Maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed, uncertain and a little out of whack with all that’s going on right now.
Should you keep calm and carry on?
Or should you buy ALL the chocolate?
I don’t have all the answers, I’m not sure anyone does.
However, I want you to know that I’m here and I’m riding this with you.
Over the last few years I’ve worked with many really smart people who are feeling overwhelmed, confused and, sometimes (often!) frustrated as they navigate their separation.
The choice to separate is never one made lightly or easily and is often made following many, many months (sometimes years) of contemplation, compromise, much introspection and internal debate.
Often, the choice to separate is one made after feeling unhappy with their past and wanting to feel good about the present and needing to embrace the future, however it looks, with a sense of optimism.
In some instances, the conversation about separating is a relief for both spouses – having both felt unhappy for awhile and unsure about what to do or say to change the situation. Other times, your spouse might be blindsided by the conversation. You will both grieve, at different times, and in different ways, including by expressing feelings of sadness and/or anger; pleading and bargaining to try again, or try something different, or continue the relationship, “one more chance”; you may feel depressed. Eventually you will both come to accept your relationship is over (very likely at very different points).. how and when these feelings are expressed will vary from person to person.
I understand that no matter the approach taken by your former spouse or partner, your primary goal is to move through your separation in a way that you are able to reflect on with a sense of pride, knowing that you “went high”, even if they went low.. even really low.
Here are five tips that I hope will help you navigate this time and go high:
1. Take care of yourself: How are you handling your self-care as you navigate this period? It’s okay to fit your own mask first, as you simply process what is happening for you, your children and your family as a whole.
It’s normal to feel sad, depressed, angry and confused through this time. It’s also normal to start focussing on what you feel is not right, and what compare your present day, with what you hope life looks like in 12 months time.
Taking some time to gather your thoughts will help you focus on what is important to you for your future.
2. Find your support team and be informed: Let’s be honest – this process will be emotional. It can be hard. To do the hard things you will need a good team to provide with you advice and guide you through the process, including friends and family, your GP, counsellors, financial advisors, and legal advice.
Working with a team you trust, who you feel will provide with sensible, transparent and supportive advice is so valuable during your separation to keep you on the right track. The right team will help you focus on the big picture and identify your goals for the future will help you make decisions based on clear and rational thinking, which will ultimate benefit you and your children rather than getting caught up in the emotional aspects.
3. There are no winners or losers through divorce (particularly when it comes to children). Rather than approaching negotiations and discussions with the mindset of winning or losing, consider instead what is important to you? What does a good settlement look and feel like to you? What do you really need in the short-term, and for your future?
Getting clear on these things before you start negotiating, can really help you focus on the big picture and feel less caught up in who might win or lose through this process. It can also help when well-meaning friends speak to you about their divorce and start encouraging you to “get what you’re entitled to”.
A good way to refocus your mind from win/lose, and checking in with yourself to make sure your emotions are not guiding your decisions, is to get legal advice early and often enough in the process, which can then lead to getting some emotional support and financial.
This can be a good way to learn about the process, what to think about in negotiations, and developing a strategy to help you navigate the process.
4. Understand your numbers. It can be a good idea to understand your budget – your income and expenses and what you will need as you move from a joint household, into two separate homes.
Expenses may or may not change, however your income might.
If you haven’t been the one to arrange finances in the past, this can feel overwhelming – there are some really great resources around to help. One option is the Government’s MoneySmart website, and another option is the Barefoot Investor – Scott Pape explains money in a really simple way. Of course, like many things, it can also be a really good idea to find an accountant or financial advisor you feel comfortable with, and who will guide you through the financial stuff in a way you understand, leaving you feeling confident to make financial decisions in the future.
5. Choose your advisors carefully. Make sure the people you choose to work with share the same values as you, and that you feel comfortable with them – either by phone in that first conversation, or in person when you meet them.
They will explain their approach, understand what things are important to you, and agree on an approach that will help you find a resolution
It is less important for your part in the process which lawyer your spouse chooses to work with – don’t feel pressure to find a lawyer who is described as aggressive or vicious, this can make an already difficult process more difficult, and more expensive.
Make sure you feel heard, supported and that you are treated with compassion and empathy. When you feel comfortable with your lawyer, you will feel confident in the way you choose to navigate the process, and the advice you receive, every step of the way.
There are many options for you in approaching negotiations with your spouse – and the right lawyer will talk with you about those different options.
Every family is different, and so is their separation or divorce.
The way you and your spouse behave towards each other and the resolution process you use will make all the difference to the way your divorce goes.
And simply because your spouse chooses to approach discussions in a very different way to you, doesn’t mean you need to. They might go low, and that will hurt, and you may feel angry or disappointed, but go high.
Thanks to Amy Cuddy and Michelle Obama for the image/quote!
Megan Sweetlove is a divorce lawyer and the owner of Sweetlove Family Law. Megan has worked with families who are experiencing separation and divorce for over 10 years.
Using a kind, compassionate and caring approach, Megan will work with you to develop a strategy that will enable you to have a successful separation and to work out the best way to move forward, taking into account your economic and emotional needs.
If you or someone you know needs assistance during divorce you can organise a complimentary 20 minute phone appointment with Megan here.
You may wish to clear your browsing history now if you are reading this article on your phone or computer and you are considering separation, but have not yet separated; or you otherwise want to maintain your privacy.