They say familiarity breeds contempt and the pandemic has certainly provided the perfect opportunity to put this age-old adage to the test. It’s perhaps unsurprising that the collateral damage of lockdown saw a record spike in divorce enquiries around the world with UK family law firms reporting a surge of more than 40% during and since quarantine. New statistics from the ONS show the largest percentage increase in divorce petitions for 50 years in England and Wales during 2019, and further surveys suggest the pandemic is causing growing marital discontent across the nation.
These challenging times will have had an impact on both of you. It may have changed the way you think about life and the priorities that are most important for you. The pandemic thrust domestic arrangements and frustrations into sharp focus. This had a devastating impact for some couples as they were hit from all sides including money worries, working from home arrangements, sick family members, managing children’s stress and home schooling. Money is one of the most common causes of marital strife and over the last year people have had to contend with unemployment, being furloughed or taking home lower pay cheques.
My advice is always to work on the relationship and not give up. However, there are times when you need to be brave and face the fact that it just isn’t working. If you are with a partner who doesn’t love you it will be damaging to your confidence and self-esteem. If they don’t want to be with you anymore then forcing them to stay is never going to make you happy. Divorce is never the easy option – it is an emotional rollercoaster with practical challenges and financial stresses thrown in. If you think you may be headed for a breakup or divorce, my top tips for how to start out in the best possible way are:
• Get your support team in place. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the breakup process from a financial, legal and emotional perspective, whilst trying to maintain your daily routine too. So, it’s vital to get experts around you who can help answer all the questions you have and give you the best advice. For example, if you are concerned about finances then find someone who can help you create a financial plan for your situation which will enable you to feel more positive about the future.
• Get clarity on what you spend each month so you can understand your spending patterns. Create a budget spreadsheet of your weekly and monthly expenditure. You need to take ownership of this so you feel more financially independent and in control.
• Agree with your partner what to say to the kids about the breakup. The ideal scenario is to sit down together if possible and tell them together. Reassurance that they are loved and this is not their fault is key.
• Treat each other with respect and kindness. You are bound to disagree over matters at some point so make an agreement to treat each other with kindness and respect and this will create a strong foundation, helping to keep things as amicable as possible whilst minimising tension.
• Pick your battles. In the heat of the moment, it is easy to get worked up over the little things. Take a step back and work out if you will really care about this in a few months’ time. This will help you to get perspective on what is important and what is emotion getting the better of you.
• Don’t talk about your breakup to everyone you meet. Share your feelings with close friends or family but don’t get sucked into a world where the only thing you talk about is your split.
• Don’t bad mouth your ex to others. This may well get back to them and make things worse. Of course, you can be honest with your inner circle of select friends and family but avoid openly discussing your ex in public.
• Self-care, eating well and exercising is crucial to keeping a strong mind and enabling you to make better decisions. Exercise is a great way to instantly boost your state of mind. Even a brisk walk around the block will help you feel better and help you stay in control of your emotions.
• Write a list of all the things you weren’t happy with in your relationship as you take off the rose-tinted glasses. If you are heartbroken and finding it hard to let go of your ex this is a great exercise. When we reminisce about our partners it’s easy to focus on all the good bits and romanticise about things. But this will keep you stuck in the past and it isn’t always reality as this list will show.
• Spring-clean your life. Create a plan for the life you want to live and the person you want to become. Out with the old and in with the new. Try new things, do things differently and make small changes that add more sparkle to your life.
• Don’t forget to keep some fun in your life. Breakups bring a rollercoaster of emotions so make sure you find ways to laugh and connect with those you love. Breakups are an opportunity to rediscover yourself and, whilst you may feel like curling up and hiding away from the world some days, making an effort to see a friend or try something new will help you feel stronger. It’s so important to have fun things in your diary so you are not all consumed with your breakup. There is more to life than relationships and you need to maintain a healthy balance in other areas of interest too.
• An amicable divorce doesn’t mean you don’t need legal advice. A legal advisor will give you clarity about what to expect from your split. This will ensure you make the best decision for you and your family and you won’t have any regrets in the future.
A good breakup or divorce is one that is fair and respectful and enables you to have the best chance of an amicable relationship with your ex in the future. But most importantly it is one where you rediscover who YOU are and gets you excited and hopeful about your future. You only live once so it’s time to start redesigning your future just the way you want it and feeling good about yourself and what lies ahead!