Infidelity navigation: Summary * fidelity 101 * fidelity 108 * fidelity 2 * fidelity 3 * fidelity 4 * emotional cost * triangles * how to mend * models of mending * how to forgive * the unforgivable * relationship education * exits from intimacy * ending a relationship in peace * defences * emotional intelligence * re-romancing * on vulnerability
Relationship navigation: * page list * page 1 * page 2 * page 3 * page 4 * page 5 * how to build intimacy * how to mend * models of mending * commitment quiz * toxic patterns * mental maps * tough love * boundaries * turning points * how to end * forgiving * survey of marriage * what is success * marriage research * love styles * marriage quotes * family love like the wind
How to mend navigation: 1. How to mend * 2. Models of mending * 3. How to be a grown up * 4. Hold me tight * 5. Becoming vulnerable * 6. Emotional bids * 7. Constructive fights * 8. Exits from intimacy * 9. The answer
last edit of this page 20/05/2012
Something crucial and wonderful and holy and sweet and salty between that man and that woman sickened and withered and died, without public mourning or witness or ritual, without communal attention and respect. It dies shivering the souls of the formerly married and their children and their friends, and the Church has nothing to say, turns and looks away, frowns and castigates, and everyone shuffles forward into the muddled future, trying to repair their shattered hearts. Maybe there should be a sacrament for the end of a marriage. Maybe we should gather as a people to witness and mourn the death of love and hope. Maybe we should create a ritual by which we honour their brave attempt, and formally conclude their failed endeavor. Source
'To forgive is to set a prisoner free, and discover the prisoner was you.'
'Resentment is like swallowing poison and hoping someone else dies.'
How do you know when it's over
Most divorces (74%) happened to adults who, just five years previously, had said they were happily married. Combined with the evidence of marital turnarounds - unhappy marriages that became happy - this argues that marriages can go through multi-year up-and-down cycles. Did the people who were happy, but later got divorced, just fail to outlast a (relatively) temporary problem? Of those who first rated their marriages "very unhappy" but stayed married, five years later 80% said they were happily married. Source
Divorces with the greatest potential to harm children occur in marriages that have the greatest potential for reconciliation. Source
How do you know when it's over:
1. You have exhausted every avenue of rehabilitation for what ails 'me', 'you' and 'us'.
If you have kids, sufficient to look them in the eyes when they have grown to adulthood and confirm, 'we exhausted every avenue available to us at the time'. (Read three models of evidence based couple's therapy to check your honesty with yourself.)
2. It is not a relatively temporary problem - see quote above.
3. You have uncovered the common and repairable emotional traps that often lead to divorce.
Best book on this is "How To Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It' by Patricia Love and Steven Stosny. Here's a review of the book at CNN. It is balanced and well informed about the patterns couples overlook that underly chronic frustration with a relationship.
4. You have found no way to increase your/our personal happiness, despite the state of the relationship?
5. You have changed your way of reacting to upsetting things in the relationship by thinking and acting like a person who stands a chance of being treated well by your partner - even when you feel misunderstood and mistreated!?
6. You have fought for your relationship rather than against it.
You have fought for honesty and for healing.
It's not the easy path but low conflict marriages are more likely to end in divorce.
It's not conflict that wounds but the tactics used to handle it.
Fighting is a form of protest about insecure attachment. It is not a sign of the end.
Falling compassion rising contempt is a sign the end is near. Contempt is disdain for the hurt of others.
7. You are no longer inside a cognitive bubble in which the plan to leave feels, looks and sounds perfect.
8. Having closed all the exits from intimacy for many months, told your partner you had done so and asked the same of them, and found nothing grew inside the relationship.
Nothing is rarely ever nothing.
Having closed all the 'just friends' exits - down to the trailing catch ups over coffee, no text nor email contacts and defriended the emotional affair partner on social networking sites.
