Splitting up well

Published in Blog by Tavistock Relationships on July 14th 2023

The end of a relationship can be a difficult time emotionally. After all, we generally embark on committed relationships hoping that they will succeed, not fail. And so when things don’t work out it can release a flood of emotions such as grief, disappointment, anger, fear and sadness.

Of course the history of the relationship, and how and why it ended, can leave us feeling bitter and resentful towards our former partner. These feelings can be particularly intense when there are children in the mix, and both partners are left needing to find a way to be co-parents – a huge shift after being romantically involved.

With feelings running high, it can be very hard to believe that it could ever be possible to reach a point where the former partners manage to form, and sustain, more of a business-like relationship with one another.

But doing so is not only healthier for the adults involved but, crucially, for the children too. Poorly resolved conflict between co-parents can have a significant and harmful impact on children’s mental health and general wellbeing.

This is not to say that any break-up necessarily will be amicable. Many relationships end badly, leaving bitterness, resentment and recrimination in their wake. But, over time, even the bitterest of break-ups can to some extent be worked through to the point where the couple manage to fully and truly separate - psychologically as well as in terms of their practical living arrangements and childcare responsibilities.

Finding a better way to split up

Spitting up well involves a separation or divorce where both ex-partners work collaboratively to reach a favourable outcome instead of hurting one another or trying to score points.

Compromising, or even talking to your former partner, may be the last things you want to do, but you don’t have to love the person you’re dealing with, nor be thrilled with the situation, to work toward the best result for you and your family.

Trying to get to a place where you can have, and sustain, more of a business-like relationship with your former partner can help you avoid getting stuck on, or overwhelmed by, negative thoughts when going through the pain of separation.

Trying to get to a place where you can have, and sustain, more of a business-like relationship with your former partner can help you avoid getting stuck on, or overwhelmed by, negative thoughts when going through the pain of separation. None of this is easy – after all, it can feel much more gratifying at times to point score and try to settle old scores rather than find a more constructive way forward, particularly if you are the one who has felt wronged somehow during the course of your relationship. But, ultimately, it is it your own interests, and those of any children involved, that you set aside such feelings in order to find a more constructive way forward.

The benefits of splitting up without ongoing acrimony

There are many reasons why splitting up without ongoing acrimony is beneficial for everyone involved. These include fewer costs (no lawyers involved), less stress (arguing and acrimony are immensely tiring and draining), knowing that you have acted in the best interests of your children, retaining some control over proceedings (rather than let a judge decide for you – which often means that you end up with a solution which satisfies neither party) and more time (because you haven’t spent weeks/months/years arguing over childcare arrangements and financial assets).

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