Welcome to this second blog in the series looking at what happens when you’re thinking of separating from a partner. In the last blog we talked about how to be sure you’ve exhausted all avenues of trying to make the relationship work. In this second blog we will be sharing some tips on telling your partner that you’d like to separate. This is an enormously difficult conversation to have and from working with separating couples in mediation we now that it can set the tone for how your separation moves forward – whether it’s constructive, respectful and ultimately peaceful. The reality is that often this gets shouted out in an argument and cannot then be taken back. If you have reached this decision then communicating it calmly and in a safe space for your partner is likely to be better.
- The first thing is to create space for the conversation away from children and when your partner can take some space to deal with their immediate reaction. Telling them when they are just about to leave for work is unlikely to be helpful. We’re also mindful that we’re writing this second blog just as we have entered the 4th lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. Separating from a partner and then being locked in the same space with them is extremely hard to deal with and it’s important to give some consideration to whether you can wait before communicating your decision to your partner. You may feel it’s unfair to give them false hope, and that not saying this will exacerbate the situation further. You are in the situation and best placed to decide but it’s something you may wish to reflect on. If you are going to separate and remain living in the same house then it’s important to consider how you will give each other space, and how you’re going to minimise the knock on effect for your children. At a time when anxiety is already heightened and many children are finding home schooling difficult seeing your mum and dad upset or arguing is likely to make this worse. You may find this blog about managing a separation in lockdown helpful.
- Explain clearly that you want to separate. It’s important that if you think there is still hope for the relationship that you communicate that, but that you also communicate if you believe your decision is final. You may be asked for your reasons and this is difficult. Most people want to know what has led their partner to this conclusion but laying the blame squarely at the other person’s door is not helpful. Part of moving forward constructively is each accepting your own role in the breakdown of the relationship.
- Be compassionate about your partner’s feelings. You don’t know how they will react. They might be expecting it, or it may be a relief for them. They may be devastated. In many mediation sessions we encounter couples where one person is of the view that the other person was expecting the decision and the other person was not and was devastated and this immediately creates a disconnect between the two of you. You each have different perspectives on your relationship, and will have experienced the same events differently. This means you can’t predict how your partner may react. Treat all their feelings as being valid and true. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with what they’re saying but you can acknowledge the strength of their emotional response, and how they’re feeling. For example, saying “I can see how upset you are” or “I’m sorry this is upsetting you” doesn’t get into a debate about whether they’re justified in being upset, it just acknowledges that they are.
- There is a grief process following a separation and this takes different lengths of time for different people. Allow your partner to grieve. Don’t expect them to immediately make financial or other decisions. Allow them some space both immediately after the conversation, and in the days and weeks afterwards. You may need to make some short term arrangements but allow them some space before broaching this and try to leave things if they are finding it too difficult to address practicalities right now. Remember that by making the decision to separate you have already travelled part way through your grief cycle and your partner may need to catch up a bit before you are able to have constructive and meaningful conversations about what happens next.
If you would like help in managing your separation in the most constructive and peaceful way possible then you can sign up to our free mailing list. You can also download our free mini guide to separation as part of this.
We also run a free Facebook group where those going through a separation can talk to others in the same situation (people are at varying stages in the separation so can share experiences at all stages) and where professionals come in and talk to you about issues you’re facing and how to deal with them. It’s called Soulful Separation Support.