Archive for divorce

Is it Gutsy to stay in a marriage after Infidelity?

Hilary Clinton was speaking to ABC’s Good Morning America this week to promote a book she wrote with her daughter Chelsea The Book of Gutsy Women. 

When asked “what was the gutsiest thing Hilary had ever done” she replied “politically running for President and personally making the decision to stay in my marriage with my husband – just getting up every morning and keep going.”  

Esther Perel whose book The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity: challenges the stigma of shame we face in choosing to stay with a partner whereas it used to be choosing to divorce that carried the stigma.

This raises very challenging questions for couples facing issues of infidelity and seems to be what brings more and more couples to couples therapy.  

Is it gutsy to stay in a marriage with someone who has cheated on you or is it cowardly and self destructive to stay with someone who has broken your trust and let you down so very painfully?

Knowing the relationship will never be the same again does it take more guts to leave a marriage and leave the mess behind you? Or is it more gutsy to stay with a partner when you have been betrayed to try to make sense of what has happened rather than justify ones behaviour.

Although infidelity is still the main reason why couples split up and is the most painful and agonising to go through it can also be the most incredible turning point in a relationship where a very different relationship can be created and thrive.

Both partners have to make the decision to really work on their relationship there is no simple answer to this horrific situation – to stay can be seen as self defeating and fearful.  What message am I giving you by deciding to stay?

Lots of things have to change after an affair.  It takes a lot of courage to admit to being so hurt and betrayed by your partner. Just as it is so shameful for the betrayer to face up to how much hurt and humiliation they have caused.

How do you show contrition?  The person who has strayed demonstrates how sorry they are but after time can get irritated by continually having to show remorse.

This is what psychotherapist Lucy Beresford calls the Museum of Hurt.  If the betrayed partner is constantly reminding the betrayer of what they have done, after a while this is not helping and perhaps signifies that only one partner is doing some of the work to repair.

Saying sorry is not enough- actions have to speak louder than words that give the message that they are not going to hurt their partner again.

However there are people who either find it very difficult to do all the work or are not prepared to put the amount of time and effort required to heal this trauma. 

If you are in a long term relationship where there is a lot of care and love when was the last time you really took time out to really work together to check in with each other, to make time to show real interest and connection?  Affairs are very rarely about having more sex or falling in love with someone else but more often a commentary on the individual as well as the relationship as it is at this moment in time and where we are, what we have lost or what we feel is missing. 

Lucy Beresford in her conversation with Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio London says that Infidelity forces us to look in the mirror and take a long hard look at ourselves.  Do I like what I see?  Who have I become in this relationship and what do I need to change?

Taking time out to talk to a couples therapist often feels risky for some couples but it can really help to make sense of what has happened to us, what responsibility we both take in taking care of ourselves and our relationship and what changes we both need to make.  Placing trust in an experienced couples therapist to shine a light on a relationship that has been in hibernation and help you as a couple make decisions whether you can stay together and grow together or address the need to end the relationship.  Now that’s gutsy!

Dawn Kaffel

January can be a difficult month for Couples

What is it about January that sees such a surge in petitions for divorce and triggers a spouse to decide, out of the blue to up and leave their marriage, walk out and file for divorce, leaving partners feeling shocked, abandoned and betrayed?

In my practice this month I have witnessed both men and women struggling with being left, often with children, with no explanation from their partner.  They believed their relationship was fine and they never saw this coming.  They are devastated at being abandoned and feel on an emotional rollercoaster as they struggle to come to terms with understanding how the partner they had spent so much time with building a life and family together could start the new year by walking away from their life in this destructive harmful way. Everything seems to happen so quickly – one minute they are celebrating a family Christmas together, the next they are gone. Often there is no opportunity for discussion or to process what has happened.

Why spouses decide to walkaway so abruptly?

*For a start it is never ‘out of the blue’ for the partner who chooses to leave

 *Problems in the relationship have probably been bubbling over for a very long time and have not been addressed.  Spending enforced time over the Christmas break with extended family and friends can be hard and often contributes to emotions running high which can push us to breaking point.

