Going our separate ways - Counselling for separating couples
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Sivan Keidar-Halevi MSc Gestalt Psychotherapy , UKCP Reg, IATE
21st November, 20110 Comments
Separating from your partner is one of the most difficult challenges you could face in your life. The loss of the home you created (physically and/or metaphorically), the loss of the future you imagined and the loss of the love and intimacy you once experienced in the relationship, are enormous challenges to cope with. On top of that, many people experience breaking down of trust, a sense of betrayal and injury to their self image which creates a roller coaster of painful feelings. Things become even more complicated when you need to guide your children through this journey and protect their feelings and self-esteem.
Considering children’s emotions
The majority of children do not expect their parents to separate even if there were many arguments between them. When the family’s structure breaks children don’t have the time- reference that allows them to trust that new structures will replace the old one. Children often initially assume that the current feelings of destruction are permanent. They often believe they are responsible for their parents’ separation. They may feel guilty, rejected, angry and torn by the need to choose sides or reassure both parents they love them equally. As parents, you have the power to help them make sense of the situation and understand how they feel about it. You can relieve them from their burdening sense of responsibility. When the situation is managed well and conflict is reduced between parents, children can flourish.
How counselling can help
Counselling can also provide both partners with a space to:
- Reflect on what went wrong so that lessons can be learnt and communication improved.
- Reflect on the children’s needs and agree on ground rules that will help protect their emotions, even while you’re feeling hurt and bitter towards each other.
- Agree an approach to questions like: how to talk to the children about the separation, how to manage differing parenting styles and different attitudes to money, boundaries, etc.
Counselling can support you on your individual journey through separation and rebuilding your life. It provides a space for:
- Expressing all those feelings you try to protect your environment from
- Understanding your feelings and learning about the grieving process
- Understanding what went wrong so that you use this learning in future relationships
- Finding ways to support yourself and make better use of the support available around you
- Reflecting on your children’s needs and how best to support them
- Creating new directions for your life
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