The hidden surprise of
no fault divorce and how divorce law reforms could actually be destabilising marriage!
Crying is common in my clinic. I see clients every week who are crying over the breakdown of their marriage. It rarely happens overnight, usually the relationship has been falling apart for a long time. Festering issues stacking up and the warning signs being ignored, suppressed or glossed over with wishful thinking for many months, if not many years.
So when I hear that reforming the divorce laws will cheapen the institution of marriage or incentivise people to rush into a divorce I just don’t agree. In my experience there is no evidence that my clients take divorce lightly, it often takes years of unhappiness for them to get to the point of no return.
I do think that the divorce rate may increase slightly for a short while as those trapped in unhappy marriages take advantage of the new reforms to finally get the divorce they have wanted for a long time. But I believe this will settle down and the benefits will far outweigh any potential disadvantages. The divorce laws are antiquated, and times have changed. Beliefs about marriage and the stigma around divorce are no longer best served by trapping people in relationships they do not want to be in.
I’m a big believer that as adults we are all responsible for our own lives and for the decisions we make in life. If we are able to make the decision to commit to another human being for the rest of our lives, we should be able to make the decision to leave that partnership. It seems barbaric to me that anyone could be trapped in a marriage they do not want to be in. Not to mention the hot bed of domestic abuse (including emotional, physical, financial, sexual and coercive control) that can be hidden behind these archaic laws.
“But what if people make a mistake and rush into a divorce that they later regret?” I was asked on the radio recently. Well simply put, I believe we are all big enough to make our own mistakes! As adults we make decisions every day that can change our lives. Sometimes we get it right and other times we slip up. But surely it is our mistake to make?
No fault divorce is a blessing. It means that you no longer have to allocate blame to either party for the breakdown of the marriage. I have seen this to increase conflict from the get-go of the divorce for even amicable splits and pour petrol on the flames for the more acrimonious breakups.
Carol is a client of mine who has been devastated by the accusations made by her ex about why the marriage broke down. He filed for divorce claiming unreasonable behaviour and stating that she was difficult to live with, unkind to him and often stayed away from home. He told her that he had to make it up so that they could get the divorce through the system. She is an airline stewardess and so has to be away for work. She feels betrayed and hurt by his false accusations and this has caused many unnecessary arguments for them. It has increased legal costs and been so much more stressful for both Carol and her ex.
Gwyneth Paltrow shone a light on “Conscious Uncoupling” when her marriage to Chris Martin ended, which is an ideal way to end a relationship, especially if you have children. However when blame has to be allocated it often results in what I have termed “Aggressive Severing”, a long painful breakup with high conflict and lots of emotional suffering…and extortionate legal bills!
I was recently asked during a radio interview “Isn’t divorce bad for children?”. The truth is that a bad marriage is toxic for kids because as adults we are role models for our children. What are they learning about love and marriage when the relationship is flawed and dysfunctional? The important thing is how the parents behave during the breakup. Maintaining a “functionally friendly” relationship where parents work together is always in the best interests of the children. A little bit of respect and kindness goes a long way.
So if a divorcing couple can make the application together, without apportioning blame, this will get the process off to the best possible start. It gives them the best chance of avoiding conflict and remaining amicable which is a huge positive step forward. A big part of my work is helping clients to have an amicable divorce as there are important pitfalls to avoid and key steps to take.
The hidden surprise in all this is that I have seen a rise in clients seeking advice on how to improve their marriage. The fact that it is easier to get out of a marriage means that people are incentivised to work harder on their relationships! This week alone I have been asked “How can I get the spark back”, “How do I improve communication with my husband?” and “How can I reduce the number or arguments we are having?”
I think we see “settling” in marriages. After the wedding and the honeymoon period, throw in kids and a daily routine of school run, work, dinner time and sleep and it’s easy to see how the romance fades as other things take priority. We make less of an effort, date night is replaced with collapsing with exhaustion on the sofa in front of the TV! It’s normal and natural to not be as attentive and accommodating and personal standards drop as we take the partnership for granted. Michael is a client of mine who readily admits he stopped worrying about going to the gym and taking care of himself after a few years of marriage. He didn’t think it mattered and ended up putting on a huge amount of weight over the 17 year marriage. It was one of the points his wife listed in her divorce application which stung him badly, even though he knew it was true.
The good news is that there are lots of things you can do to improve your marriage. In fact I have had so many emails about this that I am launching a new course on how to save your marriage. It comes down to getting a deeper understanding of you and your partner, your values and your communication styles. It is possible to save floundering marriages, even if you only one of you is committed to do what it takes. Steve came to me with issues in his marriage that his wife was not prepared to work on with him. So we created an action plan for him to start on and after just a few weeks his wife was so impressed with the changes he was making that she started to make an effort too. She even booked an appointment with me herself to see how she could pull her weight to get the marriage back on track. That was two years ago now that they were on the brink of a divorce and they say they are happier than ever as they really understand each other now, after 12 years of marriage!
I guess the downside is that I have also seen an increase in clients who are feeling insecure in their relationships and they are now worried that their partners will leave them as it is easier to get a divorce. My advice is always to work on the relationship and not give up. However there are times when you need to be brave and face the fact that it just isn’t working. If you are with a partner who doesn’t love you it will be damaging to your confidence and self-esteem. If they don’t want to be with you anymore then forcing them to stay is never going to make you happy.
