I am yet to meet anyone who wants to go through a separation or divorce process. This is not to say I haven’t met many people who can no longer stay in their relationship or have been left by their partner. Either way, no one wants to go through a separation process. Who would want to uproot their lives, see their children less frequently, have less financial security or sell their family home?
Separation & divorce truly is one of life’s most stressful experiences. Nearly every part of our life needs to be rifled through to determine if it needs to be negotiated, compromised over, kept, sold, or handed over to our ex-partner.
There are also many emotional aspects we need to work through, especially fear, sadness, shame and humiliation. Added to this are the things in the diary or dreams of our couple future that will now never eventuate. It can feel as if life as we know it continues for everyone else – except for us, and our life is being painfully pulled apart.
Separation & divorce tests our emotional maturity at so many levels. It tests our capacity to look after our health and wellbeing and not go off the rails. It tests our ability to still care about the wellbeing of our ex-partner and not seek their destruction through the legal system or poisoning our children against them. It tests our ability to love our children and put them first, even if we are hurt, angry or anxious about the separation process.
It’s important to understand that just because our relationship did not go in the direction we wanted, it does not give us the right to tear someone down legally, destroy them or pit the children against them. Even if they don’t treat us respectfully, we don’t need to join them in the sandpit of hostility. We will just become part of the problem and end up in a toxic wasteland with them.
I believe that to healthily move through this process we need to develop what I have named an Anchor of Integrity. It’s an anchor that holds our ship firmly in place in a storm, and in calmer moments it’s our compass and can help guide our decisions and actions. There will be many times that we want to let loose on our ex-partner yet having an Anchor of Integrity stops us from doing this.
Using our Anchor of Integrity, we can make decisions about how to divide assets, how to handle ourselves in legal process, how to manage our emotions, how to put the health of the children first, and how to communicate with our ex-partner. Every decision needs to come from a place that is thoughtful and centred. It is crucial as we are making decisions that have long term consequences for everyone.
One way of orientating ourselves with an Anchor of Integrity is to imagine approximately 20 years into the future, imagining our older and wiser self looking back at us now.
Ask your older and wiser self –
We can all improve our ability to operate respectfully, non-reactively, and in a dignified manner. It is hard to believe this when we are in it, but this process will one day end. We all can make our present and future selves proud of the way we handled this difficult time. This is done by developing our Anchor of Integrity.