or specifically said they wouldn’t do with you which can be hurtful.

You will thank yourself in time, if you make it your mission to ignore these things and try not to let them bother you. It will bother you, but it will be temporary. It will only last for as long as you hold on to how things were, to the life you had, to the expectation you had for how your life would be. This is an opportunity for a new life different from what you thought it would be but not less. Different doesn’t mean worse – it just means different.