Your roadmap to a healthy divorce
In this instalment of Stowe guests, we are joined by Caroline D’ay, the UK’s leading Therapeutic Change Consultant and creator of ‘Standing Strong’, a divorcee wellbeing programme from Wellbeing Dynamics.
Having recently joined us at Stowe talks, Caroline is joining us on the blog to share her roadmap to achieving a healthy divorce.
Firstly, if you’re going through a divorce or relationship breakdown I’m so sorry, because whilst the end of any relationship can be a relief, it can also come as a terrible shock.
This roadmap will help you with the impact of divorce and coming through the process with a well-preserved sense of wellbeing. I’m using the word divorce in this report to encompass all relationship breakdowns.
When divorce is a shock
How you came to the point of divorce can be pivotal to how difficult and complex it will be.
What do I mean by that?
It’s all down to behaviour; what you or your partner have or haven’t been doing.
There are two main triggers for divorce:
An event be it, personal safety (for yourself and your children), financial (fraud, missing money) or addiction (gambling, drugs, sex etc.), or there may have been the discovery of something, usually, an affair, that you felt left you no other option but to leave.
Gentle drift – your marriage may have broken down slowly and drifted on until it was only a matter of time until the end was inevitable.
When we have a shock, the body floods with adrenaline and goes into fight/flight. Our instinct is to either rant and rave or withdraw to a safe place. When we’re back to a calmer frame of mind, the adrenaline dissipates, and we go back to normal.
In the case of divorce, however, there tends not to be a quick resolution to the situation.
This can lead to your adrenaline turning inward, causing you to dwell on things about which you feel anger, extreme sadness, anxiety or even guilt; all of which complicate the process.
Allow yourself time to come to terms with the fact that it’s happening. If you can de-emotionalise the process before your divorce begins, so much the better. Talking to good friends or a bit of counselling may help at this early stage.
However, the shock may have been so sudden that you’re left traumatised, leading to PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder]. Signs of this are flashbacks, insomnia or a strong emotional reaction to the thought of it.
This is beyond counselling and needs a remedy that will shift the emotions on the memory. The good news is that it’s relatively quick to resolve by a trained person and stopping the reaction will enable you to maintain a more useful frame of mind.
First things to do
It’s time for a spot of practical thinking and a bit of writing. So, make a list of all the things you need to consider – only a list, you’re not going to do any of it yet.
It can be much more enjoyable to do this with a trusted friend as, between you, you’re more likely to think of all the actions you’re going to need to take.
Here are a few to get you started:
- Where will you live while your divorce is going through?
- Are your finances adequate to see you through, or will you need more help?
- Do you need to separate your finances: joint accounts/credit cards/loans/mortgages?
- Who do you need to inform of your impending divorce [banks, insurance, credit cards]?
- Are there pension pots to consider? [Never mind where they are, do they exist?]
- Will you still have access to a car?
- What is your financial position likely to be at the end of your divorce?
- Are there children to consider?
- Will you have to make childcare arrangements so you can still work?
- Are there particular things that are yours or that you would like to retain?
- If you’re getting divorced, you need to find a solicitor to act for you.
- What do you envision the outcome of your divorce to be?
Getting everything down on paper or screen lessens the need to worry about it.
The more on your list, the better.
Remember that this is just a list, you’re not looking to do anything with it yet, but it will help you stay one step ahead of the process.
Appointing someone to act for you
You’re going to need professional help when you’re ready to proceed.
Most solicitors offer a short advice session where you can ask them about the normal progress of proceedings, and you can find out if you’re comfortable with them.
If your solicitor belongs to Resolution, they will champion the route of mediation whenever possible. This can be less confrontational, and it tends to cost significantly less in legal fees. Learn more the mediators at Stowe Family Law.
You’ll be attending meetings with your solicitor or appointed mediator and jointly with your ex-partner and their representatives. The more prepared you are, the easier these will be.
Taking back emotional control
Mental and emotional health is made up of layers of the things you believe, what’s important to you and your own experience.
The contents of your pile make up your story, which refers to the things you tell yourself and know to be true. Our story directs our attention and creates our current experience.
So, if you know or expect that your divorce is going to be difficult, you’ll notice proof of how difficult it is, and if you know or expect it to be easy, you’ll see how well it’s going.
