The Messy Emotions of Separation
The end of an intimate relationship is often messy. The end of an intimate relationship with children is messy and complicated at best, gut wrenching and destructive at worst.
Separation may happen for any number of reasons. It may be triggered by a single, precipitating event or follow a longer period of co-habiting without intimacy. Most often, signs have likely been available for some time about one or both party’s unhappiness. Sometimes, this lack of togetherness has been masked by busyness at work or through a focus on the children’s activities. One or both parents may have found it convenient to deny the reality of their distancing intimacy. Resentments and distrust may have clouded communication. Emotions may be running high.
For these reasons, partners may not agree that separation is needed. If both partners are uncertain about separation, it may be possible to strengthen the relationship with the help of professional services. However, if one partner is very comfortable that separating is the right decision, that must be accepted. If getting past the choice to separate by the other parent is too difficult or blocking your way to compromise or personal recovery, you need to seek professional support. Accepting the need for separation is essential in order to begin planning for how your family can plan together for a future apart.
This is a time of facing a number of difficult conversations—with each other, with the children, and with friends and family. While these are challenging times, you can still help yourself and your family through them by preparing when possible for the changes ahead. We at Kids ‘n’ Dad believe that family renewal is possible following separation. Beginning separation with these tools in mind can help your family through present obstacles into a more sustainable future.
Points to Consider
- Don’t put off a conversation about your intimate relationship. Many couples have been sleeping alone upstairs/downstairs for months. This arrangement can bring changes over time, and it is important to acknowledge the difficult emotions that may accompany such a change.
- Make time to have difficult conversations when emotions are not already elevated. Separating needs to be done by agreement, not following a heated argument that can have lasting, negative outcomes.
- Preferably, neither parent should leave the family home without having first negotiated and signed off on a basic, interim parenting plan.
- It is important for parents to explain the separation to the children in an age appropriate way in order to let them know what is taking place and to answer their questions. Planning is required for these conversations, and we encourage parents to use the resources provided on this site to prepare for a family meeting.
- There needs to be no rush to finalize anything! An interim parenting plan may provide some breathing room. An interim parenting plan is not a comprehensive separation agreement, and it can help to identify any problems that may surface that have not yet been considered. The principles of the agreement and the ultimate goals should govern these concerns.
- It is important to remember that children need their parents to be a model of civility. Separation triggers uncertainty, doubts, and questions in children and parents alike. Know that your children are sensitive your emotional state, and let them know that they are welcome to bring their emotions and concerns to you in a safe space.
- Remember the common parental fear of losing your child in the separating process. A small success leads to further successes. Can you both attend school or extracurricular activities? Can you communicate about your children’s medical needs? Can you make the occasional parenting switch to deal with life? This immediate transition period is about rebuilding parenting trust at a time when relationship trust has been damaged.
- Preparing For Family Mediation – Ontario Association for Family Mediation (oafm.on.ca)
- Their Parents Stayed Together ‘For The Kids.’ Here’s How It Felt. | HuffPost Canada Relationships (huffingtonpost.ca)
- Dealing with a Breakup or Divorce – HelpGuide.org
- This Is What No One Tells You About Getting Divorced In Your 30s | HuffPost
- How To Talk To Your Kids About Divorce | HuffPost Life
- Helping children cope with separation and divorce | Caring for kids (cps.ca)
- Child Up Parenting Plan