9. Not a remnant spark of fondness and admiration left for your partner? Even death doesn't end a relationship.
10. You have considered a controlled separation rather than divorce? This book is a good one on that subject: "Should I Stay Or Go? : How Controlled Separation Can Save Your Marriage" by Lee Raffel. Here is a handout from Smart Marriages with a sample controlled separation contract and here the controlled separation website.
11. Considered going it alone to couple therapy and how to make the most of marriage therapy for one - from where this quote: In order for couples therapy alone to work, there are some ground rules. The relationship must be basically sound - no lying, cheating or abuse. The therapist will focus on the relationship, not the individual. And the partner who doesn't come to therapy must still want to improve the marriage and should be informed about what goes on'. Source
Take in this poignant, funny and wise video from Brene Brown.
Find a space to think calmly and kindly about your situation. You want your process to feel complete when it pulls at you in seven years time.
Here's 8 more signs.
A collaborative way to end a close relationship with love and dignity
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. C.S. Lewis
I think (Western cultures are) more tolerant of divorce than of infidelity. Because divorce basically says, you hurt me, I am wounded, and therefore I will dissolve our relationship. And the relationship is seen primarily as one between two individuals. The more traditional you go, the more people’s sense of self is embedded within a larger network of connections. And therefore to dissolve the marriage isn’t something that you are just doing to the two of you, you’re doing it to your children, to your parents, to your larger network. And it’s in the name of that network that sometimes you will keep things together. Esther Perel
The above quotes point to fundamental differences in how couples in trouble may view vulnerability and their sense of self. These need to be considered. The whole interview with Esther linked above is excellent.
This article is not recommended for ending spousal abuse.
It is unlikely to work if you are partnered with a narcissist or a psychopath.
It is not an invitation to play uproar: where insinuations of worthlessness are tossed back and forth like a hot potato with escalating vehemence in order to avoid intimacy.
Nor is it another round of the criticize and placate dance or other ways of acting out a feeling or using emotional blackmail.
It is not about ending a relationship with a therapist. For that go here and here.
It is not about ending a guru/disciple relationship nor the story of karma in Buddhist teachings about ending a relationship, or maybe it is.
And it is not about ending the family hierarchy and becoming a peer of your parent, child or a sibling.
It is the invitation to a vulnerable, intimate and heartfelt farewell WITH your loved one, honoring the journey and valuing the relationship for what it was.
This requires courage and a big heart.
There are always three stories in any relationship of two people - each separate story and the whole story. The latter is brought to life in the spark that started the dance.
This is about a welcome to all of it, to both an ending and a celebration of ongoing life.
Sounds impossible? A dignified co-existence would be easier?
If you can embrace this ending and celebration together, it is unlikely you will continue, like many a separated/divorced person whether the leaver or the left, the decider or the resigner - spending 7 years and sometimes decades anguishing at times over the past separation.
Feelings buried alive rarely die.
Unfinished business is un-wound in the next relationship.
I am assuming you have read at least my mending article, have done the work in and with the relationship and have come to a core, life decision that the relationship is over.
I assume you stopped waiting for your partner to fix your world some time ago and have not made a forced decision to end the relationship. Nor one under the influence of someone else in your head or in your bed - more on affairs.
Having arrived here, many couples report relief as well as grief; a cessation of fighting for validation, and lowering of expectations that emotional needs will be met to a sustainable level. A level more appropriate for good neighbors than lovers.
If one of you is there and the other on the cusp of acceptance, then this page may help.
However, if one of you is in the early stages of grief - i.e. shock, denial, anger and depression then this page is not going to help just yet. Perhaps read 'How to survive the loss of a love' by Bloomfield et al.
STEPS TO ENDING
I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable. Joseph Addison
- Go slowly... collaborate
- Perhaps read John Cleese talking with his therapist about coupling
- Shared vulnerability is necessary. If unsure what that means read this.
- Maybe write/draw/dance your own relationship history first. A theme song? A metaphor?
- Remember that a story is a person's experience of life, it is not the events themselves.