This influences how much pressure you’ll be up against and ultimately, how well you’ll be able to cope.
A great argument for thinking positive?
Your mental health is inextricably linked with your physiology and your level of energy. Imagine the energy required to celebrate good news as opposed to being depressed.
Good mental health requires energy, so eating healthily and maintaining an exercise routine is part of the solution.
When you focus on taking care of yourself and the good possibilities that the future might hold for you, you’ll be in a better position to get through the process.
The following are areas that will help you:
Keeping good company
It’s so important to avoid withdrawing. Even if your natural reaction is to retreat, finding a support network will help you surface again. This could be close friends or a group designed for people going through separation or divorce.
There are many such groups online that offer support, most of which are free to join.
Research the groups and match them up with what you need right now. I looked online in my local area and found a host of different groups, from single parents to fitness to wellbeing. You don’t need to feel alone. There are loads of people out there willing to support you, and you’ll be most welcome.
Anxiety is fear about something that may, or may not, happen in the future—for example, being anxious about where you’re going to live or how things will turn out.
I’ve worked with people who have been hugely anxious about something that, in the end, didn’t happen. Anxiety depletes your energy, but the good news is that it’s quite easy to control once you’re aware of it.
A useful tip is to distract yourself and start thinking of something else.
Emotions are useful in the present because they’re a barometer of how things are, but they can get in the way of easy divorce.
The big emotions are anger, sadness, fear – which includes anxiety – and guilt. There are also other ones, such as shame or disappointment. It makes no difference if you were the one instigating the break-up or on the receiving end.
If you have a recurring unhelpful emotional response, it’s worth seeing a good therapist to get to the root of the problem so you can have a different and more helpful response.
Just being aware of your emotional response is a good place to start.
Time for you
On an aircraft they tell you to “put on your own mask first before helping other people”, and it’s like that with self-care.
It may be that you’ve spent so long looking out for everyone else, that you’ve forgotten to look out for yourself.
So, now it is about prioritising time for you; and there are many ways you could do this; even in a lockdown.
Spending time in mindfulness or meditation, enjoying a special meal, having an online makeover, reading a good book, joining a choir etc.
It’s all down to allowing yourself a bit of me-time because, in the words of the advert, you’re worth it.
Agreeing on the settlement
There’s a long and happy life to be lived after your divorce, and the aim is to agree on a settlement that will work for you.
Your solicitor can only work with what you present to them, and they will always act in your best interests.
Be careful to be practical and reasonable at this stage. (I’ve seen divorces where the parties have been so determined to not let the other half ‘get away with it’ that they’ve ended up full of angst, feeling hard done by and with an enormous legal bill.)
Do pay attention to your solicitor’s advice and instruct them as appropriate. It’s all too easy to forego something that you later regret.
If you feel bullied or overpowered by your partner, acknowledge it and get some help.
On the other hand, your divorce may be perfectly reasonable and a joy to behold.
Your long-term happiness may well be influenced by the decisions you make at this point, and it’s important to make them with a clear mind. If you’re being affected by your emotions, seek some help, then decide.
Wow! It’s all over, and you’re ready to start again. For me, it was when I had the keys to my new home, the furniture had arrived, and it felt like life could begin again.
It may be a time of celebration for some of you; it may be a time of grief for others. You may not have lived alone for a long time and may have new responsibilities to contend with. This is a new beginning, allow yourself a bit of time to start afresh.
This is the time to both reach out to your friends and make new friends. It’s helpful to mix with people who see the new you without all the history.
New friends are brilliant because they just accept you as you are. There’ll be plenty of time to open up should you feel it’s necessary. The focus at this stage is on getting all the support you need to settle in and start again.
So, there you are in the footsteps of your new life. Why not make a list of all the things you want to do – hobbies, holidays [when we’re allowed], new groups to join, things that will fit in with your lifestyle.
I see divorce as a process to be gone through on the way to a happier future.
That’s what life is all about.
I wish you well.
Get in touch
For more information or to book an appointment, please
Email: [email protected]
Ring: 020 8213 5898
Or use the contact sheet on the website www.wellbeingdynamics.com/contact
Family law advice
If you would like any advice your legal situation when going through a divorce, please do contact our Client Care Team to speak to one of our divorce lawyers.