*A prolonged period of non-communication, arguments and distancing leading to feelings of loss of emotional connection and falling out of love

*Work and children become the focus not the couple

*Strong feelings of having nothing in common 

*Prolonged periods of time doing most things separately

*Complacency and boredom have become the norm

*Your partner feels more like a flat mate than a partner

*Sex has become a thing of the past

*Your partner feels ignored and unappreciated

The author Tony Parson suggests that men now have a greater sense of entitlement than women.  Years ago a man would have been happy to spend a lifetime providing for his family – now a man wants children but also wants and expects a passionate affair with the mother of his children.  

 *You no longer share your thoughts and feelings and when you do you often feel not listened to and misunderstood.

*Some spouses will do anything to avoid conflict fearing talking about their feelings will evoke an angry response.  It’s easier to stay silent about how you feel.

*Putting on a good front is no longer an option

*There is often another relationship waiting in the wings and wrapping up a marriage speedily allows no break in the new relationship

*It takes enormous courage to walk out of a marriage and family but for some doing it so abruptly and coldly avoids having to work through something difficult or face days and weeks of pleas to stay and work on things.

When a partner walks out on a marriage it seems as if it is the end of your world and the end of a marriage. Sometimes it is but sometimes it’s an opportunity to get professional couples counselling and start a conversation that can help you rebuild and reconnect in ways you used to do when you first got together. 

Walking out on a marriage in this way can be devastating and causes long-term consequences for the whole family.  If a marriage has to end there are better ways of ending it by showing a more respectful and calmer approach 

“Why did we divorce?  I guess you could say we had trouble synchronizing. You know that carnival ride where two cages swing in opposite directions, going higher and higher until they go over the top?  That was us.  We passed each other all the time, but we never actually stopped in the same place until it was time to get off the ride.”  – Diana Hammond, Hannah’s Dream.

Dawn Kaffel

How to Cope when your Ex Moves on to a New Relationship

The American sitcom, Modern Family, makes separation and divorce look easy. The characters seamlessly move from one relationship to another, and the actors all appear to accept the ever-moving changes without seemingly registering any of them. Perhaps the clue here is the ‘the actors’. In real life, it’s not that simple!

I was speaking to a client about his ex-wife being in a new relationship. He told me how difficult it has been to see her so happy. What bothered him was her apparent ease at moving on and his fear was that she would have a new family and wipe out all the years they’d spent together. Feelings of anger at the way she finished their relationship quickly surfaced and he was left wounded and bruised by the whole experience.

When couple’s split up, there are endless issues to contend with. These range from the practical to the deeper emotions that surface – sooner or later. Many people find, that after the dust has settled and they finally feel more confident and secure within themselves that when their partners move on to new relationships, difficult feelings start to emerge all over again – sometimes far stronger than after the initial break-up.

When our partner moves into a new relationship, this is when we begin to feel that we’ve been left behind, and the narrative begins: “I will always be alone, and I hate him/her/ them”. When we focus on these thoughts, we forget to feel what’s really going on for us. Learning to stay with hurt and loss is how we heal and how we can then build our inner resources to let go and move forward.

At Coupleworks, we work with clients to try and normalise thoughts of loss and the difficult feelings that come with the end of a relationship. We work with clients to teach them that it is permissible to accept feelings that come up without judgment. It’s a process that takes time but, in my experience, clients do find their way out of the dark and start to make sense of the loss of the relationship and start to accept that their partner has moved on and so will they.

Tips on how to let go of relationships:

1. Allow yourself to feel whatever feelings that come up. These feelings can range from profound sadness to intense anger towards your partner.
2. Talk to people you trust: friends, parents or a therapist.
3. Go to couple’s therapy for a few sessions to put closure to the relationship and clarify any unresolved issues that might still be going on between the two of you.
4. Be kind to yourself and remind yourself that you won’t always feel the way you do now. There is a future.
5. Remember that your relationship was meaningful at one time, just because it’s over doesn’t mean it was a waste of time.
6. There is no time limit to how long it takes to get over a relationship.

Shirlee Kay

Couples and the UK-EU Divorce

After all the uncertainty over the past weeks and months we know now the UK has voted for a Divorce from our European neighbours.

The aftermath of this vote seems to be causing mayhem and anxiety amongst the political parties and stock markets around the world as everyone tries to come to terms with the biggest political decision made over the past 40 years. Millions of people are even signing a petition to reverse the Brexit decision.

Tensions are running high as Europe and the UK start to battle out how long the divorce will take and when the procedure for separation should start. Today Jean-Claude Juncker announces that “its not going to be an amicable divorce”.

