What is a good divorce?
This is a particularly leading question for some of the people that come to us for family mediation. How on earth can a divorce ever be good we can hear people saying. Well sometimes both parties accept that the relationship has reached the end of the road and that it needs to end and they want to do it as amicably as possible in order to make life after separation characterised by a positive and respectful relationship. This is of course the best way where you are going to be co-parenting together after a separation.
But in situations where one person has made the decision to separate and the other is struggling to process that decision (let alone come to terms with it) the concept of a good divorce can be far more than they compute. This is OK. It takes time to get your head around the fact that you are separating – especially so where you did not want the separation to take place and you still have strong feelings for your partner. There can thought be a strong idea that you don’t want your children affected by all that is happening, or that whatever happens you would like to have a friendly relationship when things have settled down. These are seeds of ideas that we think make up the notion of a ‘good divorce’. We would define a good divorce as being characterised by the following:
1. You understand and respect that each other feel differently and that you will not be able to agree on this but you wish to find a way forward that works for you.
2. You feel strongly that the effects of your separation on your children should be as minimal as possible. You want to ensure your children have a good relationship with both parents going forwards – regardless of how you feel about the other parent right now.
3. You are focused on finding a solution that works for everyone. It may not be perfect and it may not be your ideal solution but it is important to you that everybody feels that it can work.
It may also be helpful to clarify that having a ‘good divorce’ doesn’t mean never getting angry and losing your temper. You cannot put your emotions in a box and separate yourself from them. The healing process which forms part of life after separation (or the decision to separate) involves a range of emotions and feeling angry, depressed, guilty, or shocked is a normal part of this. What having a ‘good divorce’ does mean is knowing when to say:
1. I shouldn’t have said that and I’m sorry. I was angry and I reacted from that place. We see how powerful contrition about a difficult incident can be and how taking down the barriers can create greater understanding and compassion
2. I am really struggling with this bit and I really need some time/space/assistance from my GP/help from a professional person like a therapist so we can all get past this and not feel stuck and overwhelmed.
A ‘good divorce’ has become probably another way of saying ‘conscious uncoupling’ which was made famous during Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s separation but remember no one really knows what happened between Gwyneth and Chris and you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you are really having a bad day, or if you have said something you shouldn’t. What you can do is draw a line after any difficult, unpleasant or challenging situation and decide that things will be better from this moment forwards. We are all human and we get it wrong sometimes but a ‘good divorce’ usually comes from recognising his and getting the right support to help you work together to find a mutually agreeable outcome, or as we like to call it a resolution tailor made to you and your family.
You can also check out our Facebook Live on this blog
If you’d like access to all our tips and guidance on all matters related to life after separation then please join our mailing lists for separating couples, or for professionals working with separating couples.