Divorce Survival Tips
Here at Banner Jones, we can offer you information and advice on the legal processes of divorce. However, we recognise that this is a difficult thing for anybody to go through. We’ve therefore enlisted the help of some local relationship counsellors in Sheffield to provide you with some survival advice to get you through this time in your life.
If you find this list to be useful you might want to consider therapy as a coping method through this time. Details of the counsellors are provided below should you want to find out more.
Before we start, we’d like to introduce the counsellors that kindly provided this free, useful advice.
Bay Whitaker is a BACP Accredited Counsellor, UKRCP Registered Independent Counsellor. She has years of experience in private practice and has helped hundreds of Sheffield people to make changes in their lives. To read more about Bay or book an appointment with her, visit the Sheffield Central Counselling website.
Mary Gardner is a BACP Accredited Counsellor with over 25 years of experience in helping people to cope with anxiety, anger, relationship problems and more. To read more about Mary or book an appointment with her, visit her website: Counselling Can Help.
What are your top 3 tips for dealing with a divorce?
- Don't let divorce bring out the worst in you. Manipulating child-care arrangements to avenge hurt feelings, trying to get other people to take sides against your partner, punishing your partner with harsh financial arrangements, or arguing so much you get stuck in a vicious circle of recrimination can all make divorce unnecessarily traumatic. No matter how hurt and angry you may feel today, one day you will feel optimistic again. When that day comes you will want to look back and see that you at least tried to act with dignity.
- Try to keep some sort of perspective. Divorce can feel all-consuming. 'Coming up for air' by getting out and about, seeing your friends, keeping up an old hobby or starting a new one, or 'having a laugh' can all help. It might be hard to find time to do this when you are in the middle of re-organising your family, but you might make wiser decisions if you keep a window open onto the 'bigger-picture.'
- Make sure you know your legal rights. (I'm not just saying this because I'm writing for a solicitor’s website!) In over 25 years of couples-counselling I have noticed that intelligent, well-meaning people can be strangely reluctant to find out about their legal position. It's almost as if they believe that knowing where they stand will somehow bring about a separation. It doesn't. Simply knowing the bottom-line cannot cause anything to happen. It can help people feel less anxious about their choices. Knowledge is power.
- Acknowledge your emotions. Divorce can be one of the most painful experiences you ever go through. At times people may feel too angry, guilty, or distressed to be able to think straight. But it’s also a time when we have decisions to make. It’s important to acknowledge our emotions, so that we can recognise them and then set them to one side at the times when we need to be rational decision makers. If we ignore or deny them, they can affect our choices without our realising. So here are a few suggestions on how to accept and acknowledge our emotions.
- Talk with trusted friends and family about how you feel. It is important to find people who will empathise and provide comfort when you are feeling overwhelmed.
- Accept that your ex may be at a different stage on their emotional journey from you. If you were the one who initiated the split, you will probably have been thinking about splitting up for much longer than your partner.
- Allow your children, if you have them, to express their emotions too. By letting them know we are subject to painful emotions, we show them it’s OK to feel not-OK.
- Find new ways to communicate with your ex. If you have children together and need to remain in regular contact to share childcare, you will need to remain in touch with each other. Even if there are no children, many divorced couples need to remain in touch for some time after separating, because of family, connections and history that has been shared together.
- Be prepared to share the big decisions about your future and your family’s, and to do this in a businesslike way.
- Note down in advance the points that you need to cover, keeping them as simple and depersonalised as possible.
- Establish the habit of closing down any conversations that turn into shouting matches or where you are constantly interrupted. Just acknowledge that you are feeling too emotional to continue, and agree to speak again when things have calmed down.
- Make use of a professional, such as a couple’s counsellor or a mediator, if you and your ex are having difficulties communicating about major decisions. As we have already noted, divorces are an emotional journey, and many divorcing couples have benefited from having an unbiased professional to help.
