There are all sorts of reasons why relationships break up, and when a couple is in crisis it’s easy to turn on the other person and point the finger of blame. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Married or not, every long-term relationship is complex and messy, especially when it goes wrong. Rather than inflicting maximum hurt and damage on the other person, there are kinder and more effective ways to deal with the situation that are based on mutual respect, emotional intelligence and a desire to reach compromise.
Is the relationship really over?
All relationships go through tough times, but this doesn’t necessarily have to spell the end. What separates healthy happy couples from those who are in terminal decline is how they handle their relationship during a rough patch.
Some try couples counselling to improve communication and avoid an unnecessary break-up, becoming stronger as a result. “Therapy can help you to prevent the situation from worsening and show you essential strategies to resolve problems effectively to enable you to build love, fun and deeper trust in your relationship,” says Maggie Morrows from KlearMinds.
Other couples decide to go their separate ways, whether or not they’ve tried couple counselling. This can be an intensely painful process for both ex-partners, which not only means a gradual emotional uncoupling but also involves sorting out an array of real-life arrangements between the former partners – from dividing up the household to agreeing financial support, co-parenting and much more besides.
What is the best way to break up?
Traditionally, those who have decided to separate or divorce would seek legal advice from a specialist matrimonial lawyer to help them fight their corner against their former partner, hoping to achieve the best (financial) outcome for them. In the UK, the traditional court-based divorce system is designed to be adversarial and combative – and in some cases, this may indeed be the best course of action.
However, in recent years, there has been a growing realisation that an adversarial system of law is typically not best suited for marital disputes. In most cases, there is no need for a couple to go to court when separating or getting divorced. Non-confrontational methods of dispute resolution can help minimise the potential for distress and allow to build a better relationship between ex-partners afterwards. It also makes it easier to share the parenting of children, which benefits all persons involved.
There are two main methods used for resolving family and relationship disputes outside of a court –
collaborative law and mediation – both of which provide the support of experienced legal professionals to keep the process on track while minimising conflict through discussion and negotiation to achieve a mutually acceptable outcome.
How does mediation work?
Mediation is a process designed to help separating couples and families to reach agreements without the time, expense and stress of having to go to court. A specially trained mediator has a variety of techniques at his disposal to encourage communication and cooperation between couples, to help them sort out arrangements between them and to enable them to move forward.
Mediation provides a forum to allow the separating partners to create solutions that are tailored to their needs and that of their children, if there are any, during and after a separation or divorce. The purpose of mediation meetings is to get both parties in a room together and discuss how they can resolve issues surrounding family and finances that will ultimately form part of the separation of divorce agreement. The idea is that both sides feel heard and can shape the pace of the process so that an amicable agreement can be reached that satisfies everyone involved.
What are the benefits of mediation?
Couples that opt for mediation tend to find that it can ease the emotional stress of separation. Articulating their feelings in the presence of an impartial third party can take the heat out of the situation and reduce the risk of emotional fallout. As a collaborative process mediation encourages people to communicate with each other, listen to the other person’s viewpoint and work together to reach decisions. That way, everyone involved feels in control over the outcome, leading to less acrimony going forward.
What’s more, parents who are taking a more respectful and less hostile approach towards each other are less likely to cause emotional turmoil in their children than if they put them through bitter confrontations. Most specialist family mediators now actively promote listening to the voice of the child as part of the mediation process.
Families who have been through a successful mediation process together tend to feel more involved in the separation process. With everyone’s viewpoint having been heard and considered, it feels that a positive outcome has been reached that constitutes the best possible compromises for everyone involved, creating realistic and workable long-term solutions.
Compared with the opposite scenario where the judgement is handed down from the courts, possibly to nobody’s satisfaction, when the family has the opportunity to sort things out between them there is less of a chance that issues will have to be revisited at a later date. That way, proper closure is possible and everyone can move forward with their lives.
Once the mediation process has been fully embraced by the separating couple, the process can be much quicker than a non-mediated separation or divorce – an average of 110 days compared to 450 days. While divorcing couples can argue in court for years and still come out with unsatisfactory outcomes, mediation can deal with minutiae faster and more efficiently.
One last but important point is that a mediated separation or divorce can also be a great deal cheaper. Mediation costs can range from £300 to £1,500, which pales into insignificance when compared with the thousands of pounds it will cost if the divorce goes to court.