What is separation counselling? Isn’t couples counselling all about making it work?
If your relationship has broken down, you might be considering your options. Perhaps you have been thinking about trying couples counselling. On the other hand, maybe you feel like it’s too late to go for counselling together, and separation is your only option.
“Shall we go for counselling or split up?”
This post explains why this question presents a false dichotomy. Because if you are considering splitting up, this could be the perfect time for you to go to therapy together.
Separating Is Really Tough
Whether you’re considering a trial separation or a permanent break, this is likely to be one of the hardest things you ever do. The Social Readjustment Rating Scale (a large sample study into how traumatic people found stressful life events) rated divorce as the second most stressful life event, separation the third, and reconciliation the ninth of the forty-three events they considered.
There is no better time to get some support.
Separating Can Be Done Well
Just because it’s not going to be easy, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done well. There is a lot to consider, and working through it all on your own when emotions are running high can be difficult.
Separation counselling can give you a safe environment with an impartial third party where you can talk things through and come to some agreements.
Things to Consider
Disentangling your lives can be complicated. There is a lot to consider. (Every relationship is different and your circumstances might mean there are things you need to work out which are not on this list.)
Time limits – If it is a trial separation, it usually works best to agree a time limit after which you will meet and discuss whether you want to make the break permanent or get back together.
Moving out – Who will stay and who will go? Is cohabitation still an option?
Division of possessions – What can be taken from the joint home? What will you need to buy and who will pay?
Finances – What savings/debts/expenses do you have? Who is responsible for what? What needs to change and what will stay the same?
Your relationship – It might be important to you to be explicit about the new boundaries. Will you still spend time together, or perhaps try dating each other during the break (if it is a trial) in order to work on the relationship?
Dating others – What are you expectations about seeing other people?
Confidentiality – What do you both want to say to the various people in your lives about the separation? What do you want kept private?
Renegotiation – It can help to make a plan for how you will deal with it when things change in future.
If you have children, you will probably want to minimise disruption to their lives. How will you divide childcare? How much flexibility will there be? Will you still spend time together as a family? What and how will you tell them about the separation?
When their parents separate it can affect children in a multitude of ways. Not all of these are always immediately obvious, even to the parents. It is important to think carefully about how you will keep any children who are involved up to date about what is going on. And the better you are able to process your own feelings, the more available you will be to help them to understand theirs.
Parents breaking up can be traumatic for children. But you can minimise the stress by making efforts to co-operate and separate as peacefully as possible. Separation counselling can provide a space for you to consider your children’s best interests and make plans for everyone’s futures.
You might have hoped that once you agreed to separate you wouldn’t have much to disagree about any more. Sadly it doesn’t always work like that. You will still have lots to work out, and many separated couples argue about things like money, belongings, and the children.
Conflict can be very upsetting, but it can be hard to break away from it. It might feel like your only way of keeping in contact. If you stop arguing, will you still see each other? How would you feel about that? One or both of you might be hoping that somehow things will still work out, or not know how to finish things properly. Or perhaps you are just so angry, and you don’t know what else to do with your rage other than keep getting into arguments with your ex-partner.
Talking it through with a counsellor can help you understand how and why you keep getting drawn into the disputes, and how to change things.
It can be hard to accept that your life has changed so much. By taking time to understand what has happened between you and make a plan for the future, you can reach a place of acceptance. This can be a great relief, and the first step towards moving on with your lives.
What to Do Next
I specialise in helping individuals and couples to improve their relationships with themselves, each other, and other people. If you are considering separation counselling and would like to discuss how I might be able to help, you can call me on on 07428 396671 or email me here. You can also join my mailing list here.