- Then together,
- share the story of your relationship from beginning to end. Overlooking nothing and including all points of view, like an autopsy. It's purpose is to learn about the relationship's health during its life and how the relationship really died. Autopsy literally means 'knowing for yourself'.
- There are many ways to do this. One of my client couples bought a roll of rice paper from the art shop. Drew a line at the equator and marked the years and months along the length of the scroll. Then each added his story, her story and their story above and below the line, throughout their 15 years starting from when they first met. Both were in other relationships at the time. By the time they moved in together 4 years later their worlds had been turned upside down. The story stretched to 4 metres. The enormity of the emotions traversed and their different perceptions of those times and of each other, gave them more heart ache, heart work and healing. It was shattering, relieving and concluding.
- Take it in small steps and cry for no reason.
- It's okay to feel numb, fear, nothing, anything.
- It is a celebration of life and growth, so make room for laughter and tears, music and mime.
- This life line exercise might help structure the task, but the basic method is a scrapbook, which can expand to include dreams, song, dance, music, photos, sculpture and symbols of all kinds. For example, what symbol might represent each stage of the relationship, what song or even children's story captures a moment?
- Indicate the turning points or perhaps as peaks and troughs in the life line.
- Remember to work together on this task in a way that respects each other's pace of creating, remembering and processing.
- The seeds of later troubles are almost always present at the beginning. You don't have to agree on what each of you or others did or didn't do that corrupted the opening contract of the relationship. The contract I am referring to is the set of assumptions, expectations and promises both spoken and unspoken at the outset.
- The ground rules are incompletely known and incompletely addressed at the beginning of every relationship. The blinders go on early!
- You only have to grieve that, not to re-start the prosecution.
- Make sure you have included those times when one or both no longer felt safe being open and vulnerable with each other. The 'complex web of attachment, self-esteem, and shame frequently lead to couple distress and divorce' Source.
- If you come across relationship events that remain unforgiven read this and do this.
- You will know when you are done, because you will be at peace with the end. No more bargaining nor blaming, wounding nor repairing. Just a sense of completion and gratitude.
- Good friends can do this. Folk who were never friends may become so in doing this.
- People who would rather have pride than connection, prefer to be right than happy, will struggle with this and struggle way beyond the end of the ends. In a sense the latter may remain distraught and unable to complete it in their minds, since there is no last word on the subject. The story is not the event, the map not the territory.
- When you are good-enough done and worked through the emotions the whole story has harbored, you might like to write a manifesto from what you have learned.
End in peace without 7 years of post-mortem anguish
Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn't it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life...You give them a piece of you. They didn't ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn't your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like 'maybe we should be just friends' turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It's a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. I hate love. Neil Gaiman
The first and last relationship is that with yourself, your soul, your g-d or however you conceive of the sacred in your life. We begin and end there.
Our life is the only long term project in which we have any kind of enduring influence.
Finally, the only thing we own are our actions.
If you try and control another's life, you contaminate your own and your relationship with them.
The strengths you have drawn on to bring you to this place, you will need in full measure to take your leave of a relationship. Review your character strengths here at authentic happiness.
I think people come to the end of a relationship when staying or co-existing has become more unbearable than leaving and after having exhausted every avenue of rehabilitation.
Rarely do both people reach this point at the same time. Therein lies the rub.
Two common strategies for getting the other one up to speed are infidelity and/or an unrelenting prosecution of the other's failings, sometimes in counseling or with the help of family and friends, or with the assistance of an attorney and The Family Court.
Neither indicate that the one so doing has completed their work nor earned their divorce, because the measure of having done so is the lack of bitterness, recrimination and the desire to inflict hurt on the other.
These negative methods will not support a shared, deep and abiding acceptance that marks the conclusion of grieving. You cannot force yourself or your partner to that kind of acceptance without the natural ripening of grief.
Resignation is different - that is a mental preparation for something unwelcome.
