Sara Davison, an expert break-up, separation and divorce coach and author of Uncoupling, shares her thoughts on how to know if divorce is for you in 2017.
We live in a highly disposable culture these days where if we don’t like something we change it. In many cases we don’t think long and hard about it or even try to make it work out – we just swap it for something else, the latest mobile phone, pair of trainers or even dating on Tinder. The days of marriage is for life are long gone and we are no longer a generation of “until death do us part” believers. With the divorce rates in the UK at 42% and in the US almost 50% it really does prove that marriage is no longer for life and if we get fed up, we leave.
I find it fascinating how we spend so much time thinking about our careers and planning our next move and how to impress the boss. Yet when it comes to relationships as soon as we are married we sit back and just expect it to work out well with no effort! It’s not surprising the wheels fall off somewhere down the line.
However getting a divorce is not an easy decision to make. It’s important to understand what you will have to face before you make the decision to get a divorce. It takes a long time to commit to a marriage so it should take careful consideration to leave. If you’re struggling to make the decision it is most probably because you don’t have enough clear information to make that decision and are still being pulled in different directions emotionally. Feelings of guilt and uncertainty can cloud your judgement so by having more clarity around what the process looks like you will reduce the overwhelm and stress and enable you to make a better decision.
I have created a simple technique called “No Regrets” which will give you more clarity about whether divorce is the right way forward for you. In an ideal scenario it involves you sitting down with your partner to find a way to work together to do your best to save the marriage for a period of three months. However it will also work without the co-operation of your partner and will enable you to be able to make a more informed decision that won’t leave you with regrets or asking yourself “what if I had done this or that?”
Step 1: Create a time to sit down with your partner where you won’t be disturbed. If you are doing this alone then find some quite time with no interruptions.
Step 2: Start by writing down what you love about your partner and what you like about your relationship. It’s important to focus on the positive side first however hard this may be if you have been in a rut of only seeing the negative. Discuss this calmly with your partner if they are present and as ask them to do the same exercise.
Step 3: Write down a list of areas that need improvement and that you are not happy with. If you are working with a partner do your best to phrase these in a non-confrontational way. Agree that you won’t blame each other and keep focused on the outcome that is to find a way to save your relationship.
Step 4: Now work out 5 actions each that you agree to do that will help to improve the state of your relationship. If you are working together then agree to hold each other kindly to your five actions and to do your best to follow them through for the full three months.
If you are working through this exercise on your own you need to be honest about your responsibility in the breakdown of your marriage and step into your partner’s shoes to see how you can best rectify the issues. I have seen many times that one partner has started this exercise alone and before long their partner has noticed such a positive change that they begin to try harder too. Relationships can be saved with better communication so try this first to ensure you don’t thrown away a great thing too soon.
If you have children there will be even more to consider as you will have to think through the impact on them too. I’m a big believer that divorce doesn’t have to damage kids but it will depend on the parents and how they behave. Often they are more resilient than you think but it will depend on their age and their personality too, no one child will react the same way so it’s important to do your best to prepare how to help them cope with the break-up too.
Don’t be fooled by the Hollywood gloss of “conscious uncoupling” or moving on to your next partner within a heartbeat of becoming single. It just doesn’t happen like that in reality. The truth is that divorce is the second most traumatic life event after the death of a loved one. In fact the two are so similar that they follow the same 5 stages of grief.
The 5 stages you will go through after a break-up are:
Denial – This is when you stick your head in the sand and pretend it isn’t happening. It feels that if you actually talk about it then it becomes all too real. Many people can carry on for months in this way and never really face up to what is happening.
Anger – This is when you start to resent what is happening to you and get furious with your partner or the situation. You may even feel utter rage about breaking up the family and the consequences that you are going to have to face.
Bargaining – This is where you will do anything to hold on to your relationship, including sacrificing your values and beliefs and even forgiving adultery or abuse to avoid facing any change. Common behaviours during this phase are to try to lose weight or be a better partner in every.
Depression – This is a natural part of any break-up as it is part of the grieving process. You have to acknowledge your feelings of sadness and despair in order to come to terms with them. It’s important to realise that it will end and it not going to last forever.
Acceptance – This is when you have removed the rose-tinted glasses and are seeing your partner warts and all. You feeling more positive about your situation and have accepted that the relationship is over. Many clients I see get stuck here as they don’t know how to move forward, even though they have let go of their ex.
Divorce doesn’t need to be an aggressive severing if you take action to think how to best support everyone before you make the decision. Being kind and doing the right thing will serve you well in the long run. If you have children and are feeling guilty then consider what message you are teaching them by staying in an unhappy marriage. Remember you are their role model and they will take their lead from you.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel though and it is true that we only live once so there is no point staying in an unhappy marriage. I firmly believe that divorce can be the best thing that has ever happened to you as it really does give you a chance to redesign your life the way you want it to be. It is true that sometimes good things fall apart so that better things can come together.
Sara Davison is an expert break-up, separation and divorce coach, author, and speaker who has developed the UK’s first Divorce Coaching program providing individuals with the tools, techniques and support needed to help navigate and cope with the process of divorce. For more information on Sara, or to book a one to one consultation, log on to her website www.saradavison.com or follow her on Facebook (Sara Davison Divorce Coaching), Twitter (@SDDivorcecoach) and Instagram(SaraDavisonDivorceCoach).