I recently came across a really interesting article based on a survey looking at parents staying together for the sake of their children The survey was called out by Directline.
Some parts of this survey really jumped out at me and I wanted to add some thoughts on them:
- I can see the generational difference in how long parents stayed together but even amongst younger parents it was still 3 years. Often in family mediation one of the things you see is that the longer people stay in an unhappy relationship the more the anger and resentment builds. Once they finally separate it can be like the door has opened on all these negative emotions and the situation can quite quickly become toxic.
- It’s encouraging to see 21% of those in this situation wanted to work on their relationship. If you can see difficulties then getting assistance from an experienced relationship counsellor at an early stage can be a useful tool in helping you to identify, recognise and address what is causing difficulties in the relationship.
- It’s sad to see that 20% of those asked felt they could not separate for financial reasons. Concerns about money often rank very highly on the list of concerns people separating have. This is understandable because if you have been able to make ends meet (sometimes just about) in one house then moving to two homes can feel like a stretch too far. But staying in an unhappy relationship purely due to financial fears is not a good place to be and can impact on your wellbeing and mental health. It’s interesting that 41% of people kept their decision to themselves and this could have led to them feeling very isolated.
- The last point I wanted to pick out is the suggestion that it might be better for the children to see their parents together to set a good example for them. For many children the relationship between their parents is their first experience of what adult relationships look like. If there are difficulties but you are able to be respectful of each other and communicate with each other then this may be a good example on the outside, but if you are not mindful of each other’s feelings, or you spend little time together, or are arguing regularly then this may not be the best example to set your child of what a healthy relationship should look like.
I think it is interesting to look at the results of this survey and compare it with a poll by ComRes in 2014 that was shared by Resolution as in that study 82% of young people asked (all participants had parents who had separated) 82% said that they would rather their parents had separated than stayed together if they were unhappy. It seems that many adults feel that it is better for children if they remain in an unhappy relationship, whereas children don’t want to see their parents unhappy.
What does this mean for you?
- If you’re in an unhappy relationship should you separate?
This is a decision that only you can make. If your relationship is not making you happy then it may well be worth taking steps to address this with a relationship therapist. It’s also worth giving some thought to what your children may be aware of. Children are often aware of far more than their parents realise and may well have picked up on relationship difficulties, tensions in the home and unease or unhappiness in their parents. If there is open hostility and arguing in your relationship then consider how this might be affecting your children? I have certainly experienced clients in mediation whose children have been the ones to flag that they do not like the arguing and would rather their parents separated than argued continually. The studies that have been done into the long term effects of separation on children all suggest it is being caught up in parental conflict that causes difficulties for children and young people, rather than the fact their parents separated in itself. It’s entirely possible for children to be caught up in their parents’ conflict without their parents haven’t separated.
2. If you are going to separate what do you need to be aware of?
Firstly, be aware that there is considerable help and support for those going through a separation and there is an emphasis on constructive and peaceful separation – with your children’s needs at the top of the agenda – wherever possible. Your first thoughts should be to access good support both for each of you, and to enable you to work out what happens next. It may also be sensible to get support for your children outside of the two of you, so that your children have someone to talk to. This might be a friend or family member who will be able to avoid taking sides. Or it might be a professional they can access through their school, or through your GP. There are also many local private services. If you would like to know of local services around the Dorking area, then please get in touch. Know that there is a prescribed grief cycle that comes with a separation or divorce and it may take you time to feel like you again. It may also help to know that there are conversations you can have in family mediation at different points depending on where you are in the process. Family Mediation is a safe space to have difficult conversations at any point during your separation.
3. What if we can’t separate?
Please be aware that you can always separate from a partner. Sometimes it requires some creative thinking to find ways of creating two homes but there is always a way and no one should be forced to remain in a relationship where they are unhappy for any reason. Family mediators are very knowledgeable about different ways of making one home into two because they draw on all the experience and knowledge they have. Lawyers can help you too. Family mediation is often the quickest way of resolving issues (and therefore the most cost effective) because you talk to each other directly with the help of an impartial mediator. They can take you through the process of getting clear about what money you each have and what happens next.
If you’re not sure what to do next then please get in touch and have a no obligation chat about the options open to you.