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Why consider psychological services when going through a separation or divorce?

This month’s guest article comes from Dr Patapia Tzotzoli, a Consultant Clinical Psychologist chartered by the British Psychological Society and Registered with the Health and Care Professions Council.

At its core, separation or divorce is a loss. A loss of what once was. A loss of trust, security, attachment and structure. A loss of identity. What is lost may differ from person to person, yet inevitably it is a personal loss that will likely drag us through several emotional stages. These may occur in any order, but include:

  • denial: ”this is not really happening”
  • anger: “why me?”, “it’s not fair”, “how is this happening to me?”, “whose fault is this?”
  • bargaining: “what if I do x or y in order to keep this relationship?”
  • depression: “why bother?”, “what’s the point?” 
  • acceptance: “it’s going to be okay”, “I can’t avoid it but I can prepare for it” 

While navigating your way through these stages you must simultaneously juggle your everyday responsibilities and the progress of your separation or divorce. Unsurprisingly, this can lead you to feel overwhelmed and bombarded with information and emotions, with little time to process things and respond appropriately.

So, here is one key question that can help you stay solution-focused: if you were to meet a friend at some point in the future and you told them that things were getting better, what would you tell them had happened?

To help answer the question, consider the following:

  • In what ways would have you have moved on with your life?
  • How would your relationship be with your ex-spouse, and how would you feel about him/her at this stage?
  • Would you have kept in touch with your children and under what circumstances?

These answers can help you identify what is really important to you. You can then think more clearly about how you can move forward, aiming for the quality of life you wish for.

The common theme in these questions is relationships:

  • the relationship with yourself
  • the relationship with your ex-spouse
  • the relationship with your children.

In time, the way you choose to transition between these stages of your life will determine the nature of these relationships.

Allowing strong feelings to rule you might seem tempting at times during the process of separation or divorce, but being in control of your decision-making process guarantees an outcome closer to your preferred one.

A qualified professional can help you through this transitional stage by working with you to:

  • understand and manage your current emotions and negative thoughts more efficiently
  • reach a point where you can diffuse such emotions and thoughts
  • channel your energy into working out the best plan for you, including childcare arrangements

In particular, an effective parenting plan will require you to be in a position where you can work collaboratively with your children’s other parent to decide how you will share the care of your children now and in the future. Collaboration implies the need for communication between the parents to make joint decisions on:

  • day-to-day childcare
  • financial arrangements
  • how to raise your children (education, social activities, decisions about the future, etc.)

Adopting a child-centred approach to divorce can help you put aside differences, hostility and vindictiveness to focus on what unites you; love for your children. This can help you strive for harmony, remain communicative and focus on win-win solution models. In these circumstances, a co-operative parenting relationship is the smartest strategy. Any temporary one-sided sense of satisfaction or ego gratification is soon replaced by frustration and helplessness for all concerned if children begin to act up, pull away or express their own frustrations about the situation they are caught up in.

Transitioning from spouse to co-parent with your former husband or wife won’t be without challenges, but cultivating sincerity and trust in your communication with each other and being determined to raise your children in the least disruptive manner possible can help you master the ups and downs over the years.

After all, would you rather trust your children with a stranger-caregiver or with the one person in the world who is more likely to parent them with love, so that you can enjoy your time off from parenting without stress?

If you want to find out more about how to remain objective, restore harmony with your former spouse, or consider new perspectives to help with your decision making, please contact Dr Patapia Tzotzoli at: info@patapiatzotzoli.com) or call: +44 (0)20 8274 9870.

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