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So, you and your spouse have tried to talk and work towards getting along better, but somehow things go back to the way they were no matter how hard you try. Perhaps it’s time to consider working with a professional who can help guide you towards making permanent change – sometimes together and other times apart.

In my practice, I see couples in various stages of decision making and distress. Some couples have struggled for years to make things better but understandably can’t gain enough objectivity by standing back to observe their dynamics. So, that becomes part of my job.

Some couples, initially coming to talk about separation, actually end up working towards reconciliation. Sometimes, being guided towards discussing the old issues in a different way or changing old responses to problems makes all the difference.

Some couples recognize that they are not well suited, not in sync or that their needs and wants have changed over time and that they’re just hanging on by a thread. Despite this, they are uber worried about their kids and the impact that their separation will have on them. They may have heard that staying together just for the sake of the kids is not best practice, but nevertheless, worrying about their children is completely normal. Truth be told, it’s not the actual act of separation or divorce that impacts the kids most. It’s what happens after parents part ways. The way in which they talk about the child’s other parent, the messages that they send via their child, the passive aggressive manner in which he or she talks about his or her ex in the company of others is what affects the child much more. So, my job  – even before separation – is to help couples figure out the best way, time and place to share the news with their children. Also, to help them anticipate how their children might react, their emotional response and the kinds of questions to be prepared for. Then, after they have gotten that out of the way, I can help them figure out what’s in the children’s best interests in regards to visiting with each parent along with addressing lots of other child related concerns. If I feel that the questions they need answers to are beyond my scope, I will refer to another professional – a mediator, for example.

After they have parted, I will sometimes meet with the children to make sure that they are coping as well as possible. Even when children don’t show any outward signs of distress as a result of the loss of the family unit as they once knew it, they often benefit from seeing a therapist just to have someone outside of the family to share feelings with. Depending on the age of the child, I may refer to an art or play therapist who can work with the child – especially if he or she is more reluctant or less able to share feelings out loud.

Sometimes I don’t know the couple pre separation at all. I am often approached by either husband or wife after the decision to separate has been made, sometimes when one or the other is getting his or her ducks in a row and wants to get professional opinion about his or her plan (sometimes a safety plan) from a professional. I also often hear from either partner after each is living apart so that he or she can work on individual concerns – such as the emotional response to the loss of a partner or lifestyle, the pain or frustration of not being around his or her children all the time, the concern about the way in which his or her ex is parenting their children or concerns about timing and how to introduce children to a new romantic interest for either him or herself or in regards to the way in which his or her spouse is doing so.

I also often hear from parents who are having a very difficult time communicating concern with his or her ex about parenting practices in the other’s home. Perhaps they were never on the same page, even when married. But now, differences are even more apparent and the children may be confused about flip flopping between such different rules. So, I often meet with separated or divorced couples together – some more amicable than others – to sort through this and consider what is in the best interests of their children. Sometimes, an unbiased but sympathetic response can calm things down significantly. At least so that they can hear each other’s concerns and create a plan that works for everyone.

My experience has been that counselling, for children and adults, faced with as monumental decision as deciding to separate or going through a separation or divorce, can do no harm (unless you are seeing someone who does not have the proper skills or credentials). Some of the benefits to working with a therapist who has experience working with divorce and separation includes having your feelings normalized and acknowledged, getting your thoughts in order, being provided with an objective perspective as to the dynamics you are part of, figuring out what is in the best interests of everyone involved and helping to refer you to other professionals as needed,

Sometimes, the thought of going to yet another professional or taking up more of your time in a therapist’s office feels overwhelming but I’m sure that once you find the right person to work with, you will be glad you did.

[su_heading style=”default” size=”13″ align=”left” margin=”20″ class=””]Sara Dimerman, Dip.C.S., C.Psych is registered as a Psychologist with the College of Psychologists of Ontario. She is also an author, syndicated columnist and expert to the media. In practice for almost 25 years, Sara is one of North America’s most trusted parenting and relationship experts. To contact Sara, please visit: www.helpmesara.com [/su_heading]

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