As Adele says in her top selling song “Someone Like You”, “sometimes it lasts in love and sometimes it hurts instead.” While the solicitors at Armstrong Legal have expertise in the legal aspect of people’s separations, we understand that for clients, the emotional aspect of the separation is at least equally important. The reality is that almost everyone has had a failed relationship and we all know how painful and difficult it is. Lost love is a universal theme understood in any language in any culture in the world. This is partly why Adele’s song is so successful. It manages to capture a feeling that almost everyone has had at some point.
In an article published on the website of mediate.com, Kathleen O’Connell-Corcoran has written an interesting article which covers the psychological and emotional aspects of divorce and separation. The part of her extensive article which I find particularly interesting is the emotional stages of divorce and separation. She states that “Marriages do not break down overnight; the break-up is not the result of one incident; nor is the break-up the entire fault of one party. The emotional breaking up process typically extends over several years and is confounded by each party being at different stages in the emotional process, while at the same stage of the physical, (or legal) process”.
One technique which people may sometimes use to try and cope with the breakdown of a relationship is to create an over exaggerated distance from their former partner. They may often try to portray their former partner as really awful, or may seek vengeance. Kathleen O’Connell-Corcoran says, “When parties put their focus on getting even, there is an equal amount of energy expended on being blameless”.
Another method to try and rationalise the breakdown is to decide that the marriage was a wholly unpleasant experience and escaping it is good. Kathleen O’Connell-Corcoran is of the view that “Thinking that the marriage was wholly unpleasant is unfair to both parties and can hinder emotional healing. Both stayed in the marriage for as long as they did because there were some good things about it. There were also some things that did not work for them and this is why they are divorcing”.
While it can be difficult to take a more complicated view of your relationship with your former partner, than a black and white view in which they are demonised, Kathleen O’Connell-Corcoran is of the view that in the longer-term this will lead to a more healthy mental state. She also believes that people should take responsibility for the things they did well and the things that they did not do well in the relationship in order that they may learn from this and have better relationships in the future.
I also think that if people can take a more balanced view of their ex-spouse, this is likely to be of positive benefit for the children of the relationship, as it may be hurtful to them to know that mum or dad really hates the other parent. While in the short-term it may be tempting to simply demonise one’s ex-partner, in the longer-term, it is probably healthier to have a more holistic view of the relationship and accept the things that both people did well and not so well in the relationship. Kathleen O’Connell-Corcoran advises that “people healing will involve acceptance, focussing on the future, taking responsibility for their own actions (now and during the marriage) and acting with integrity”.
Interestingly, Kathleen O’Connell-Corcoran also makes the argument later in her article that the mediation process is more emotionally healthy, rather than the litigation process which aligns itself with an attitude of blame, highlighting everything that the other party did wrong. I think there may be some truth to this, however, in some cases litigation is appropriate. Ideally, although we are lawyers, if possible I think we should assist clients with processes that achieve the outcomes they want, but do not destroy the relationships any more than necessary along the way. In this regard, all of the solicitors at Armstrong Legal are collaboratively law trained. Collaborative law facilitates parties in resolving parenting and property matters in a way that does not create further animosity between them. Read more articles about collaborative law here and here.
However, I also think that in some circumstances, if one is dealing with another person who is not hearing their point of view and has unrealistic expectations, or is attempting to bully the other party, then litigation is necessary as the only way to deal with the situation.
If you are currently undergoing a separation from your previous partner and would like advice regarding possible next steps to resolve parenting and/or property issues, please do not hesitate to contact us at Armstrong Legal on (02) 9261 4555.