Breaking up is rarely simple. Someone who once shared your life could soon become a stranger. But should exes stay in touch or should they have a complete clean break? That was the question I was asked on BBC Tees this morning by presenter Mike Parr.
I explained that there are two different ways to interpret a “clean break” following the end of a romantic relationship like a marriage: the severing of emotional ties and the resolution of financial issues. Both of these come with their own sets of complications and difficulties.
Not wanting to see a former partner ever again is understandable in some circumstances, there may be a history leading up to the breakup, but if the former couple are parents this is not really possible. Parents will always be linked by the children they have together. They will have to make arrangements for events such as birthdays, Christmas and school parent evenings.
Additionally, if the children are still young it is important that their parents get along, even if they are no longer in a relationship. Young children can be seriously affected by the way their parents interact and arguments do them no good. A united approach towards parenting and a common agreement about how children should be brought up will provide them with greater stability.
The financial side of a breakup can be just as tricky, especially in a divorce.
Usually the party who is in a stronger financial position will want to have a ‘clean break’. This may involve a one-off, lump sum payment instead of ongoing maintenance. Following a clean break, the two parties will often no longer have any financial obligations towards each other at all. This sounds good if you don’t have to worry too much about your income, but for some people on lower incomes or who are looking after young children spousal maintenance is necessary to help make ends meet and to provide a decent standard of living in both households. Therefore, the following financial disputes can cause former partners to deal with each other for much longer than they would want to.
However, divorce does not have to be contentious and combative. There are ways to put everything in order amicably such as mediation, arbitration and collaborative law. The courtroom should really be the last option. Unfortunately, mediation has not been as popular as the government had hoped during their recent push for it to be seen as an alternative to the courts. Even so, some couples have found that mediation was useful in helping them resolve their disputes.
So should you stay in touch with an ex? Unfortunately, there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer because every breakup is different. It may be easy for some couples to cut all ties from each other but, as I have explained, for others it is not quite so simple.
Click here to listen to the interview.
Photo by Garry Knight via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.