So the cat’s out of the bag… the separation is public. Friends, family & maybe children know what’s happening. Anger, hurt, betrayal & fear are all swilling round… so what do you do? Hire a hard hitting lawyer & prepare for the fight – right? Wrong, preparing to cooperate should be your first port of call.
Well it’s certainly what many people have done in the past. But things have changed and we are developing greater sophistication as a society. We understand the pain fighting causes and the damage it does to our children. There is now a range of realistic alternatives – better options to ‘fighting it out’ enabling more people to achieve an amicable split. Alternatives might be called DIY divorce, facilitated outcomes, mediation, negotiations or collaborative discussions but essentially they all involve cooperation. These options might be accessed face to face, through websites or apps. If co-operative approaches don’t work then arbitration or court are the alternatives where decisions about your finances, family and future are made by a third party- usually a judge, specially qualified barrister or professional arbitrator.
But let me guess… the problem of cooperation isn’t you – it’s your partner. Don’t worry that’s what they say too! In fact it’s how most people feel at the very start of the process. It’s normal; and it’s ok because there are many things you can do to prepare them and you for a more co-operative, amicable divorce. The five tips below are designed to start you off on a journey to cooperation. Let us know how you get on by signing up to our regular blog posts – send us your own tips on what you have found helpful so we can update and share good information.
- Assess how ready you and your partner are to start cooperative negotiations: If one or both of you hasn’t processed the turbulent emotions of the split then you have little chance of reaching an agreement that will last. Sure, one of you might successfully pressure the other into agreeing things but these agreements won’t last as. Being ready is key. Seek therapeutic support to help if one of you is stuck. Contact us to try our ‘feeling better’ exercise.
- Understand the task at hand: Try and separate the emotional from the negotiations. You must attend to the emotional process and recognise when it’s getting in the way of getting you what’s really important to you, but try not to let it interfere with rational thinking. Try to spot different emotional thinking traps… for example an affair is a betrayal and breach of trust but it doesn’t make your partner untrustworthy in all aspect of life – this is an example of ‘overgeneralisation’. You can find out more about thinking distortions and how to side step through our article on common ‘thinking distortions’ – email us for a copy.
- Set Goals: Goals allow you to think positively about a situation without taking entrenched positions. How you define a problem will shape the range of possible outcomes. Stay focused on what you are trying to achieve, not what has happened in the past. You can do this by setting individual goals to start with but you may find your partner wants some of the same things in which case you have some joint or shared goals too. Joint goals often lead to more creative thinking about how to achieve something because both people are invested in achieving the goal.
- Pay attention to how you communicate: Chances are one or both of you will cite problems in communicating as one reason for the unravelling of the relationship. Now, more than ever, you need to learn or relearn a successful way of communicating issues and resolving differences. Try and recall a time when you have successfully resolved an issue and think about what happened, what was different from when things spiralled. Remember the four golden rules: Don’t interrupt, treat each other with respect, use ‘I’ statements (vs you make me feel…) and take a break if things are getting heated.
- Separate the message and the messenger: Maybe it’s hard to even think of the other person just now, let alone make important decisions through cooperative communication. Try and separate the core message (content) from the tone, implied criticism and messenger’s voice. A good technique is to imagine someone you love, like or respect communicating the same message… what difference does this make? If you write or speak your reply as if you were writing/speaking to the person you love, like or respect… I promise you it will come across better and when things come across well you are more likely to get what you want. And of course, you are engaging in a sustainable way of communicating.
Taking some time to prepare yourselves for a cooperative, divorce will save time and money in the long-run. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t feel cooperative at the start of the process but these techniques can improve your chances of an amicable split.
And finally, if you’d like to speak with one of amicable’s divorce experts for advice on your personal situation then please get in touch.
If you have any questions, or would like some support, please book a free 15-minute call with one of our experts here.