Deciding to separate as a couple can be a sad, scary and lonely time. You might feel that you have lost the person you could turn to for support, or you might feel relieved to have finally made the decision. No matter which way your feelings run, separating from a partner is bound to throw up many confusing feelings even before you start to consider children or grieving the life you might have shared. It may seem like the last thing you need when you decide to separate is couples counselling, but it can actually ensure that you get the closure you need in order to move on in a healthy way.
Couples counselling when separating
Couples counselling does not only have to be focused on creating a healthier relationship, but it can also help you to have a healthy separation. Counselling gives you a space for you and allows you to process the myriad of emotions at a time when there are many other things to think about. It allows you to have the space to grieve the relationship and its future, learn to manage your trauma reactions to the situation and give you somewhere apart from the overwhelm that may come with all the stress of a relationship breakdown. As well as this, you can feel powerless over the process particularly if there is a legal aspect involved, as with divorce, and you can also expect your emotions and feelings about the ending of the relationship to be a real rollercoaster – fear for the future, grief for the relationship, joy that a negative part of your life is ending, excitement for who you might be able to become. All of these are healthy and valid responses, and a counsellor can hold the space for you to explore these in a safe, judgement free environment.
Counselling can help you both to explore how to manage issues such as co parenting moving forward, and gives you a calm and neutral space to explore your reactions and feelings to the situation with a impartial observer who can help to calm things if they get heated, and help each party to understand the others point of view. If you wish to work towards repairing the relationship then counselling can help you towards a healthy reconciliation, but it can also help to ease the conflict felt during the separation or divorce process, help to understand what may have led to the situation and process the emotions around the next step to take.
Managing conflict and negative emotions
When separating it is understandable that there will be conflict – it may not be the route that both parties want to take, there may be blame but there will almost always be some element of disagreement. Counselling will allow you to take the time individually and as a couple to work through these aspects of the process, to allow you to understand the different viewpoints you each have and to then work towards moving on in a conflict free manner. It can help you to understand your own reactions to the situation, and your reactions to each other as well as helping you to learn how to manage unhelpful or negative emotions in a more productive way.
Emotions such as anger are normal and healthy when dealing with the grief of a relationship breakdown, however our reactions to that emotion can be less so. Counselling can help you to understand what ‘flips the switch’ when these emotions come into play, and how to manage those reactions for less conflict and an easier relationship with each other.
Helping support the children to understand
Counselling can also help you to understand and manage the effects of a relationship breakdown on any children who may be involved. Often the impact on a child can take months to show and understanding that this is normal and how to support them through their own process can be an invaluable part of what separation counselling can offer. A counsellor can also be an impartial party when deciding how and when to let children know about the split, and how best to approach it.
Counselling can also help you to understand how to move forward as an individual and as separate family units with your children. It can also give you a safe space away from the house and out of earshot of the children to work through issues. Children are incredibly perceptive and will often have an idea of something not being ‘right’ long before you approach the subject with them so having the input from a counsellor can help to make sure that you approach a difficult conversation in a manner that means the children understand you are still there to support them and feel safe that they can express their emotions. It also gives you the space to have someone safe to express your emotions to, meaning you are better equipped to help your child.
If you are thinking about separating, or already have done so and would like help to manage the emotions around this transition for you and your family, contact me on 07305 920 437 to see how I could help you.