How to remain amicable during a break up

man holding his head in his hands, sad, divorce

There has been a large number of media articles about couples separating in lockdown. Being together in the same house 24-7 is certainly a test for any relationship – let alone a rocky one!

It’s difficult to know officially as we won’t get the statistics on the number of divorces in 2020 until later this year, and no one collects data on the number of non-married relationships that end.  Anecdotally many family lawyers and mediators have reported being busy with work since mid-2020.

With any discussion about separation talk usually either turns to thoughts of a big acrimonious battle, or the conscious uncoupling approach famously taken by Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin.  As a family mediator and non-practising family lawyer I would always advocate for the more constructive, amicable and peaceful separation.

But why?

There are a number of reasons why I believe an amicable separation benefits everyone involved and here are some of them:

  • You will save yourself a small fortune in legal fees if you are able to resolve things amicably with little input from lawyers, and a few sessions with a family mediator. If you can create a resolution that works together round your kitchen table then so much the better.  If you find yourself saying you’d rather spend money on lawyers than let the other person have it then I’d suggest making a date with a good therapist as soon as you can.
  • The stress of being involved in a lengthy battle is hugely draining. Finding a resolution through the court process is likely to take you a minimum of 6 months and it can take well over a year.  Courts were struggling with the volume of work before the pandemic.  This zaps your energy and exhausts your reserves.  There are many demands on your energy and time – don’t let this be one of them.  There are better things to take over your life with.
  • All the research suggests that it is not their parents separating in itself that causes long term effects for children. It is being caught up in, or exposed to, conflict between their parents.  You might think you’re arguing out of ear shot, or where they can’t hear you.  But children are hard wired to tune into their parents because their survival depends on it at birth.  They notice the tension, the hard faces and the fact that neither Mum nor Dad ever seems happy or relaxed.  They worry about it too – even if they don’t tell you they’re worrying (or can’t verbalise this in the case of very young children).

There is a huge grief process that comes with divorce and you can go through a multitude of emotions.  Most people identify sadness and anger but there can also be guilt, hurt, regret, shock, confusion, depression, anxiety and a whole host more.  The grief process can go on for some time and it can be exhausting.  On top of this real life goes on too.  You still have to hold down a job, look after your children and be the child, sibling, friend you were before.  It can be hard to summon the energy to find a resolution as well as managing the stress that goes with it.

The right professional support is crucial in achieving an amicable separation.  You might think that you can’t afford a few hundred pounds on a private counsellor right now.  But if spending a few hundred pounds on counselling helps you to resolve the emotional issues you’re facing right now and that stops you spending thousands of pounds in legal fees then it might be money well spent.  The same can be said for some family mediation sessions if it stops you going round in a big circle each time you talk.  At each stage you might have different needs be they emotional, legal, financial, practical or confidence-based and the right support can often see you moving more easily to the next stage.  It’ll certainly mean you’re more likely to keep things peaceful. 

Louisa WhitneyAbout the author

Louisa Whitney is an accredited family mediator and child inclusive mediator offering family mediation at her office in Surrey and online.  She set up LKW Family Mediation in 2013.  She is also a non-practising solicitor. In addition to this she mentors and supervises other mediators and offers training to those working with separating couples.  She is passionate about helping separating couples find resolutions that are tailored to them – and their children. 

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