Acceptance is heart felt and mutually empowering.
Body symptoms of couples distress in the family
One unconscious strategy to keep a dead relationship on life support occurs where one of the kids develops a 'psychosomatic' disorder.
It arises from their absorbing the unspoken grief in their parent's marriage, one that is coming apart at the seems, sometimes without making a sound. The child is unable to articulate what s/he intuits in any other way than through the theatre of their body.
This provides a new focus for a troubled marriage to postpone dealing with their troubles or building a meaningful life apart.
Families demonstrate role reciprocity. For example, if one child is a rebel or is disabled, a sibling may take on the role of the good child to alleviate some of the stress in the family. The complementary nature of roles makes families more stable and resistant to change, which works well most of the time to maintain family identity and culture across generations. Source
We have discovered through observation that one member of a family will often take over the feelings of another. These feelings can include pride, shame, guilt and grief. Usually a younger member will take over the feelings of an older one. This is an unconscious process for all concerned. Source
Taking on the 'sick role'
Sometimes it is one of the partners who undertakes the 'sick role' to save the relationship. Mild depression and anxiety can be a form of this. One of my clients described this as walking around in their relationship feeling like the psychologist in Sixth Sense who didn't know he was dead. Living in a deceased estate or a mausoleum would feel like that. It was not he who was dead but the marriage.
These are ways of somatising distress rather than of getting ill, which nevertheless represent around 24% of the patients of family physicians. Here is a doctor's view of somatization from which I have excerpted on of his cases:
This 42-year-old man had chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia which lead to a 13 month disability up to the time of consultation. He came to the office with longstanding pain in his shoulders. His hands were clenched during the interview, and he appeared tense while giving his history.
DOCTOR: Can you tell about a specific time when you had an emotional upset so we can understand how exactly it affects you?
PATIENT: Yeah, problems at home with my wife…. Saturday she wanted me to do some work on the garage. She started to yell. Every day it’s the same thing and I’m getting tired of it.…DOCTOR: So how do you feel toward her?
PATIENT: [Takes a deep sigh, hands become clenched] Mad.
DOCTOR: You mean mad … angry?
DOCTOR: How do you experience the anger inside physically?
PATIENT: Very, very… tense
DOCTOR: That is tension…anxiety?
DOCTOR: How did you experience the anger?
PATIENT: I start to ignore her.
DOCTOR: Is that a mechanism to deal with anger?
But how do you experience anger underneath?
PATIENT: It’s really hard to put a word on it…. I get really mad…it’s like a rage.
DOCTOR: So how do you experience the rage?
PATIENT: [Patient takes a big sigh and clenches his hands tightly]
DOCTOR: Do you notice you sigh and become tense when you talk about the rage.
PATIENT: No, I didn’t. I don’t feel anxious.
DOCTOR: But, do you notice the sigh and your hands?
PATIENT: I do now, but didn’t see it before.
DOCTOR: Is this what is happening to you … that you are getting all tensed up about these feelings?
PATIENT: Yeah, it must be.
At a later point in the 1-hour session, the patient was able to feel the visceral emotions of rage, guilt about the rage, and sadness over several years of conflict. When the feelings were experienced in the office, he had an abrupt drop in muscle tension and bodily pain: this was further evidence he had been somatizing, or as he said, “bottling up” these complex feelings. Source
One can imagine children living around that muscle tension would learn to somatize their emotions. And later as adults this might seem a normal way to deal with distress in their own marriages. It then becomes a chicken and egg dilemma as it may well have been for their parents.
This kind of psychosomatic family process would be better served by referral to an emotion focused family or couple therapist than specialist diagnostic services. More often, however, the child or partner is taken to hospital often for intrusive and prognostically worthless examinations.
Unmanaged and unspoken, almost everyone living in a dead marriage will eventually hunger for the fresh air outside their morgue. The marriage is like a corpse in the middle of the house, that nobody talks about, sickens some but everyone steps around it, reluctant to make any changes in their life less it disturb the dead. Carpe deum!
