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Self-care when you don’t care: how to deal with a relationship breakdown

There’s no question that breaking up is hard to do. Dealing with a divorce or relationship breakdown is an emotional time and one that takes its toll on all involved. Sarah Barr-Young, Managing Partner at the Stowe Family Law office in Ilkley, shares the advice she gives to clients on how to handle divorce and separation.

Riding the roller-coaster of powerful emotions that come with a family breakdown can easily prevent clarity of thought. You may find yourself living under the same roof as your ex-spouse, or perhaps there has been an affair and you just want the marriage to be over.

In these situations, people often agree to a financial settlement without any legal advice so they can end the case as quickly as possible. Understandable, yes. However, walking away without legal advice will have far-reaching effects on your family’s future and your finances. You need to seek advice when you least feel like it to ensure you get the support you need to deal with your divorce.

Recognising that you are not coping well is the first step to protecting yourself. Secondly, you need to get support for your mental health and legal advice as promptly as possible. When making decisions, you need a clear head and this is one of the hardest things to achieve when going through a relationship breakdown. I always ask what support networks my clients have in place to help them.

The difficulty with a divorce is that everyone will tell you their story, whether you want to hear it or not. But each divorce is different and the financial settlement will be decided on by the facts of the case and the assets within the marriage. Well-meaning family members and friends may have lots of advice and support for you, which is great, but it can cloud your judgement and be misleading.

In my view, the best form of support is through a professional third party (counselling is available on the NHS; however, the waiting lists are long). There are a huge variety of different support services available including counsellors, divorce coaches, therapists and psychotherapists. In recent months, I have met a psychotherapist who deals with female clients only and an eco-therapist who takes her clients for workshops in nature.

Over the years, the dialogue surrounding self-care, divorce and mental health has found a strong voice and rightly so. The majority of family lawyers now offer a holistic approach and will have within their arsenal a handful of trusted professionals that can be recommended to clients in need of support.

I’m not promising that seeing a therapist will solve everything but, in my experience, individuals going through family breakdown really do benefit from the support. Therapy will not make the difficult times go away but it should give you the skills to cope with it and retain clarity of thought when needed.

In terms of self-care, it really is the little things that make a difference to help manage anxiety and distress.  Be kind to yourself, slow down, be patient and be prepared for moments of clarity following by crashing moments of anxiety about the future. The human body is resilient but adopting routines that include fresh air, eating well, exercise and taking a break from social media will help your head keep in shape too.

By caring for yourself, you will be able to care for your children better if they are struggling with the new family dynamic. Failure to pay attention to self-care can sabotage the recovery process and achieving the best deal possible for your family and future. If your thought process is clouded by the strength of emotion, then you risk rushing into a deal that might not be fair. Always check any potential settlement with a solicitor.

Finding a therapist with the right skills for you is easier than ever with a growing bank of specialist counselling available. They differ hugely in personality and approaches but the tools are there. Sometimes it’s taking that first step and making the call.

Sarah can be contacted by phone on 01943 489000 or make an online enquiry

Sarah advises in all aspects of family law and has experience of divorce cases involving substantial income and capital as well as businesses and trust structures. She also advises on child law, cohabitation and nuptial agreements.

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