Diving from a great height for its pray at over 320 kilometres per hour, the world’s fastest bird is the Peregrine Falcon. I met the human equivalent of a Peregrine Falcon once. She dived headfirst into her divorce at such a speed that it was terrifying to those around her. Sonya came to see me only three days after she and her husband decided to separate. She would've come in sooner had I had an earlier appointment available. Everything about Sonya was rapid fire. The way she entered the room, the speed at which she spoke and how she inhaled her coffee, it was done at full acceleration and her separation was to be no different.
Sonya wanted her separation agreement and financial settlement sorted no later than in 4-6 weeks so that she could move on and bid goodbye to the sorry situation of her marriage. With her target in sight, she would have been a match for the diving falcon - racing around gathering information, emailing me daily (sometimes several times an hour) and getting that agreement turned around quicker than it took her to get her marriage licence organised. Despite my advice to slow things down and give herself space and time to think (and feel!) things through, there was no stopping her.
Then, once the ink on her agreement was dry, she crash landed. Once there was no more separation related to-do list to preoccupy her, the enormity of what had happened so rapidly and the associated grief that she had neatly pushed aside with all her busy-ness, hit her full force in an emotional tornado. Sonya would still have had to work through some tough emotions even if she completed her legal and financial tasks a little slower but, rather than suppressing these emotions, she would have given herself enough space to acknowledge and start working through those feelings and not landed so forcefully.
If you take the Peregrine falcon approach to separation, the adage “act in haste, repent at leisure” may come to be true for you. You may end up regretting some of the outcomes of your speedy process. In your haste, you may ignore advice from your lawyer to take the time to properly consider certain issues and your options. You may cut corners. You might act without properly understanding the consequences of doing so.
Give yourself plenty of time – things can take longer than you anticipate and can be more complex than you may have envisaged. Give yourself the time to do things properly and to fully consider issues without undue pressure. By doing so, you will avoid the risk of regretting decisions you have to live with the consequences of for a long time.
A hasty approach can be motivated by a sense of needing to “move on” to the next things in your life and the shiny happiness you see waiting for you once you put the mess of this relationship behind you. However, doing so, can mean you set yourself up to land right back here again. Not taking time to properly consider the reasons behind your separation and your role in those reasons, means you miss valuable opportunities to learn how to prevent similar problems resurfacing in future relationships – whether they be intimate, family or employment relationships.
While you don’t want to approach resolving the legal, financial and emotional issues that come with your separation at the speed of a Peregrine falcon, you also don’t want to go to the other extreme and be an ostrich about it. There is a popular myth that ostriches bury their heads in the sand to avoid predators (perhaps thinking if they can’t see the predator, the predator can’t see them). I see this commonly in clients after a separation and it can take the form of:
Delays in engaging professional support and advice after a separation;
Being slow to provide information that you are asked for, costing you time and money.
Ignoring or delaying responding to requests by your ex or their lawyer, only to find that they file proceedings that could’ve been avoided had you acted sooner.
Delaying telling children and other family about the separation for a considerable time, leaving you and your ex living in limbo and without transparency.
While being an ostrich in your separation may feel a nice place to be for a while, there is a price to pay for the illusion of safety this approach gives you. The reason ostriches actually don’t bury their heads in the sand is that if they did, they would suffocate. Acting like an ostrich can leave you in emotional, financial and legal limbo. You can’t move forward – you are just stuck, choosing to be blind to what is real around you.
Keeping your head in the sand can financially cost you in unnecessary professional fees if your advisors are having to chase you for information. As time passes after separation, the number of issues and their complexity can increase - unpicking years of bank statements is nobody’s idea of fun - and will mean more cost to you. In cases of extreme delay by you, a Court may order that you pay some of your ex’s costs!
You may not be ready to proceed forward straight away with quickly achieving a final resolution of everything. That is ok. A resolution will happen in time but you would be well served to get some early professional advice and support, whether that be from a lawyer, a coach or a financial advisor. This will allow you to get an early overview of what lies ahead, whether there are any risks to holding off progressing, what a reasonable “holding pattern” may look like until the time is right to proceed further and what you should initially be doing.
Perhaps most importantly, being an ostrich means you can lose control over how your separation and divorce are worked through. Fed up with your delays, your ex may file proceedings in court. Taking action early means you can avoid this and gives you the opportunity to have input into the process used to resolve matters – including choosing one that will respect the time you need to process information and emotionally be able to most effectively work through that process.
Can you see how getting the pace of your separation or divorce wrong can cost you emotionally and financially?
I get it - taking action makes your separation a whole lot more real. You may delay things out of fear that you will lose control to others. Equally, acting swiftly may give you a sense of control over your future. There is a happy medium between being an ostrich or a Peregrine falcon. I like to think the right pace is a little like that adopted by Canadian Geese. Some will migrate faster than others; others will need more rest stops but together, they get each other through the necessary journey. The right pace for progressing through a separation or divorce will be different for everyone and will depend on where you are at, and where your ex is at, in terms of being psychologically ready to resolve matters. Having the right professional supports around you allows you to glide when you need to, in order to catch your breath, but keep moving forward at a reasonable pace.