Divorce or separation is generally not the best solution to a crisis when there are kids involved. It is a challenge to their capacity to adapt and to grieve when each parent's parenting is at its worst.
Gather information from the sources on this site. Talk to close and trusted allies of the family.
Ditch those who covertly support the crisis.
Slow down and consider all your options. Make it a team project.
Cooperate effectively. Avoid flying solo.
Get help when you need it. On this page read the section 'Why won't s/he come for help'.
Here's three useful places for thinking about how to help kids deal with separation and loss, one from the Berkeley Parents Network and another kidsturncentral.com and a divorce center.
The complete text of 'Some Reflections Upon Marriage' originally written 1700 and other feminist gems ancient and modern.
One book's approach:
Too many of the ideas on the web for ending relationships are utterly superficial, self-centered and presume a unilateral decision making process. Not one taken in concert with the partner nor respectful of the context or milieu of the relationship. Let alone that the other person might have a different historical experience of the relationship - like two movies of the same journey from different points of view.
However, if you are entirely alone with the questions, then some of my clients have found books useful companions. For example, Mira Kirshenbaum's book, quoted below, avoids weighing the pros and cons but it is by no means a perfect lens for an autopsy of a broken relationship.
So go slowly with this book and think critically about her conclusions. The smoother the ride the more carefully we have to grip the wheel.
"Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay: A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Decide Whether to Stay In or Get Out of Your Relationship" by Mira Kirshenbaum. Read a review here and particularly the comments sections, from where I found this comment about the review:
I find this post dissonant with your whole message and life approach advocated in your blogs/articles. I perceive you to take a holistic and proactive approach to life that says "If there is a problem here, I can make a difference" rather than "If this isn't satisfying me enough, I think I'll just give up and try something else". Long-term relationships (and especially marriage) needs to be worked at. They aren't always fun, and not all of those questions will always be "yes". Sometimes, people may go through patches where they are unwilling to change, or finding it hard to forgive (for example). But love is an incredibly powerful force for inviting change, and unconditional love in these circumstances can often lead to "winning" the other person over. I wonder if Kirshenbaum's research focused mostly on people whose relationships were based around choice/the individual (= what's best for me?), rather than couples committed to making their relationship work, and helping each other overcome their mutual challenges and weaknesses (= what's best for us?).
Here are 10 of the 36 questions from her book:
- Does your partner serve as an important resource for you in a way that you care about?
- Does your relationship have the demonstrated capacity for forgiveness? If you can’t forgive each other’s transgressions, then resentment will gradually replace love.
- Do you and your partner have fun together?
- Do you and your partner have mutual goals and dreams for your future together?
- Does your partner exhibit any behavior that makes the relationship too difficult for you to stay in, and do you find your partner is either unwilling or incapable of changing? Results matter far more than intentions. If your partner behaves in a way that’s intolerable to you, then permanent change is a must, or you need to leave. Trying to tolerate the intolerable will only erode your self-esteem, and you’ll see yourself as stronger in the past than in the present.
- Do you see yourself when you look in your partner’s eyes?
- Do you and your partner each respect each other as individuals?
- Are you able to get your needs met in the relationship without too much difficulty?
- Do you genuinely like your partner, and does your partner seem to genuinely like you?
- Do you feel a unique sexual attraction to your partner? Source
Personally, I would prefer to use a focusing guide book like "The Radical Acceptance of Everything" by Anne Weiser Cornell to process some of these questions and raise different ones. Some chapters from that book are available free on line.
Divorce didn’t typically: reduce symptoms of depression, raise self esteem or increase a sense of mastery. This was true even after controlling for race, age, gender & income. Even unhappy spouses who had divorced and remarried were no happier on average than those who stayed married. From a five year follow-up of 5,232 couples, reviewed on site.
