Archive for March, 2012

Forget adultery its slurping the soup that makes us divorce.

A woman went to court this week to argue that squabbling with her husband was sufficient to show irretrievable breakdown of her marriage. 
Her application was rejected.  This comes at the same time as an article in the Telegraph quoting Mr Justice Wall saying that there should be no fault divorces. If that was the case, then this applicant would not have to have said anything bar that she wanted a divorce. By rejecting her application, the court is saying crank up the allegations, say something really diminishing and nasty about your husband and
we will give you a divorce.  Please see my earlier blog for my opinion on that. I don’t think any marriage survives without squabbling and extreme irritation at a partner’s habits and way of doing things.  The whole country would end up in the divorce
courts if people abandoned their relationships for these sorts of reasons.  People generally end marriages after years of not having their needs met or years of not being heard or of being treated badly.  People don’t leave marriages because their partner leaves the top off the toothpaste or doesn’t clean the bath out.  Divorce is a much more serious issue and is mainly a function of real unhappiness not the everyday annoyance
of cohabitation.  You can read the article here: http://tgr.ph/Hgtgqb

No Fault Divorce.

An article in the Guardian today quotes Mr Justice Wall saying that the time had come for no fault divorces.  I entirely agree.  That is not to say that he or I or anyone who supports that argument are saying that divorce is an easy option or that marriage is not a good thing.  The reason is, that starting a divorce with blame and an adversarial approach means that it is really hard to acheive an amicable divorce.  It is unusual for both people to want a divorce and to be on the receiving end of a partner wanting to leave plus the shame and embarrassment of them quoting all sorts of nasty things in the divorce petition in order to secure a divorce doesn’t help an otherwise painful situation.  What is the point of saying, yes you can break up your relationship but before you do, you must think of some horrible habits and behaviour of your ex in order to get your divorce.  Mr Justice Wall is right when he says divorce is administrative and should not be judicial.  By all means use the Court if things aren’t agreed as a a last resort, but blame the other person for something which at the end of the day has been a two way dynamic? No.  It starts the whole process of on entirely the wrong foot. You can read the Guardian article here: http://bit.ly/HdYSN4

Sex and Divorce

An article in the Mail Online India  talks about people being granted a divorce because of lack of sex, deemed by the Judiciary in India as cruelty.  Often individuals in our support groups talk about how in the last fews years of their marriage their partner did not want to have sex with them.  Is this a good ground for divorce? Do people cite this in their divorce petition?  They certainly do and it is cruel if one person wants to have sex and the other is entirely witholding of it.   Withholding sex is a clear message of denial and hostility and after a while of trying to remedy the situation to no avail, seems like a very good ground for divorce.  Having said that how much sex people have is a matter of negotiation between them.  Often people have different libidos and a compromise has to be reached.  Divorce isn’t a natural consequence of that.  The Mail online talks of no sex at all and if that isn’t satisfactory to one person in the marriage, to expect to live a sexless life when it is distressing to do so, might well sit within the catch all ‘irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.’

 The article is here: http://bit.ly/H1fB8p

Does cohabitation prior to marriage affect divorce statistics?

There is an article in today’s Daily Mail containing research on whether divorce statistics are affected by whether people live together first or not.  In the 60’s people who lived together before they married had a much higher chance of divorce than
they do today.  The study’s author says this is because co-habiting today is much more common and therefore doesn’t affect the success of subsequent marriage. 

The article also details how cohabitation with and without engagement affects the divorce rates, however it would be really interesting to hear about how rates are affected by the different lengths of time people live together prior to marriage. 

There are several people who have come to Divorce Support Group whose wives or husbands have left within 2 years of getting married after they have cohabited for anything between 5 and 10 years before the marriage.  I think there is a correlation between the length of cohabitation and the statistics associated with divorce.  My view is that when people live together for a long time, they usually do so because one, if not both of them find the institution of marriage an intimacy too far. 

That is, although cohabitation is absolute commitment and meaningful, there is something about marriage which is a little more intimate and dependent and therefore potentially more claustrophobic than living together.  It is harder to extricate yourself.  Many people cohabit successfully for their lifetimes, but there is a question mark over why people then marry after such a long time of living together.  Living together for these couples somehow seems safer and less threatening to the relationship.  Taking the next step and marrying after a decade often is one step too far. 

The Divorce Hotel

As a psychotherapist specialising in Divorce and Separation, I was really interested to read about the Divorce Hotel in the Netherlands.  My
initial response was to think that it must be a gimmick.  The idea is that two people who are well intentioned enough to want an amicable separation book into the hotel and with the help of a mediator dismantle their joint lives and stay friends in the
process.  How does this happen, when mediation doesn’t always achieve this and when hostility makes it extremely difficult to have a non-contentious divorce? 

Firstly, although we can assume that those couples booking into the divorce hotel already have the prospect of success on their side as they are both heading for the same goal,that doesn’t answer all of it. 

In therapy,as in many disciplines, the setting in which an event or a meeting takes place is an integral part of a desired outcome. I can see then, how an ambient environment which is a normalised familiar environment, one which provides good wine, good food and comfortable surroundings will go a long way to facilitating a harmonious outcome. Anything which makes the overwhelming painful event of divorce easier, has to be good, but I can’t help but think (mutually desired outcomes aside), that a weekend is insufficient to process and mourn an enormous loss. 

