Consciously uncoupling? Family lawyers’ tips to separate amicably

Relationships can bring out the best and worst in people. I should know, given I’ve worked as a family lawyer for about a decade.

In my early career, I did a lot of court work and mediations, but now I focus on helping couples to separate in a peaceful way.

For want of a better phrase, I help people to separate amicably – and it really is possible. If you or someone you know are ‘consciously uncoupling’, here’s some tips:

Understand headspace

If you understand where you and your partner are in the grief cycle, you’ll have greater insight into your immediate individual needs and can therefore work towards satisfying them.

Grief is a natural emotional healing process we go through after experiencing loss, such as the end of a relationship.

Grief is generally defined as a five-stage process, including denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and ending with acceptance.

Pushing someone to engage in a formal process before they’re in the right headspace with a degree of acceptance that the relationship is ending risks that person resisting any progress, distrusting their partner, and shutting down to the point where they disengage.

Continue communicating

Communicating can alleviate and offer the opportunity to address fears through reassurance.

Communication needn’t be verbal; written suffices.

Silence altogether is unsettling because of the unknown, like separating itself – with the inevitable changes threatening your basic needs.

When we feel threatened, our survival instincts to fight, flee or freeze come out. The imparting of information and listening to understand means there’s an opportunity for collaboration.

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If you have safety concerns, get advice on how and whether it’s best to communicate with your partner.