Couples who come to Coupleworks are usually initially looking for ways to prevent separation and divorce and find a way of working through their difficulties. What we are witnessing being played out in front of us are parties who, as yet, have found no way of working through issues and building a future together.

However there are also couples who come into therapy recognising they have grown apart and reached the end of their relationship and are looking for ways of achieving an amicable divorce.

Here are some frequently asked questions that perhaps the political parties should have asked themselves before the vote to avoid one of the most bitterly fought political battles in living memory.

This is unknown territory – how do we start the process? Do we need a solicitor, or should we go to mediation?
How long will the process take?
What are the grounds for a divorce?
How much will it cost? Can we afford to break up?
How will we live and will everything have to be divided?
Do I need to move out?
Who gets the house and the pension?
What about the children and who will they live with and where?
How often will I see the children?
How do we prepare for divorce?
How do we tell the children?
What happens if we change our minds?
Sessions with a couples counsellor can provide personalised support to help and prepare clients emotionally through what can often be a long and painful ending process as they come to terms with the choices they have made.

Hopefully this country and our politicians in the weeks and months ahead will start to slow down and reflect on the best way forward for an amicable working Divorce rather than go into free-fall that seems to be happening today.

 
Dawn Kaffel

Silver Splitters

So much attention is directed to smoothing the jagged effects on children caught up in family separations that it can be harder to assess the effects on grown up ‘children’.
Divorce among the over 60s has tripled in the past 20 years, and the wider effects can cause substantial and often unseen ripples.
Parents matter, and they matter for longer than is often realised.
Suddenly the map of the wider family has to be redrawn, and the sons and daughters in their 30s can easily feel erased from the new systems
It can be tough to see those staid and predictable parents now attaching to new partners and becoming less available as they find links and the energy of different hopes. No longer are they just ‘there’ but now they may be engaging with an adolescent sense of fun and freedom.
As their kids grow up, these newer parental couplings become connected with to youthful optimism and their children will be excluded from this.
Sharing may have been a lifelong challenge with siblings, but with family groups shifting and reforming there may well be an unexpected group of extra family members now inextricably attached and causing refresh rivalries. What happens to the only child suddenly caught up in a stepfamily of several siblings.
Whose grandchildren will feel most favoured – what will happen to the established holiday rituals – and let’s not even begin to think of the unmentionable ‘inheritance’
These are some of the future concerns, but there is also the past. A mysterious place where assumptions are made and patterns of couples are internalised.
When parents divorce in their 60s, this will mean that children may start to question their own past. Unpicking family life and looking for clues can be a painful business. The children of later divorces may wonder if the parents ‘stayed together for the sake of the kids’.
That can feel like quite a guilt inducing burden.
Families need to engage and talk, and parents should feel free enough to look out for their own happiness but also to stay sensitive to the fact that the children may look like Grown Ups but there is a small child in us all. Happiness is Love. Let’s be careful with it.

Christina Fraser

Family Breakdown

Fewer than half of children will celebrate their 16th birthday with their parents still together. Penelope Leach is a research psychologist and well known for her books on early childhood development written in the 1970s. She has recently published a book called ‘Family Breakdown: Helping children hang onto both their parents’. It is written for parents, and professionals involved in supporting those parents, to help to find a way to divorce ‘better’, very much focusing on the perspective of the child.

There has been some controversy surrounding the book even before it was published. In particular she has been criticised by fathers and some psychologists for advocating that children under 3 should be with their primary caregiver at night and not have overnight stays away from them. In practice this means of course that for a high percentage of children this will be their mother. Her evidence for this comes from recent studies and developments in attachment psychology, although some have disputed this particular research. To say that she is against fathers is simplistic: rather she has emphasised the importance of the father’s role in a child’s development. She speaks to the needs of the child to be with their primary caregiver during those early years up to the age of 3, whether that is their mother or father.

All too often, despite the best intentions of parents, each partner will struggle to separate their trauma of separation and divorce from their relationship to the children. In that context therapy can be helpful to process some of the accumulated hurts and resentments to try to prevent these being acted out through the children. This book could be a useful addition to help parents find the dos and don’ts of what might be best for their children in the midst of a difficult and painful process.

An interview with Penelope Leach was broadcast on Woman’s Hour on Radio 4 at 10am on Monday 23 June. Listen here

Sarah Fletcher