Expert tips on how to start out in the best possible way
They say familiarity breeds contempt and the pandemic has certainly provided the perfect opportunity to put this age-old adage to the test. It’s perhaps unsurprising that the collateral damage of lockdown has seen a record spike in divorce inquiries around the world with UK family law firms reporting a surge of more than 40% during and since quarantine. New statistics from the ONS show the largest percentage increase in divorce petitions for 50 years in England and Wales during 2019, and further surveys suggest the pandemic is causing growing marital discontent across the nation. Add to that financial worry, a lack of social life and a general feeling of housebound claustrophobia, and it’s no wonder the country’s married couples are showing signs of strain. Heres how to boss your breakup.
A little bit about me
As a Divorce Coach, I’ve been busier than ever throughout the pandemic. I started my coaching business seven years ago inspired by my own marriage breakdown. I hadn’t seen my breakup coming and it hit me like a freight train. I was in shock, numb, unable to function or complete the simplest tasks, let alone run the business I had with my ‘soon to be ex’ husband. I had never known a feeling like it. I had no physical injuries yet waves of excruciating pain surged through my body.
Heartbreak, betrayal, confusion, devastation. It was unlike anything else I had experienced.
At this point in my life, I had been life and business coaching for 15 years so I knew that I could turn this around, but I had no idea how. I searched the internet to find some help. I was looking for ways to cope. Ways for me to get my control back over this rollercoaster of emotions so I could start to function again. I googled “how to be a single mum” and “how do I cope when my husband is in love with someone else”. I couldn’t find anything to take the hurt away … so this is where the idea for my business started to grow.
I decided I had to help myself so I combined my coaching skills with what I was learning from the divorce process and I created a tool kit of techniques and strategies that would help me take back control, navigate the divorce and see a light at the end of the tunnel. I tried and tested various ideas until I found a programme that worked for me.
It was my lawyer who commented on how well I was coping and asked me if I would speak with some of her other clients. I soon realised that the tools I had created could help anyone going through a breakup. I knew there was a big gap in the market for the tools I had created as well as a huge need for this help as everyone goes through a breakup at some point in their life. At least one but most likely several. It made instant sense to me to specialise in this area and become The Divorce Coach. I really wanted to flip this traumatic experience into one that could help others.
How the pandemic has affected relationships
The pandemic has thrust domestic arrangements and frustrations into sharp focus. These challenging times will have had an impact on both of you. It may have changed the way you think about life and the priorities that are most important for you. This has had a devastating impact for some couples as they are hit from all sides including money worries, working from home arrangements, sick family members, managing children’s stress and home schooling. Money is one of the most common causes of marital strife and over the last year people have had to contend with unemployment, being furloughed or taking home lower pay cheques.
My advice is always to work on the relationship and not give up. However, there are times when you need to be brave and face the fact that it just isn’t working. If you are with a partner who doesn’t love you it will be damaging to your confidence and self-esteem. If they don’t want to be with you anymore then forcing them to stay is never going to make you happy. Divorce is never the easy option – it is an emotional rollercoaster with practical challenges and financial stresses thrown in.
My top tips for how to start out in the best possible way are:
- Get your support team in place. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the breakup process from a financial, legal and emotional perspective, whilst trying to maintain your daily routine too. So, it’s vital to get experts around you who can help answer all the questions you have and give you the best advice. For example, if you are concerned about finances then find someone who can help you create a financial plan for your situation which will enable you to feel more positive about the future.
- Agree with your partner what to say to the kids about the breakup. The ideal scenario is to sit down together if possible and tell them together. Reassurance that they are loved and that this is not their fault is key.
- Treat each other with respect and kindness. You are bound to disagree over matters at some point so make an agreement to treat each other with kindness and respect and this will create a strong foundation, helping to keep things as amicable as possible whilst minimising tension.
- Pick your battles. In the heat of the moment, it is easy to get worked up over the little things. Take a step back and work out if you will really care about this in a few months’ time. This will help you to get perspective on what is important and what is emotion getting the better of you.
- Get clarity on what you spend each month so you can understand your spending patterns. Create a budget spreadsheet of your weekly and monthly expenditure. You need to take ownership of this so you feel more financially independent and in control.
- Don’t talk about your breakup to everyone you meet. Share your feelings with close friends or family but don’t get sucked into a world where the only thing you talk about is your split.
- Don’t bad mouth your ex to others. This may well get back to them and make things worse. Of course, you can be honest with your inner circle of select friends and family but avoid openly discussing your ex in public.
- Self-care, eating well and exercising is crucial to keeping a strong mind and enabling you to make better decisions. Exercise is a great way to instantly boost your state of mind. Even a brisk walk around the block will help you feel better and help you stay in control of your emotions.
- Write a list of all the things you weren’t happy with in your relationship as you take off the rose-tinted glasses. If you are heartbroken and finding it hard to let go of your ex this is a great exercise. When we reminisce about our partners it’s easy to focus on all the good bits and romanticise about things. But this will keep you stuck in the past and it isn’t always reality as this list will show.