Perhaps dealing with the practical side of divorce – the assets and the children, takes away much of the worry and anxiety associated with the break up itself, but it won’t take away the overwhelming involuntary emotions, the sleeplessness, the lack of
concentration, the inability to think straight, the loss of self-esteem and the
feeling of being alone and isolated.  The practical aspects of divorce are only a small part of a bigger picture.  Getting a legal divorce is one thing, getting an emotional one is entirely another. 

I like the idea of the divorce hotel.  It can be a place where
divorce doesn’t need to be synonymous with hostility and acrimony.  It can be a place where the couple and all they own is split and they can exit as separate but amicable individuals. My only concern is that on exit as separate individuals, each person takes time to deal with their own personal experience of pain in order to achieve their
emotional divorce and see that divorce is not only an end it is also a new
beginning. A weekend may be enough time to divorce on paper.  It is nowhere near enough time to divorce emotionally.

Next Workshop

Following wonderful feedback from our last workshop where all the participants continue to see each other socially, we are running another one in Holborn Central London on Saturday 25th March 2012.

Whether you are newly separated, or going through the legal process or are already
divorced, the Divorce Workshop will give you an opportunity to meet others
and share your experiences.  We will help you think about how to move
through your painful feelings, feel less stuck and start to think about your
future without fear.   

We will also help you think about how to answer your children’s questions about their
situation and manage any worries that you may have about them. 

The workshop runs from 10 am to 3.00pm.The cost is £65 including lunch. 

To book a place please call 0207 483 1378 or email c.friedman@www.web218016.clarahost.co.uk
or for more information go to www.divorcesupportgroup.co.uk/workshop 

Mediation – A good method?

An interesting article in the Guardian today about mediation: http://bit.ly/yJBzZt  It confirms that mediation does work when both people are invested in the process and are able to reach a compromise.  In other words, with a skilled mediator, those people who will go the extra mile to be in charge of the outcome of their own divorce will be able to manage it.  It becomes more complicated though, when there is lack of trust.  If one partner does not believe that the other has disclosed all the assets or savings or pensions that he has, then it is all but nigh on impossible to come to a fair conclusion. How is one to negotiate when the cards aren’t all on the table?  There are also the people who want to mediate but who feel that even though a fair enough outcome is reached that the other person will not honour it.  That is, that before the agreement is drawn up by a lawyer and endorsed by the court that the other side will go back on his or her word.  It has to be better for an individual to be able to negotiate what he wants out of his divorce rather than have a Judge impose something and it has to be better to try and talk about the issues than be on the receiving end of lawyers letters. Anything that makes a painful event, less drawn out and less painful is good. There are lots of pitfalls to mediation and hurdles to climb but if it is possible to mediate rather than litigate, then of course, it is a less painful, less costly and quicker way to settle.  However, it doesn’t fit everyone and then the next way of divorcing more amicably is to engage in the collaborative process rather than the litigation process. All these things are a minefield to people who haven’t given any of this a second thought or even a first one, the day before separation.  It’s not easy to suddenly ‘know’ about how to divorce at the same time as dealing with all the pain associated with it.  There are many ways to approach a legal divorce, but time is needed to understand how to do it and what is best not only for you but for your family.

Is the economic climate making it harder to divorce?

An article in The Scotsman today talks about less people divorcing because they can’t afford to.  The article can be read here: http://bit.ly/wuL32v  I think the economic climate does make it very difficult to separate for some people.  Where there are insufficient funds to house both people, or insufficient income to cover two separate lifestyles instead of one under the same roof, then people can be forced to stay together much longer than they would otherwise.  Sometimes, people start to live separately within the same house to compensate for this, even dividing the house in two with partition walls and rotas for using the bathroom and kitchen.  This is far from an ideal solution to separation.  Separation needs to look and feel like separation.  Going through the same front door each night is distressing and feeling that there is a makeshift solution is stressful.  Unfortunately, that is one of the realities of the long term financial crisis that we find ourselves in.  Perhaps sitting down and finding a less hostile solution would be an idea if it was possible.  That is, living together but separately without the artificial need for partitions and rotas.  That is, recognising the separation and just being civil together until the economic cloud lifts and people can truly go their separate ways.

Does your Ex need to be your enemy

In the wake of the launch of the Debrett’s ‘Guide To A Civilised Divorce’, the
Telegraph ran a story on ‘How NOT to make your ex your enemy’,
in which I am quoted. Is there such as thing as an amicable divorce? In my
opinion, there can be, although this does not mean it is pain free. To reach an amicable divorce settlement, there needs to be mutual compromise, and if one party feels they have been deeply wronged this can be extremely tough. They have compromised enough already, they feel. You can read the full article here  http://tinyurl.com/7vvhzfb

Our Divorce Workshop

We ran a really successful divorce workshop on Saturday in Central London.  The purpose of the day was to help people manage their overwhelming feelings associated with separation.  We talked about loss, feeling stuck, managing children’s expectations and emotions, fear around moving on and strategies for feeling better.  The Workshop was between 10 and 3 with lunch in between. 

All the people who came said how incredible it was to be able to share their experiences with other people who really understood and it made them feel much less alone and isolated.  One of the nicest things that come out of these workshops and our support groups is that people carry on seeing each other afterwards.  Real friendships are made and support continues long after the workshop is finished.  Our Saturday workshop was no different.  Emails were exchanged and I know that they will all continue to do things together.

Our next Workshop is in Central London on Saturday the 24th March