So how do you break up – without falling apart?

Anne Dick

I was a divorce lawyer for 42 years. Clients often said they imagined I’d heard their story many times before. Actually, every story was different. Every separation is unique. Every separation is challenging. Some turn out well. Some don’t.

I was keen to help clients come through in good shape and to know what would make that more likely, what made the difference.

Any separation involves a major change in how each of you relate to yourself, your family and your friends. It changes who you think you are. It changes who you think your partner is. It changes how children see you as parents. It’s a seriously major transition.

Sometimes a couple  recognise they have grown apart. They can look back and accept they had happy times, agree they are no longer working as a couple and choose to separate and be good separated parents. They can help their children feel supported by both parents in two households.

However, quite often one partner decides the relationship doesn’t have a future at a point when the other is still  working at it and expecting it to last. It’s usually helpful to try couple counselling if things are at that stage. Couple counsellors can help a couple check the pulse of the relationship and if it is past the point of no return, help make a separation more sustainable.

The biggest risk is if one or both partners start believing the only way to make sense of what is happening is to establish the other person was at fault. One reason that’s such a risk is it would mean any children involved end up with at least one ‘bad’ parent and possibly in the middle of a big fight to establish which parent that is. Fighting over who is more to blame usually leaves everyone bruised.

Accepting separation is a big challenge and recognising the sadness from the loss of the relationship both hoped for at the outset usually makes a better starting point for sorting things out in a more sustainable way, both emotionally and financially. In turn that brings emotional and financial benefit to the children.

If a separation has to happen, mediation can help you plan for a manageable future rather than getting stuck in the blame game about the past.