Divorce is never the easy option, no matter how the laws are reformed and changed. It is an emotional rollercoaster with practical challenges and financial stresses thrown in. It should be carefully considered and in my opinion it’s important not to leave with any regrets. Do everything you can to save the marriage. If you do this then if it does come to an end you can walk away with your head held high and knowing that you did everything you could to save it.
I have seen a rise in the number of Breakup and Divorce Coaches I am training in recent months. Many of them have been through tough breakups themselves and want to use their experience to inspire others that there is a silver lining at the end of this. Life can be good again and you can be happy after a divorce.
So YES I believe no fault divorce is a good thing and I welcome the divorce law reforms. Whilst divorce is never easy it can be a golden opportunity to redesign your life just the way you want it. Take back your control and create a future you are excited to live!
For more information about coaching with Sara Davison, training with her to become a Breakup and Divorce Coach or online programmes, visit www.saradavison.com. Or follow her social media FB, Instagram, Twitter, Linked In and YouTube for free daily tips and advice.
This is peak time for single parents struggling to cope when the children are with their ex. During the school summer holidays, I receive so many calls and emails from single parents who are finding it hard as their kids are away for long periods of time and even going abroad with their ex. The truth is nobody ever signed up to being a “part-time parent” so it’s only natural to find it challenging to get used to the fact that you can’t spend every day with your child.
It is never easy. Breaking-up or divorce usually means your children will split their time between each parent so you will have to get used to not having them with you all the time. You become what I have termed a “Part-Time Parent” which means you have time when you are Mum or Dad, but then also time when you are without them. This proves extremely challenging for many of my clients as they only identify as a parent and have lost touch of who they are as an individual.
Please don’t worry if this sounds like you! It is normal as parenting can be all consuming and it’s natural to lose a sense of self as it is a selfless job. So it’s to be expected that you feel a little lost when your children are away from you because your role and identity is based around them.
You are not just a parent, you are a human being with feelings and needs and this is a golden opportunity to refocus on you and putting yourself first for a change. I know that some of you will find this hard and almost feel guilty about it. However, the reality is that you do have time without your kids whether you like it or not, so you may as well make the most of it as you only live once!
If you are finding yourself struggling to cope then here are my 7 top tips to help you:
Recreate an identity for yourself that is not Mum or Dad, but YOU as an individual. It can be hard to remember what life was like before kids came along or what your purpose was but it’s time to think about who you are as an individual, what makes you tick, what you love doing, what makes you smile and what is important to you.
Use my technique Flip It and find something good about this situation. I had a client who decided to use the time alone to start up her old inline jewellry business and create an extra income stream during her time without her baby. Other clients have decided to use the time to get fit, spend time with friends they never see, relax and catch up on sleep, go on dates and also travel to dream destinations.
Do the right thing. In most cases it is the better for your children to spend time with their other parent. It is good for them to develop that bond and in their best interests to have a healthy relationship with both parents. Bear this in mind as I know for many of you it will help you to cope if you know it’s good for them!
Don’t doubt your role with your children. I have clients who find it hard for their children to spend time with a new blended family, especially if their ex has another partner. Don’t worry. Your child will know who you are to them and a Mum or Dad’s role in their life cannot be replaced if you are doing your best and they know that you love them. However hard you may find it, it is a good thing if your children like the new partner as it means they will feel happier being around them and make their time there more enjoyable. I know in some cases this can be a hard pill to swallow, but always do the right thing by your kids. If they are happy then this is a good thing.
Shift your focus from your children while they are away. I know you will miss them and of course you will think about them and wonder how they are, However it is key that you keep busy and refocus your mind on YOU and your life while they are away. You have an opportunity to do something for you and not be tied down by the parenting routine – so make the most of it!
Be an outstanding role model for your children. Whether we like it or not we are role models for our children. They will be learning how to cope with situations based on our behaviour! So even when it’s tough it’s important to bear this in mind and do the right thing. Don’t bad mouth your ex or put them down in front of your kids. Also by watching you pick yourself up and turn your life around and be happy again you will teach them a valuable life lesson. As I always say ”It’s not what happens to you in life that defines you, it’s what you do about it that makes you the person you are”.
Be the best you can be. It’s ok to have good days and bad days as long as you are moving in the right direction. It’s also ok to be YOU just the way you are. Don’t try to be something you are not – embrace your weaknesses as part of you and highlight your strengths. Remember nobody is perfect and so being you is unique so embrace it 100%!
I do know part-time parenting can be challenging but you will be surprised at how it does get easier with time ….and practice. Believe me that it is FUN to develop a sense of self and identity away from the kids and start to enjoy the freedoms that it brings. Of course you will always be a parent who loves being with your children – this won’t change. But being able to enjoy both sides of life will make you a happier parent when they do come home!
Sara Davison is the best selling author of “Uncoupling – How to survive and thrive after break-up and divorce”. She is a leading global expert in her field and media commentator. She runs a clinic in UK and also has clients around the world. She offers coaching sessions, Break-Up Recovery Retreats and online courses. For more information about coaching with Sara or her work please visit www.saradavison.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.