In a new series of blogs we’re turning our focus to communication. We’re very aware that this is something that can be challenging for couples going through a separation. When asked what the issues are that they’d most like to resolve many couples say communication. This is often borne from a place of wanting to be able to talk about their children more easily; but also because many people recognize that with better communication they’re able to resolve more issues between themselves with less professional support.
To watch the video discussing this blog click on the video below:
One of the reasons why calm and clear communication can be challenging in the immediate aftermath of a separation (and for some time after that!) is that both parties can be at very different points in the recovery process. Divorce or separation are one of the top 3 most stressful life events so it’s entirely understandable that you may struggle with coming to terms with this. There is a defined recovery process and although it is not ‘one size fits all’ the illustration below gives you a visual representation of what that process might be like for you. The top line is often followed where someone met somebody else and the bottom line where there was no one else involved but people can swing between the two, and go backwards and forwards on the line they’re on.
There is often a grief in separation as the person comes to terms with the fact that their life is not going to look like what they thought it would going forwards
It is common for the two people involved to be at different points in this recovery process. One person may have been contemplating the end of the relationship for some time, whilst the other is shocked to discover their partner wants to bring their relationship to an end. If one person is letting go and wanting to move forward to a new life on their own, and the other is still shocked and angry and unable to process things this can cause a mismatch that can frustrate and upset both parties. Communication then becomes very difficult because one person wants to talk about what happens next, but the other still wants answers and explanations about why they have ended the relationship. Conversations quickly become frustrated arguments and neither party feels the other is focusing on what they need right now.
Family mediators recognise these patterns and can help parties to understand that they are at different points in the recovery process. Sometimes one person simply needs more time to come to terms with what has happened because they haven’t had the same amount of time to process this as the person who has been thinking about ending the relationship for a while. They may also need counselling to help them through this difficult time.
If the party who wants to move on pushes their own agenda then this can be enormously damaging as the other person perceives they are under threat and goes into shut down mode. They may feel threatened and react in that way. They may simply refuse to engage at all. It can be frustrating for the person who wants to move on to wait but this can often produce the quickest resolution (this may of course feel counter intuitive). If any level of communication breaks down then often the parties will end up in acrimonious court proceedings which can take a year to sort out and be very expensive. By giving the person at the start of the recovery process time to heal and grieve they may then come to the table to talk about things in a relatively short space of time and be able to negotiate a constructive resolution relatively quickly from their new place of accepting the end of the relationship.
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