Looking for help to divorce better

Published in Blog by Liz Hamlin on December 1st 2023

Why less defensive is less expensive when it comes to divorce and separation. Liz Hamlin, a couple psychotherapist and joint head of clinical services at Tavistock Relationships (TR), explains how the charity’s divorce and separation service helps couples to lessen their defensiveness so they can have the conversations they need to have and find a bearable way through. #DivorceBetter

For most couples, there’s a sad paradox when it comes to divorce and separation – just when you need to be able to communicate with one another better than ever before, you’ve often stopped speaking at all.

This can be because all the changes and tensions between ‘soon to be ex partners’ become so overwhelming and seemingly impossible to manage, that people often shut down. Couples in this situation may come to us struggling to find the belief or confidence of finding a way to speak or negotiate with one another about decisions that need to be made.

Issues for resolution

No fault divorce has helped as blame no longer has to be cited, but the issues of splitting their lives are still there and must be addressed and resolved. These issues principally tend to centre around money and children. How will their assets be split so each person can rebuild their lives, and how can the care of the children be shared where differences in parenting become magnified.

Feelings of fear, resentment and bitterness at what seems to be unfair must be managed, so that people can find a pathway through the process …

Marriage is a legal agreement and dismantling it takes its toll on people in many different ways. Feelings of fear, resentment and bitterness at what seems to be unfair must be managed, so that people can find a pathway through the process, reducing the potential psychological harm to themselves or their children.

When couples decide to separate, they have to rebuild their lives and the uncertainty that accompanies this will inevitably provoke varying levels of anxiety and stress. And when under emotional stress, people can act in seemingly odd ways and behave out of character.

Support through the process

TR’s Divorce and Separation Consultation Service offers an initial three consultations with a therapist to help partners work on their communication. It’s for individuals as well as couples. Sometimes one person will come to us for the first consultation, and then their partner will join for the next.

At the last of the three consultations, it may be agreed for a further set if the process is found to be supportive. It’s not a long-term therapy service, but one that helps people think about their lives and how they want to live them, making the best choices they can.

The service isn’t just for people who are clear they want to separate. It’s also for people who are uncertain about their future. The emotional support we give can also help people to find a way to co-habit if they can’t afford to separate, or to move into our general service if they want to find a way of bringing about change and stay together.

If people do want to separate or divorce, we can help them to become less defensive, opening up the space which is invaluable when making the decisions required around childcare and splitting finances.

If people do want to separate or divorce, we can help them to become less defensive, opening up the space which is invaluable when making the decisions required around childcare and splitting finances. This makes the process of legal separation or divorce less expensive both financially and emotionally, preventing long, drawn out conflict and potentially having to resort to the family courts to resolve matters. Using the courts can take years and makes it much harder on everyone, especially the children.

Ahead of the first consultation we ask both partners to answer a series of questions on a form, which is completely confidential and is not shared between the couple. This allows us to find out what the main areas of concern are and how these issues are perceived by each partner.

A space to find a new way forward

Our consultations provide a space for people to begin to get a hold of this new reality and to find a way through. So they can begin to come to terms with what is happening and all that is being stirred up within them. So they can cope with their own destabilization, and their children’s feelings of loss. So they can face it, bear it and find a way through it, and ultimately rebuild their lives.

Read about TR’s Divorce and Separation Consultation Service.

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