Understanding where you are on the journey makes finding your way easier
Usually, one half of the couple initiates the split. They may well have been thinking about the future of the relationship for some time, usually not saying anything to their partner, in case they were wrong and not wanting to make it worse, until they were sure. When they break the news to their partner that the relationship is over, it means the other person has a lot of emotional catching up to do. Immediately you have the problem of two people being in completely different emotional stages on the grieving cycle. When we mediate for such couples, it is difficult to go fast enough for one or slow enough for the other. It is unhelpful to say things like ‘it’s over, get over it’. There isn’t a get over it switch! Then add to the mix other people, children, friends and family, then the cast of possible professionals who might help, and you are set for a busy time.
So here is the timetable:
- One partner decides relationship is over, this may have taken then years to decide
- Tells partner
- Period of shock and recriminations – 52 card pick-up
- Partner needs time to adjust to the idea, is often unstable and upset. They have to work through the grieving cycle, so denial, anger, blame, crying, depression, moving on eventually to recovery, acceptance, moving on
- Telling children and extended family and friends makes it real and retraction becomes increasingly unlikely
- Children start on their own cycle of loss and grief
- Couple considers how to sort it out. May seek help from doctors, counsellors, solicitors, mediators.
- Couple may be confused about resolution options, timescale and comparative costs
- Couple may be afraid if they don’t ‘get tough’ they may lose out
- Rows and emotional distress makes fighting more likely, especially as displacement activity for grief
- Adjustment to separation brings calmer consideration of less nuclear options for sorting out the future
- Some couples can agree much themselves, some can’t agree anything
- Mediation assessment meeting covers the ways of sorting things out, whether mediation, court or legal negotiating.
- Couple chooses resolution option that feels best to them and starts it
- Some change their minds, e.g. Start court proceedings then mediate or vice versa
However people sort things out, it does take some time. This is partly emotional recovery time and partly the time taken by the chosen route to resolution. The fact is that mediation is by far the fastest and most cost effective process for sorting out separation and divorce and therefore it makes sense to use it first and only choose more expensive and adversarial options if you have to.
Make it better not worse – mediate first.