I didn't marry you because you were perfect. I didn't even marry you because I loved you. I married you because you gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults. And the promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married and it was the promise that made the marriage. And when our children were growing up, it wasn't a house that protected them: and it wasn't our love that protected them - it was that promise. Thornton Wilder 'The Skin of Our Teeth'. Source
The marriage vow is a promise to stay married not to stay the same. Source
Divorce is fairly uncommon.
2.6 adults divorce each year per 1000 population in Australia (a crude divorce rate of 0.26%).
In a study of some 200 people, it was found that some divorces left men and women emotionally distraught for an average of seven years, others for decades. The one thing that divorce did not affect was the unhealthy pattern of behavior that led the couple to divorce in the first place. Source
You wouldn't bet your house on the results of a study of only 200 people, and the author doesn't reference it but I suspect it's from the controversial and now discredited, 'The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study' JS Wallerstein, J Lewis, S Blakeslee.
That book was "debunked ages ago. Wallerstein’s research looks only at children whose parents were being treated for mental illness, and so the results aren’t generalizable to all families. That study got so much press, however, that it inspired a plethora of high-quality research that is actually quite useful for helping us understand how or why divorce might hurt kids." Source
"The great majority of studies find that co-operation and low conflict between parents predicts positive divorce adjustment in children." Source
However, in 40 years working in this field, I too have observed the same duration of distress experienced by both sides of a marriage that does not end it in peace, where their divorce became permission to hate!
Relationships are attachment bonds and they do not break or snap cleanly. They tear apart like sinews of flesh and bone, sometimes abruptly through an attachment injury, but more often slowly with the whimper of long neglect (if attachment link broken).
A study published in the Journal of Marriage and the Family indicated that divorce is linked to unhappiness and depression. Divorced persons were more likely to be depressed, and those who had divorced more than once were likely to be depressed more frequently.
90% of first time divorces probably involve infidelity of one kind or another. This can often be resolved without divorce provided the affair has ended.
Recovery from affairs does not always mean staying married. It's not a matter of wining or losing but understanding the self. The goal is a meaningful life. Source
It is not usual nor necessarily best practice for a counselor/therapist to conclude that after three sessions working with a marriage or family problem that the couple would be better to break up.
Not all counselors can handle the high levels of family or couple distress. They offer band aids to avoid engaging with it. If you have had that experience in counseling read this article where you will find this quote:
Therapists undermine marital commitment in four ways: by incompetence, by being neutral, by pathologizing the partner or the relationship, and by overtly undermining the union.
Effective and evidence based short term couples therapy is usually completed in 6 to 24 sessions. Emotion focused couples therapy (EFT) is one of only two evidence based relationship therapies approved by the APA. EFT clients report that five things happened in therapy that made things better for them:
One partner expressed underlying feelings, and the other changing their perceptions of the partner after hearing this.
Learning to understand underlying emotions.
Learning to productively express emotional needs.
Taking responsibility for emotional needs.
Receiving validation for one's needs.
On site are excellent articles on how to get the most from couple's therapy and how to choose a therapist and research into marriage and divorce.
This survey of marriage found:
2/3 of unhappy marriages had become happy 5 years later, the researchers also conducted focus group interviews with 55 formerly unhappy husbands & wives who had turned their marriages around.
They found that many currently happily married spouses have had extended periods of marital unhappiness, often for quite serious reasons, including:
- verbal abuse
- emotional neglect
- work reversals
Why did these marriages survive where other marriages did not? Spouses' stories of how their marriages got happier fell into 3 broad headings: • the marital endurance ethic • the marital work ethic • the personal happiness ethic. Source
In a crisis, slow down and calm yourselves and be emotionally available to the kids as well.
Get good support for yourselves and each other.
This too will pass.
Reconciliation counselling after separation & divorce
Love and intimacy are more powerful determinants of health than improved diet, stopping smoking, genetic make-up, more exercise, or prescription drugs but biology has a 'mandate to separate'.
