New divorce laws are seeking to remove the blame game, but what else can you do to ease the painful process?
As it stands, the divorce process seems almost out of touch with the modern world, forcing couples play the blame game, and pin the breakdown of the marriage on a a tangible reason. These current laws state that one party has to accuse the other of adultery or unreasonable behaviour, instantly creating one guilty party.
But what if you, as humans do, just fall out of love? What if you want to keep the divorce as positive as possible? The new proposed laws will allow divorce proceedings to go ahead with the couple only having to state that the marriage has broken down irretrievably, a key move forward for removing excess blame for divorces.
How to get a positive divorce
According to Relate relationship therapist and family counsellor, Denise Knowles, eliminating the blame game is one of the most important factors in keeping a divorce as amicable and pain-free as it can be.
‘IF YOU’RE GOING TO MAKE FALLING OUT OF LOVE A CRIMINAL OFFENCE, THEN WE’RE IN A LOT OF TROUBLE’.
‘Once the laws are passed, the idea of getting rid of blame and fault is a really positive step forward, in that, certainty in Relate and in my counselling rooms, I see just how detrimental finding fault or blame is in relationships,’ she explains to Prima.co.uk.
‘It echoes the changing world that we live in in relationships, there are so many pressures on relationships now, people do in fact just fall out of love. If you’re going to make falling out of love a criminal offence, then we’re in a lot of trouble.
‘The idea of not having to find fault has the potential to reduce the tension between a couple, and also this kind of tit for tat, which can increase animosity and acrimony between the couple.’
How to divorce with children involved
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‘Children living in an environment with a lot of conflict is what we’re looking to reduce with these laws,’ explains Denise, insisting that removing conflict is one of the most important parts of having a positive and amicable divorce.
‘If you can reduce the conflict in a household then the children themselves can actually grow up in a more calm environment.
‘When you’ve got blame, you can have one parent saying “your mum hasn’t done this and your mum hasn’t done that” – so they say these things to the children and this in itself is very damaging to the children, and to ongoing relationships between parent and child,’ explains the therapist.
Working at Relate, Denise is met with countless couples experiencing marital issues, and knows first-hand how it can deeply affect not only the couple, but also their children, and sadly, their relationship with their children.
‘ANYTHING THAT IS GOING TO BE ABLE TO REDUCE CONFLICT HAS TO BE LOOKED AT POSITIVELY’.
‘We’re seeing a lot of talk now about parental alienation,’ she reveals. ‘One parent is alienating the child from the other. With all of that going on, being able to not have fault is a really positive step forward – which will not only benefit the children but the adults as well.’
Reducing blame also helps the extended family, which as Denise insists, is something that people often forget. ‘It’s not just the mum and the dad, its friends, grandparents, uncles, aunties. Anything that is going to be able to reduce conflict has to be looked at positively,’ she says.
How to make sure divorce is the right step
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When it comes to proceeding with a divorce, the first step it to take everything in, and make sure that the process is 100 percent what you want to do.
‘The first thing is asking, “are you absolutely sure that this is what you want to do?”,’ explains Denise. ‘Asking yourself “do you understand what’s driving this?”, is it that you’ve just fallen out of love, how it is that you’ve fallen out of love, because there’s a lot of understanding to be done.
‘At Relate we see a lot of couples who are not sure, they just want to talk things through. What we look to do is see what’s going on, and get them to run through the reasons for leaving, reasons to give it another chance, and reasons to stay, possibly things they’d forgotten they loved about each other.’
How to ensure a positive divorce process
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If you and your partner know that divorce is the right decision, and are certain that it’s what you’re looking for, then making things as grown up and civil as possible is the most important step to ensuring a smooth, less traumatic process.
‘YOU NEED TO THINK…”MOVING FORWARD, HOW CAN WE BE ACTUAL FRIENDS?”’
‘You need to think, “we need to put our children in the middle, work out how we work together as parents to make sure our children have a good enough experience, and moving forward, how can we be actual friends?”,’ Denise advises.
‘There’s a lot of talking to be done, that should be done on a practical, pragmatic level, but you have to take into account the emotions that are involved in this. There’s often a lot of pain.’
How to help your child through a divorce
The breakdown of a relationship can be painful and complicated, filled with hurt and resentment, but it is important to keep conflicting, angry and difficult conversations out of ear shot of your children.
‘If you’re going to have conflicting, angry and very difficult conversations, they’re conversations best had out of the ear shot of your children,’ says Denise.
‘When you’ve got children, sit down and agree together what it is you’re going to say to the children, and tell them all together.
‘Sit down, first decide what it is you’re going to tell them, then tell them together. If they ask questions you haven’t considered, be honest and say, “oh we haven’t thought about that, we need to have a discussion and we’ll get back to you” – so there no visible undermining of one another.’
Maintaining a positive divorce process
It’s not always easy and, if you’re having to stay under the same roof, then one of the important things to be able to do is maintain some common courtesy.
‘Remember that you don’t have right to know exactly what’s going on,’ insists Denise. ‘So, if I’m going out, I’ll tell you I’m going out and give you an idea of when I’ll be back, but you don’t need to know anything else.’
Going through this common courtesy type behaviour will help, particularly when it comes to protecting your children. ‘It’s important to remember that if you’re still in the house, and your children are still seeing you, they need to see you getting on but having boundaries,’ the relationship therapist advises.
‘IF YOU HAVE CHILDREN IT’S ALSO IMPORTANT TO LET THE SCHOOLS KNOW, SO THEY CAN BE THERE IN SUPPORT’.
‘You may be sleeping in separate bedrooms but you don’t need to tell the children you’re in separate bedrooms because you don’t like each other. Tell them “mummy and daddy are getting a divorce so it’s not appropriate to sleep together”.’
It’s common for couples to try to protect their children by keeping divorce matters from them, but Denise thinks it’s important to keep them informed.
‘People think children are going to be badly affected, depending on their age of course, but more often than not younger children just need to know, where they’re going to sleep, how they’ll see mummy and daddy, are they going to have to change schools, what about friends – you have to think about their world.
‘If you have got children it’s also important to let the schools know, so they can be there in support of the child.
For couples thinking of divorcing, or even those experiencing marital issues, there’s no denying that the proposed new laws are a refreshing move into the 21st century, and a reminder that divorce, no matter how complicated, doesn’t have to be riddled with hatred, anger, pain and blame.
If you would like information, help and advice on Family Mediation please contact us at Relate West Surrey – 01483 602998/ firstname.lastname@example.org