- Spring-clean your life. Create a plan for the life you want to live and the person you want to become. Out with the old and in with the new. Try new things, do things differently and make small changes that add more sparkle to your life.
- Don’t forget to keep some fun in your life. Breakups bring a rollercoaster of emotions so make sure you find ways to laugh and connect with those you love. Breakups are an opportunity to rediscover yourself and, whilst you may feel like curling up and hiding away from the world some days, making an effort to see a friend or try something new will help you feel stronger. It’s so important to have fun things in your diary so you are not all consumed with your breakup. There is more to life than relationships and you need to maintain a healthy balance in other areas of interest too.
- An amicable divorce doesn’t mean you don’t need legal advice. A legal advisor will give you clarity about what to expect from your split. This will ensure you make the best decision for you and your family and you won’t have any regrets in the future.
Help your children through divorce and learn to co-parent
If you and your ex have children together, you’ll find yourself in a situation where you’ll have more contact with them than you otherwise might want.
The guiding idea I suggest to my clients if in a situation like this is Functionally Friendly. Functionally Friendly is the strategy to use when you have to deal with your ex, but are struggling to do so. Being Functionally Friendly will allow you to interact with your ex in a way that’s best for your children and create the smoothest possible encounters between the two of you.
The strategy is simple: in any encounter with your ex, or when you’re talking with your children about your ex, you set aside any issues between the two of you and focus on your ex’s positive attributes.
Now, this doesn’t mean you forget about any problems with them or your relationship. Nor does it mean that the two of you have to become good friends, or even that you have to forgive what’s happened. It’s simply about putting any issues to the side when you’re interacting with them or your children. This creates the foundation for a workable relationship, which is in the best interests of your children.
Shifting from parenting children together to parenting children by yourself can be a daunting transition. Whether you and your ex are sharing custody, or whether you’ll be doing all of the parenting moving forward, single parenting can be a challenge – especially in the beginning. But you can use all of the tools and strategies you learn throughout this book to help empower yourself. And also focus on these three positive truths:
- You now get to parent your children the way you choose, without anyone interfering while they’re with you.
- You get quality one-on-one time with your kids.
- Your children will inspire a strength in you that you never knew you had.
If you are sharing custody or co-parenting, there are some additional strategies for you to take on, to set yourself up for success and peace of mind:
- Have clear communication with your ex about access times – avoid any ambiguity or confusion.
- Don’t bad-mouth the other parent to your children.
- Always do right by your children, and wherever possible, prioritize their needs and well-being.
One of the most challenging aspects of co-parenting is dealing with the times when your kids are with your ex and you are alone, whether that’s for the day, a weekend, or a month. If you’re finding it hard to cope with your kids being with your ex, here are some tips to follow:
- Plan your time in advance, so that you stay busy when the kids are away.
- Plan to have somewhere to go the minute your children have left.
- Use this time to move forward positively with your new life. You could take up a new hobby, learn a new skill, go to the gym, go on a few dates, etc.
- When the kids are away, focus on you and not your children.
Rediscovering your identity and moving forward with your life
When you’re in a relationship, it’s natural for you to take on some of your partner’s values and interests. You might start going out to places they like to eat, or going hiking because it’s something they love. You might get into classic movies with them, or listen to more of the music they like. And as you start to build a life together, you start to adopt each other’s dreams and values as well.
Again, this is all a natural part of relationships. We’re interested in someone, so we become interested in the things they like. The more two people are together, the more they tend to blend their wishes, values, and goals. But then, when the relationship splits apart, we’re left in limbo. We’ve built up a huge part of our identity around this other person, and then that person is gone. So, who are we now?
A pivotal point in turning breakup into breakthrough is rediscovering your own identity – who you are, what you value, and what you love. Defining your values – the qualities of life that you seek out most – are a great way to rediscover and focus in on your own identity. I often ask my clients to focus on their values in the context of a relationship because it not only helps provide clarity on their past relationship, it also will helps you to move forward into future relationships. From passion, humour and fun, to loyalty, honesty and, security and freedom – using a simple word to encapsulate the qualities you value will help get you started.
You might find yourself rediscovering parts of yourself you’ve long known, or you might be surprised by what comes up in this exercise. It’s important to remember that our values tend to change and evolve over time. What you value in a relationship in your 50’s might not be the same as what you valued most in your 20’s. Circumstances can change our values too – maybe you’ve discovered a love of adventure and now want more of that, or maybe after an unfaithful partner you’ve come to value trust more. And of course, there is no right or wrong answer here. What matters is that you’re clear on your values, and what they mean to you.
To book on to Sara’s next virtual retreat, Heartbreak To Happiness, or to become a Divorce Coach please visit www.saradavison.com
For more advice on how to navigate breakup or divorce, listen to Sara’s podcast at www.heartbreaktohappinesspodcast.com