Christmas is supposed to be all about family, but the fall-out from the festive season catapults many couples into crisis. January is peak season for relationship counsellors and legal mediators. Áilín Quinlan looks at what’s going behind closed doors
Mymind (www.mymind.org), which has branches in Cork, Dublin, and Limerick offers reduced counselling fees for people who are unemployed or who work part-time.
DOS AND DON’TS
Bernadette Ryan’s ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ for couples who have just separated, or are considering it:
- Give your relationship a fair chance, says Ryan. Consider undergoing relationship counselling before deciding on separation and heading for mediation, she advises.
- Consider separation counselling — it will help with the emotional fall-out of break-up, suggests Ryan.
- Understand that separation is akin to entering a grieving process. Be aware that you are grieving your lost hopes, lost dreams, and lost relationships. “If it has been a recent decision you may be in shock. You may not feel like getting out of bed in the morning but if you have children you must continue caring for them as best you can, and you do have to get out of bed to do that,” she explains.
- Recognise that separation is a process and not a single event and that it is going to continue for a while. Seek out professional support or look for support to friends and family — and lean on them.
- Allow yourself to feel the inevitable gamut of emotions that follow a separation. “If you need to go back to bed for a few hours after the kids have left for school, because you cannot face the world, that’s okay,” says Ryan.
- Remember that this will get better. “Separation can also offer the opportunity to start a new life if you let it,” says Ryan.
- Shut out people who can help or support you
- Shut yourself down.
- Neglect your health — an emotional shock like this places huge stress on the body and there may have been months of rows, arguments, and stand-offs by the time the separation comes. “Self-care is crucial — because stress can make you ill and something that comes out of left field that you are not expecting is like an emotional kick in the head.”
- Put your children in the middle. “Don’t use them the children as a form of emotional blackmail — remember that your relationship with your partner may be over but for the children both of you are still their parents,” says Ryan. Research shows that putting your child first can lessen the impact on them of separation or divorce. In other words, says Ryan, when you’re at your most vulnerable emotionally, you must be strong for your child. This is not easy to do.
- Feel you have failed — sometimes relationships simply don’t work out.