We all know that marriages and relationships have their high and low points, their ups and downs, their speed bumps. And each partnership will be able to recognise when the speed bumps are ahead and will have its own strategies for getting through the tough times. But how do you know when a marriage or relationship is really over? How do you know when the speed bumps are just too large to negotiate, too frequent and that it is time to take over the controls and change lanes?
The first step is recognising that the relationship is making you feel a certain way. The most common feelings are those of sadness, loss and loneliness. Sometimes other feelings surface such as anger and resentment, it really just depends on what has caused these feelings. Many clients come to me and feel a mixture of all of the above. A large percentage of them admit they have been feeling that way for some time but have just not been able or wanted to deal with the feelings.
Thinking of the process as a journey can help many of us deal with each stage separately. It can also decrease the possibility of ‘overwhelm’ and ‘overload’.
So think of it this way: you have been travelling a familiar route for many years. In fact, it is so familiar that you could probably drive it with your eyes closed. You know every bump in the road, every crossroads and the different speed limits along the way. You could be driving a reliable family car that predictably gets you from A to Z. But divorce or separation requires you to take control (you are not in a driverless car now). You need to plan your route, be prepared and manage a change of direction.
It’s that time again when issues need to be addressed. Some are problems you have dealt with in the past, others are new. Your investment is needed to get things back up and running but you are asking yourself ‘Is it really worth it?’ or ‘How much longer can I keep this car going?’
Have you discussed all the options with your partner? Have you received the responses you would like to put your mind at ease and convince you to carry on?
It is important to look at all your options right now. These could include relationship counselling from organisations such as Relate. It is important for your future that you can look back and feel you tried all avenues. If you want to clarify things in your own mind then individual counselling could be a better option for you. Talking to someone who is independent and impartial will help you come to terms with what you are feeling and get things straight in your own mind. You may also want to suggest that your partner or spouse does the same.
Making the decision that a relationship is over can be one of the hardest decisions of your life. Not only does it come with a whole host of emotions such as guilt, feelings of failure and sadness, but it also throws up the reality that you now need to take control and take the next steps. The well-travelled road that you have been used to will change. And like any unfamiliar journey, advice, research and preparation are key. Now is the time to seek legal advice, even if just as a preliminary chat with a Family Lawyer. A specialist Family Lawyer will be able to signpost you and take you through the process. When I meet with clients for the first time I try and break things down into manageable chunks. Initial conversations will be around the family home, finances and childcare if children are involved. We will look at each element separately including your views on how you would like things resolved.
You will need to start thinking about your relationship status, your finances and your children (if applicable). This is the stage when you are starting to plan your new route (future) and what you want it to look like.
Your relationship – If you are married, do you want a divorce or a separation? Will you be changing your name? Many married couples prefer to separate whilst dealing with financial arrangements and to put divorce on hold.
TIP: Think about your relationship status and your eventual goal.
Your finances – This is the point at which we will look at the family home, pensions, savings and income. Essentially, we need to make sure that a new or existing home can be provided and funded and that children will be supported financially.
TIP: Gather paperwork, bank statements, savings books, payslips. The clearer the picture the better.
Your family – If you have children then you will need to decide and agree with your partner, how the children will be cared for jointly, who they will live with and any other arrangements such as joint ‘custody’.
TIP: Try and work together on this. You are both important in your children’s lives. Also, think about how and when you are going to tell the children.
The divorce process can take an average of 6 months but longer if financial matters are not resolved. It is a process that you will be living with for some time so negotiating the journey in steps will help you get through. Taking control, preparing in the best way possible and setting your own route are essential components for the best outcome for your future.