No one ever taught us how to be in relationship. Who we get to spend our lives with has some of the greatest impact on our lives or anything that we do. Without guidance or much support we are supposed to find our way in an area that is challenging for most – the area of relationship with another. It is no wonder we struggle and fail.
When things get hard, we can find ourselves face to face with a seemingly impossible task – being both part of the problem and being asked to be part of the solution at the same time, No wonder crisis in relationship can be overwhelming. Seeking divorce to get out of the situation can seem the only way out. A point of crisis in anyone’s life is leading to a point of great change. What if separation and divorce wasn’t the only way out? What if transformation was on the cards?
Here are ten things to do before you take the step to divorce:
1. Slow down. When we are caught up in the fire of intensity together and it has been going on for enough time to consider divorce, are you really in the best place to decide if divorce is the best option? Can you both take steps to allow your systems to calm down such as taking space? Can you seek support from someone skilled to help you navigate this period? Are you willing to allow a time frame to explore the possibilities in a skillful way?. One of my favourite questions to ask myself during difficult times is “If I were laying on my deathbed looking back on now, how do I wish I had acted?” Ask yourself: “Even if I don’t know or haven’t the first clue how to change this, is there a place in my heart that wants to try?” Can you take this to each other and see what the response is? Might this be a starting place for something else?
2. Acknowledge. Can you see that in considering divorce you are acknowledging that you can’t go on as you are and that things have to change? Even if you don’t know how. Can you feel a sense of possibility with this – an opening? Divorce is one way of bringing about great change and an exit point from a seemingly impossible situation. Might there be other avenues? You don’t have to know what they are right now. Can this be a time of acknowledgement of your situation together before you make choices about the next steps?
3. Be Vulnerable The author and professor Brene Brown defines vulnerability as "uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure". She goes on to suggest that vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage. Here we let down our guard and allow ourselves to be seen. Vulnerability can bring us to strong emotions such as: grief, shame, fear, and disappointment; but it is also the birthplace of love, belonging, authenticity, creativity, courage, and accountability. Are you both able to let go of ‘being right’ and open to a space of vulnerability within and see where that might take you?
4. Be Willing. Can you find the willingness to explore other options to divorce? You might not have even a starting point to change but are you willing to not know and are you willing to consider this? Can you see this as taking your foot off the accelerator of intensity? “I don’t know how to work on this or fix this but I’m willing ...”
5. Take Responsibility. Every relationship is made up of the dynamics of each individual. Seeing other people’s patterns of behaviour is easy. Making the other wrong and blaming them is a normal way of defending ourselves from the possibility that we are likely also contributing to the situation we find ourselves in. Blaming the other creates a gridlock with no way out other than separation. Are you willing to consider coming out of your own corner where you fight from, pause and take the boxing gloves off? Are you willing to considering your own part in this? Is this something you would like to see yourself doing for the sake of what is at stake?
6. Learn about fight, flight and freeze and the nervous system’s part in this. When you have found yourself fighting and arguing, wanting to walk away and also shutting down when it all gets too much, you are experiencing your body’s physiology responding to perceived threat. It is an automatic reaction. Until you learn what is happening and how to change this part of you it will run the show. A relationship then becomes an arena for these reactions to play out. Fortunately, therapy that teaches you to experience these states, shows you how to change them and then how to turn this around can transform your life. These triggers can then become your ally and a gateway to positive transformation in your relationship. This awareness in your life is something that you will carry with you always no matter what happens. It will change your life!
7. Understand that your childhood has something to do with the situation you are in. Your relationship with your parents as a child and the way you were nurtured by them has a lot to do with with the way we create bonds with our partners as adults. Are you willing to consider that this might be playing a part in what is happening and are you willing to seek support to look into this? You might leave this relationship but you will carry your attachment patterns with you into your next relationship. Is now the time to make changes that will inform every relationship you have in the future including this one?
8. Create a Vision and Agreements. If you are willing to put a pause on deciding to start to divorce, are you willing to create a vision for a period of time that you might call “Guidelines For A Don’t Know Time”? Might you agree a time frame where you commit to not divorcing or making any sudden decisions? Separately and then together what do you need to stay in this Don’t Know Time? If you create a vision and agreements to support this, are you willing to put your all into sustaining this period of consideration? What might you learn about yourselves in this time? How might therapy support you to move in a new way in your lives?
9. Expect to be wobbly and to not know. This is a time when you are under pressure. If you decide to take steps to salvage your relationship, you will be placed in a situation of both undoing old patterns and learning new behaviours and ways of being. A community of support from your friends, family, colleagues and a therapist will be vital to hold you so that you can transform your current situation.
10. Separate Consciously. Have you done all you can to explore whether you can transform this relationship into something you can be proud of? If this is the case and you still need to separate, can you do it a way you will also be proud of when you look back at this time? Can a therapist be a support to you at this time so you can do the best you can?
Considering divorce can be one of the most painful experiences in life and one of the most impactful. Doesn’t it deserve the best attention you can give it at this time? As difficult as it is, might this be a time in your life when you learned the most about yourself and brought about most transformation in yourself and in your relating? I hope so ….. I wish you well, Grace