The second edition of Marilyn Stowe’s guide to the legal and emotional aspects of divorce and separation was published at the very end of last year.
Divorce & Splitting Up: Advice from a Top Divorce Lawyer offers an accessible but detailed guide to the end of relationships, in all their messy complexity. In this extract, Marilyn considers the emotional fallout of divorce and a return to life as a single person, something many divorcees do not want and never asked for.
Emotions are very difficult to control during a turbulent relationship breakdown. You may find yourself unable to hide your feelings, and expressing yourself inappropriately. Alternatively you may bottle up your feelings; this, too, can be a mistake. Please don’t think that your feelings and experiences are confined to you alone. There are others who are in similar situations and who feel exactly the same as you do.
I keep a regular supply of tissues in my office because it is quite normal for clients to become extremely upset at the beginning of a case. When a client first comes to see me, it is no surprise -indeed, it is almost expected – for the client to break down in tears. Emotions are at their rawest; the pain is at its most intense.
These people can suffer from depression, misery and compulsive behaviour such as drinking or even stealing. Some people will lose weight; others will gain it. Often they may suffer from sleeplessness, rashes, aches and pains, the causes of which are not physical. Coupled with the stress of marital breakdown, these people also have to contend with wholesale gossip about their travails. Small wonder then, that in the initial stages of a divorce, clients can be overwrought and stressed to their limit.
I don’t encourage anyone to persist in concentrating on the negative rather than the positive. If something has happened then it has to be faced. The future is more important than the past. The questions of who, why and how are all very well in the short term; in the long term they are harmful. The gossips will soon move on and begin picking over the bones of the next meaty story.
The best remedy is to concentrate on the future. Do your best to leave your problems with your lawyer, who is not emotionally involved and who should always remain professional. Force yourself to do other things and think of other things. Feelings of revenge, bitterness and anger can have no apparent effects on the targets of those emotions. They won’t affect your spouse. Some clients can spend a long time feeling sorry for themselves, wallowing in self-pity. But this is not the answer, harsh though it may seem at the time.
The required approach is one of confidence in oneself and in the future, however daunting that future seems. If we were all aware of what was going to happen to us in the future there would not be much point in living, but we do live and tomorrow does come. Given time and a positive, patient attitude, people come through divorce stronger and more self-sufficient than they ever were.