After a week of fine tuning my book and finally pressing send on the email to my editor “Splitsville- How to separate, stay out of Court and stay friends”- is almost here so I decided I might share with you an extract-
From Chapter 2 – WHERE DO I BEGIN? – THE BIG DECISION TO SEPARATE
I often recommend this simple exercise for clients who are contemplating separation as a way to really consider and balance the implications, advantages and disadvantages of the choice they are about to make.
‘Perfect world and Reality’
Find yourself somewhere alone where you can have space in your mind to really think. Take a pen and paper and try and imagine just how you would like your life to be after your separation – you could choose a single imaginary day in your future life or perhaps a longer period such as a week. Either way, try and imagine yourself there and write down how you see the day or the week might work for you, your children and your family. Now put that note down.
Next, take the time to sit and consider why it is that you are contemplating ending your relationship. Again perhaps think of a recent day or week and on a separate note write down the matters that have been concerning you, your children and your family.
Now take out both notes. The first, I call ‘perfect world’- in other words, if everything goes just as you wish then this is where you hope to be in the future. The other note is perhaps best described as your ‘current reality’. If you place these notes side by side, the ‘current reality’ on the left and the ‘perfect world’ on the right you might start to be able to see some patterns. There may be solutions in your perfect world to the concerns that exist in your current reality. There may not be solutions anywhere on the page.
Now, imagine you don’t end your relationship. What steps might you have to take to achieve some of what you see as your ‘perfect world’ if you were to stay? On a third note, write a list of the steps you might have to take yourself; what changes you would need to make. Focus on personal change- what you might have to do and not what others might need to do. Don’t evaluate whether you are willing to do these things, instead, just write them all down in a list. Sometimes it is simple things like communicate differently with your spouse. Try and delve a bit deeper there- how will you do this? What would it look like? What would you actually have to do?
Before you consider whether your spouse might need to change at all pause again and look at your list and take the time now to evaluate, honestly with yourself, whether you are willing to commit to making change. The only way your relationship can improve is for you to commit to some form of change. That change could of course be an acknowledgement of acceptance- meaning that you choose to accept things as they are and to stop considering bringing your relationship to an end. This acceptance alone is a ‘change’ and can be a big change for some.
If you have managed to work through your list of necessary change and you are willing to commit to some or most of these things, then start a similar list for your spouse. Again try not to evaluate whether it is even possible for your spouse to do these things, instead just create a list. This list will be important and may form the basis of important conversations with your spouse around your desires to improve things or change them.
The benefits of professional assistance
If you want your relationship to continue, do seek professional assistance from a family counsellor to help you and your spouse focus on the change that might need to be made. Remember that your spouse may also have other things that are important to them that you will have to consider.
It is always worth trying to work things out before moving towards a final separation. A professional therapist can assist you and your spouse to communicate, to discuss openly your concerns and to together contemplate what the end of your relationship might mean and how you would thereafter see your divorce proceeding. Having these conversations together can be incredibly challenging, particularly if either or both of you are not ready for the separation, however at least committing together to how you might work after your separation to either co-parent or to divide your finances is a very important and powerful tool.
Most of the clients I see have not had the opportunity to discuss with their spouse how they would together like to see their separation proceed. Instead it is more often the case that after the decision to end a relationship has been made the communication between them disintegrates and it is from this point that I see couples very quickly reach a fork in the road that can determine very quickly the type of divorce they will experience.
If you have made the decision to end your relationship or even if that decision has been made for you, how you behave in the very early stages of your separation will have a significant impact on where you end up and how quickly (or slowly) you might get there.
‘Splitsville’ the book has certainly consumed my life this year. I hope you enjoyed this small section.