- Allow yourself to grieve. It can be helpful to view divorce as a type of bereavement. Many people will have heard of the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. What is not always understood is that these stages do not happen in a fixed order: really they are not so much stages as symptoms that come and go as we adjust to change. It is natural to want to feel OK again as soon as possible after any kind of major loss, but unfortunately human beings take time to heal.
- Make changes in your life. Create new habits and try different ways of doing things. This will help you to let go of the past. Are there activities you have not been doing because your partner didn’t enjoy them, or because with a family you didn’t have the time? Maybe now is the time to start or restart some of those.
- Consider your longer terms goals. Think about your life 10 years from now and what you want your life to be like at that point
- Say goodbye to the relationship. You may wish to remain on friendly terms, but your relationship has changed, and it can be helpful to acknowledge that change with some form of goodbye, whether this is a private ritual, a get-together or a get-away.
Do you have any other dos and don’ts for dealing with divorce?
- Don't try to socialise with your ex too early. Well-meaning people sometimes want to stay friends with their ex-partners. This is perfectly possible, and worth trying, especially if you have children (or interest-groups) in common. However, many people try to do this too soon, with the result that it takes one or both of them much longer to heal. It works better to allow a time when contact is kept to a minimum. When you have both started to get over your divorce, then your friendship stands more of a chance.
- Sometimes people find it necessary to live in the same house, or to work in the same place during their divorce. I do know of people who have made this work, but it is a tough thing to attempt. People can become seriously distressed. Usually, the sooner this sort of arrangement can come to an end, the better. If you are living in the same property because you are waiting for your house to sell, work together to bring this about. Similarly, it can be difficult when people are divorcing partners they work with. It can help to make an agreement about 'boundaries' during your working hours.
- Don’t treat texting your ex as an addiction! If you are in the process of divorcing, it can help to place a limit on how often you and your partner text each other. Texts don't have a 'tone of voice' and can be easily misunderstood, especially if you are both stressed. Emotions don't come across very well by text, and can cause a lot of unnecessary bad feeling. Agree to text only when you have something urgent or practical to say. This will help you keep a clear head.
- Do communicate carefully. Think how important communication is when things are going well, then think how very much more important it is to communicate calmly and effectively when things are going badly!
- Don’t confuse empathy with advice. As you go through your divorce, you will probably receive advice from friends and family. Be aware that their input may also be coloured by their anger or sadness on your behalf.
- Don’t withdraw from social contact. Although everybody sometimes wants to have time alone with themselves, withdrawing can lead to feeling stuck and depressed.
- Don’t close the channels of communication with your children, if you have them. It may be that they are angry with one or both partners during and throughout the process, and they may stay angry for what feels like a long time.
- Don’t communicate by text when it comes to any but the simplest information. Texts are both intimate and highly prone to misinterpretation. Email, telephone or face to face tend to work better.
- Don’t expect new systems for sharing childcare and arranging access to work perfectly straight away. You can’t possibly know how things will work out, so be prepared to trial a few different arrangements before you settle on any one system.
- Don’t use children, or other family members to relay information to your ex. Not only does it put an additional burden on them, but you can’t be sure how accurately information will be relayed. Your relationship with your ex may already be fraught enough, without this additional potential for misunderstanding.
- Don’t retain the habit of blame. Try and frame your thoughts and discussions differently, focusing on what needs of yours and your ex’s the relationship was failing to meet, rather than who was to blame for the divorce.
- Don’t hold on to old patterns of mutual support with your ex. If you need help, advice or expertise that previously they would have provided, ask someone else. And if your ex asks or expects your assistance with something, you will be helping them and yourself to move on if you say ‘no’. This is a process of redrawing the boundaries of your relationship, and is an important aspect of accepting the marriage is over.
At Banner Jones we encourage counselling as a natural and healthy aid to getting through difficult times in your life. Please take a moment to visit the websites of our helpful counsellors. You can even give them a call.
Counselling Can Help
0114 266 5656
Sheffield Central Counselling
0114 326 0043
If you are thinking about a divorce and you would like to know further information about your legal rights, please get in touch today.