When his first marriage ended in 1975, Paul Simon wrote “50 ways to leave your lover". His 50 ways can be more generally condensed down to 2 ways: sudden and unexpected or carefully planned and implemented.
Often, the ending isn’t necessarily the same way for both parties to the relationship. What appears to one person to be a sudden and shocking end to the relationship could have come after a lot of careful consideration and planning by the other. This is significant because both parties are usually then at different emotional stages in grieving for the relationship, accepting and understanding the separation and preparedness to move forward from it.
I advocate that, if at all possible, making like a girl scout and “being prepared” is desirable before embarking into the wilderness of separation. Being proactive and doing some forward planning helps remove some of the uncertainty and fear from separation. It can mean you have greater control over your circumstances after separation and it can help reduce your legal costs. Who doesn’t want that!?
You may not have the luxury of preparing to separate. If you have to leave urgently for your safety or if your spouse leaves you, you will have to grapple with the situation without the benefit of forward planning.
If you are thinking of separating and have the time, getting prepared to separate can include any or all of the following:
Get clear on what is important to you moving forward. My free essential separation tool workshop will have you starting out on the right foot - with greater clarity and confidence.
Envisage a plan for what your post-separation life will look like. It may encompass things like where you will live and how it will be furnished, how your children’s needs will be met, who your supports will be, any upskilling or retraining you will need to do in order to improve your employment situation, how your expenses will be me. Some of my clients have simply written down their plan while others have created a vision board. You’ll know what feels right for you and will be most inspiring to you.
Access counselling or relationship coaching, either individually or with your partner, about the issues that have you contemplating separation. It can also help pave the way for discussions about separation so there are no nasty surprises for anyone.
Get a trusted friend or family member on board for support.
Gather together a file of important documents, such as your passport, any legal documents, birth certificate, marriage certificate.
Plan for how to avoid the common mistakes women make when they separate!
If you envisage having to move out of your home, pull together a list of all the accounts and contacts that you will need to change your address with. Identify those accounts that you will need to change your PIN or password for (if your spouse knows, or could readily guess, those).
What about your pets? Think about what practical solutions there are for their care after you separate. If you are have to move to rented accommodation, you may not be able to take your pets.
Pull together any precious items that you want to be sure don’t get damaged or lost in the course of your separation and any move of home that you may make. Some of my clients have left their family home on separating and later found such items damaged or missing. Can you arrange for these to be safely stored somewhere?
Take time to understand your finances. Compile a list of your assets and your debts. Gather together statements and documents about the items on your list. This will all be very useful to have on hand for any meetings with legal or financial professionals when you separate. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the information – identifying where there are gaps in your knowledge is also useful! Are there ways you can fill those gaps?
Put together a realistic budget of what you anticipate your expenses and income will be after separation. Before you do so, take the time to get real by reviewing your last 12 months’ bank statements to get an idea of what you usually spend. Your budget will not only be of practical use for you in managing your finances but it will also help your lawyer very quickly assess any financial support claims you may have.
Make enquiries about any tax breaks or government financial support you may be eligible for once you are separated. This will help you with your budget.
Get some preliminary legal advice about the legal landscape that will lie ahead of you and the options that are available for traversing it! A number of my clients see me merely because they are “thinking about leaving” their spouse. They want to be clear on what the road ahead may look like.
If you think you’ll need to change your work hours and/or income after separation, make discreet enquiries of your employer about the likelihood of this being accommodated.
Is it possible to come to some preliminary agreements with your partner? Who might be able to help you to do this? This will require a degree of goodwill and communication but many of my clients have been able to come to some arrangements with their ex for the short term.
Find "your people"- these are your sources of inspiration and support. If you haven't got anyone local to you, how about online? The Divorce Lighthouse Group , our closed group on Facebook, is a great place to start - a wee haven of positivity and support for you!
Work out whether you will tell your spouse and, if so, how, when and where you will. This can be one of the toughest discussions you will ever have. If you can plan this discussion out, be sure to plan it for a time when there won't be lots of distractions. Keep it brief and to the point. Would it help to practice what you want to say with a friend or counsellor or coach? Would it help to have a trusted family member or friend with you?
You don’t need to do all the items on this list. They are just suggestions and some will be relevant to you, others less so. One thing is universal though - being proactive and prepared before you end your relationship will help alleviate the angst and stress of your separation. It will help to give you clarity and certainty as you move forward.
Do you have any other tips for how to best prepare for a separation or divorce? Perhaps you have questions. Head on over to The Divorce Lighthouse Group and let me know!