Facing a separation after a long relationship or a marriage can be one of the most difficult things you can face in life. There is potentially shock, heartbreak, disappointment, fear for the future, and a myriad of other complex emotions to deal with – not to mention the practicalities of separating such as altered living arrangements, impact on children, finances and other considerations. Whether the split is a mutual decision, you are the instigator, or you are the one being left behind, it’s not an easy option – but sometimes it’s the only option as you move forward.
So where do you begin once the decision has been made by one or both of you to separate?
- Don’t rush the process. You need to take time to collect your thoughts, determine if the split is going to be permanent (which often can’t properly be done in the heat of the moment), and grieve for the relationship you once had. There is no “right” time frame to get over a separation – it is a process and you will get there in your own time. This includes, ideally, taking time before you are ready for a new partner.
- Be as civil as possible. Civility will serve both of you much better than hostility (despite the fact that your feelings are no doubt hostile) and this is even more important if there are children involved in the relationship. Children of separated parents who choose to get along for their sake are in a much better position to survive the separation with their emotional wellbeing intact.
- Try to be pragmatic rather than letting your emotions rule your head. Be sure to educate yourself regarding your legal rights and responsibilities; be willing to make certain concessions for a smooth and fair outcome, but don’t allow yourself to be railroaded.
- Some things you should do after separating include:
Ø Consult your family lawyer to discuss your circumstances.
Ø Set up a new personal email address for yourself and redirect your emails.
Ø Secure your personal bank accounts.
Ø Be fully apprised of joint finances and financial responsibilities at date of separation.
Ø Consider changing your Will, enduring Power of Attorney, and insurance policies and beneficiaries.
Ø If you have remained in your marital home, consider changing locks (if this is applicable to your situation and circumstances).
- You may feel at a loss. How will you cope without your spouse or former partner? You may feel like your life is over. It’s not. Yes, this is a tough chapter. But you are stronger than you think, and the very best your life has to offer you is very likely ahead.
- Grieve for the relationship but once it is over for good, leave it in the past. This is a new stage of your life and “you can’t go forward looking in the rear view mirror”. To paraphrase Carole Radziwill, “welcome the plot twists in your life”.
Separation need not necessarily lead to divorce. For many couples, some time out to deal with issues in the relationship can lead to an ultimately stronger and more committed partnership for the future – if both parties are on the same page, are willing to work on and resolve their differences, and still have a foundation of love and respect.
Either way, marital separation or separation after a long relationship is challenging, stressful and highly emotional. It is something almost half of us will experience in life. Take the process one step at a time and know that when you are through the other side, you will be a stronger, more confident version of you.
If you are thinking of separating, please talk to us about the steps you need to take to get the best possible outcome.