When a couple are considering divorce or separation it is likely that they will look at how much it will cost them financially and they will consider getting professional help to ensure that they are keeping the expense to a minimum. I would encourage couples to give equal consideration to the emotional cost of divorce and be willing to bring in professional help to reduce the pain that they may unintentionally cause each other, their children, other family members and friends when they split up.
Couples are usually well aware that when they divorce or separate it will affect their children and other family members such as their parents and they will take determined and sincere steps to minimise their pain. They have the best intentions but unfortunately rarely have enough spare capacity when they are undergoing what is often a personal life crisis to adequately take care of others. Because of this they may inadvertently cause more pain to those around them than they need to.
Much of the pain that divorcing couple cause their children is done unconsciously. Children have an emotional radar, they pick up on our feelings, even unspoken ones. They will sense when our heart feels torn in two because we are letting them go on holiday with our ex and their new partner; or if we are resenting the other parent for leaving us, or if we are terrified of how we will manage the bills alone. And sometimes, because parents want to protect them from their pain they try and hide it from them and, guess what, the children pick up on this too! They can learn that this is something that must not be talked about and so they tend to feel that they must not share their own feelings on the subject.
Perhaps then the most important first step when considering divorce or separation is to have the right emotional support in place. It is very difficult to cope with the emotional challenges of a divorce or separation alone. It can be a great help if each parent has a confidante they can talk to but who does not have their own agenda, who can help them to come to terms with their pain and also listen and give honest and constructive feedback, who can point out when the children are being inadvertently involved in something that is not their business, or who can suggest ways to reassure Grandparents and close friends who fear losing touch with members of the family.
Such a friend is a rare thing. More often those that are close to the family will be affected by events or will find it difficult to give frank feedback. It may be easier to use a relationship coach or another professional who can listen, give feedback and also offer tools that will help the couple to understand the children’s perspective on the changes ahead. Another advantage of having confidential sessions with a professional is that it somewhere that it is OK to talk openly about feelings, fears and frustrations. Simply having a place to off-load can be hugely helpful for gaining a broader perspective on the situation.
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