When all else has failed, separation presents itself as the next logical step in a troubled marriage. A couple may be separated while waiting to be granted divorce from a court, or it can just be a way of giving each other space and time to decide on the next course of action.
Marriages generally go wrong because communication changes and deteriorates (that’s what “growing apart” essentially is) and it doesn’t get easier during the separation process either. Especially not then. The biggest danger during this process is a lack of guidelines and rules that have been set precisely and mutually agreed upon by both partners. Additionally, this is a time when self-awareness is extremely important and you don’t want to bring more chaos and misunderstanding than there already is. Here are some rules of communication that will prevent things from getting worse and help build trust during the separation.
Setting precise boundaries is crucial to avoiding misunderstandings and frustration. It’s a painful talk to have, but it has to be done honestly and without resentment, and it may even end up being relieving. Listen to your partner and tell them what you feel comfortable with. How often would it be okay for both of you to see each other? Will you be calling just to check up on each other sometimes, if yes, how often? If you haven’t decided on divorce, how much time specifically are you giving yourself before coming to a decision? What is a fair distribution of financial obligations, etc…?
It’s important to communicate openly and be considerate of both yours and your partner’s feelings in this situation. Be prepared, because one partner always wants more interaction than the other, so you’ll need to put in some effort to compromise (even though you might be really tired of that word). If you have children, setting boundaries becomes even more important, because you have to find solutions that are fair and beneficial to them.
Don’t provoke and don’t let yourself be provoked
The biggest problem during separation is that much too often, at least one partner tries to provoke fights whenever possible, and sometimes both do it, making the process unbearable. This is done in a number of ways, with passive-aggressive remarks, bringing up past feuds and trying to hurt the other person’s feelings through insults or actions. Be mindful of your behaviour and know how to recognize this impulse in your head, because provoking fights definitely won’t make you feel any better. When your partner is the one attempting to do this, take a step back and collect your thoughts so the situation doesn’t escalate. Engaging in toxic, snappy dialogue leads to absolutely nowhere but emotional pain for both sides.
Avoid communicating at all when you’re upset, even if the reason is momentarily unrelated to your relationship. If you’ve had a bad day at work or you simply feel highly strung, it’s almost inevitable you’ll take it out on your partner. Encourage your partner to do the same when they’re in a similar situation. It’s best to talk about this type of behaviour beforehand in order to avoid that classic dialogue of “I won’t talk to you unless you calm down. – I am calmed down!” Nevertheless, if your partner starts acting out, take deep breaths and maintain a civil tone. It’s easier said than done, but it’s important to not let yourself get pulled into the whirlwind for mundane reasons.
Get a mediator
If you simply can’t come to a mutual agreement on a number of things despite all the effort, getting help from an unbiased third party is the only solution. In Sydney, mediators work in professional companies which offer a range of services such as child-inclusive practice and separation coaching. Don’t hesitate to look for professional help in order to keep your communication productive. It’s much better and cheaper than eventually having to communicate only through an attorney.
Keep your families out of it
Yes, the process is emotional and difficult to bear all by yourself, so you need someone close to listen to your troubles and give you advice. But in most cases, bringing your parents or siblings into it causes a hurricane of accusations, judgement, and eventually disdain from your partner. Family members are rarely objective enough and they’re likely to agree with you even when you may be wrong, placing all the blame on your partner.
While this may seem tempting and comforting, it is in no way healthy for you and there’s a high probability they would only make matters worse for your already fragile communication. Sure, you can talk to them about how you feel and find consolation in their love and trust, but it’s better to refrain from details and the private conversations with your partner. Even with friends, be careful whom you talk to for advice. It’s best to talk to someone mature and trusted who has understanding and knows your partner well. And remember – there’s never only one side to a story.
Your marriage might seem like a fiasco at the moment, but it helps a lot to stay grounded and have respect for the relationship you once had. This is what couples tend to forget during the turmoil of the process. Whether you’re getting divorced or only taking time off to decide, remember that you went through life together for a certain period of time and although separated, the process is something you’re sharing as well. This kind of approach greatly emphasizes the meaning and importance of honest, respectful communication.