Becoming separated from your partner can be a truly traumatic experience, there can be few folks who take this step lightly, and most folk are, in some way, powerfully changed by the experience. I sometimes think of this as a kind of smelting process; you don’t usually come out of it with a wholly different personality, but after the suffering-and perhaps the emancipation which seems inherent in the process-you are deepened, it’s like a soul change.
It could be said that there are four areas of divorce: the legal, the financial, the parental and the emotional, and it’s this last one that can make or break a person. The sheer emotional toll that the wounds of divorce throw up can, at times, be too much to bear.
This is why you should not do this on your own: you need what I call your circle of allies.
Image a series of concentric circles with you in the centre. There is a first circle around you, holding you and protecting you like a shield or a warm embrace. Here stand the persons who will offer you consistent emotional support during your separation and divorce; they are not “Yes Men and Women” but will be folk in your family or close friends who not only support you but call you out and challenge you at times, letting you know when you are going off track or losing focus (and you will).
The next circle could be friends and workmates who you are not so close to but you can confide in, they may even be your CEO at work (but take care!) who realise you are struggling. If this was an actual 3D model you could walk from one circle into the next.
The circles pan out according to who is closer and knows you better.
What is the criteria for inclusion in the circle? Perhaps the most important qualities our allies need to have is trust and confidentiality, followed by a sense of authenticity. We don’t need our private lives broadcast all over the community in which we live, so the ability of our friends and confidantes to respect this confidentiality will be paramount, as will a sense of the non-judgemental, for as we journey down this road and become quite emotional at times, perhaps even quite irrational at times, we will need the steady support of those who are robust and true.
The other type of support we will is need is professional support, which could be a lawyer who will represent us, a financial consultant who will guide us through the pitfalls of the financial breakup-and a therapist.
Why a therapist? Because with the best will in the world a lot of our friends have not the trained and professional resources to spot relationship trauma, depression, panic, domestic violence and its impact and know what to say or do. Your lawyer might be with you for a short time, but it might be that you call on the support of a counsellor or therapist for a longer period; often the most important factor in divorce is coming out of it with your wellbeing intact.
Don’t divorce alone!