However, experience shows that lovers can train themselves to produce steadier supplies of oxytocin, while eluding biology's separation cycle. Source
Reconciliation counselling has become a more significant part of my practice in the last 10 years. These are couples who have lived apart from between 2 months and 5 years.
Some come after a wounding divorce process, some having lived with their affair partner, some with and others without kids, and some who just left to live alone - all later realising that a spark remains.
The process is difficult and risky yet I am surprised by the outcomes, often unexpected. In hindsight the period of separation comes to be understood as one necessary for the individuals to mature and to overcome personal difficulties.
They enter the counselling process with the belief that the other party will make amends, revise their position and apologise. Trouble is, each believes it is the other who will undertake to change or at least that the other person will change first.
However, reconciliation counselling is less about changing the past or even requiring agreement on prior positions. It accepts there will be different versions of past events and a lot of prior upset as a result.
Reconciliation counselling then is more of a go forward proposition. The thrust is future oriented and accepts that some hurts cannot be undone.
The process tends to be arduous, the beginning especially. It remains fragile until some time into the process when the parties finally begin to let down their guard and actually risk trusting again. It can be fraught with setbacks with both parties acting hypersensitivity to the other, looking for clues to justify an ongoing lack of trust. Persons outside of the process may hamper the progress seeking to keep their ally safe from harm such as might have befallen them in the past. Hence while the parties engage in the process themselves, attention may be required to manage the input of the onlookers and support systems. Source
Resources about and for children in separation
The research points to a handful of other things that make divorce less damaging for kids:
- Consistent contact with both parents is important, unless you just can’t keep conflict low. Sadly, the benefits of having a relationship with both parents doesn’t always outweigh the disadvantages of having parents who hate each other.
- Money matters: Many problems kids have after divorce, particularly academic ones, stem from economic hardship. Single parents are less likely to be able to pay for music lessons, high quality childcare, tutors, a safe neighborhood with good schools—you name it.
- “Good” divorces minimize the number of major transitions that kids need to make, because transitions usually bring stress. Generally speaking, the fewer household moves, the better. Remarriage can solve some problems, like those associated with economic strain, but it can bring more stressful transitions. It helps to be mindful of these stressors, and to look for ways to minimize their effects.
- Finally, when parents take care of themselves during a divorce, kids do better. “Stress impairs the quality of a parent’s childrearing skills,” Amato writes. For that reason, the “well-being of children is positively associated with the post-divorce psychological adjustment of the custodial parent.” In other words, how well you are doing tends to predict how well your children are doing.
So lean on your friends. Get therapy, or get a massage. Get enough sleep and exercise. Much of this blog is about how and why our happiness as parents matters, and that is certainly the case here, too.
In the end, I find that again and again it all comes back to conflict: If we can’t keep conflict low in a marriage, often the best thing for the kids is to end the marriage. In so doing, we may very well create more conflict. But when we take the long view and the high road, the best thing for the kids—and our own happiness—is to end the war with peace, compassion, and forgiveness. Source
- Relationships Australia provide some useful services in 1. helping set up a co-operative parenting plan 2. in providing mediation to get to a collaborative divorce, and 3. parenting after separation courses. This page on their site will start you off and the links on the left hand side are articles covering parenting issues and separation per se.
- This page from British Columbia is a good booklet on parenting after separation.
- You may have already discovered parent line, which we have found invaluable for a chat about all sorts of child stuff at all hours!
- Similarly Dr Greens site is a gem for example this page on making visits count and a Q&A about effect of separation on young kids.
- For the kids themselves the Berkeley parents network has a page of books recommended by the members.
- 'Helping your kids cope with the effects of separation and divorce' is a complete little article from a reliable source.
If all the above doesn't help the kids directly and indirectly - that is you continue to worry about their night time distress, school behaviour problems, separation anxiety, emotion and behaviour regression at home etc. then I recommend going with them to a specialist child psychologist.
Visit my tablet and smart phone site couple-therapy.org
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