Here it is, blog number three from my ten-part series about Life After Separation.
This week I’m writing about the impact a separation can have on other relationships. The other relationships that exist or existed because you were a couple.
It will seem like a broken record, but I need to preface that these are my thoughts from a family lawyer’s personal perspective. They may not be any other family lawyer’s thoughts or opinions.
What happens to ‘other’ relationships after separation?
Let’s think about the beginning of a relationship. We met, develop a friendship and that friendship develops into a romantic relationship. Early in the ‘friendship’ phase, we (the couple) are only focussed on ‘the couple’. Of course, it’s the honeymoon stage after all. But somewhere along the way, the couple gradually introduce ‘others’. Who are the ‘others’?
- Parents and Grandparents
- Extended family
If the couple is lucky, their circle of security widens, and other relationships develop. A different kind of attachment and love can exist. Special occasions are shared and support external to your couple relationship is given. This support can be given in many ways, from financial and emotional support, to rent free accommodation to allow the couple to save for their dream home. Families are blended and your children become our children and grandchildren. After all, children can never have too many people that love them.
The length of the relationship doesn’t always govern the attachment and nature of the other relationships. Every individual and couple are different. For me, my family became his family and his family became my family. His children were my children (and still are). I now have grandchildren. But when the separation is raw and new, those other relationships change – ‘pick a side!’ they may say. The damage that occurs from ‘picking a side’ or isolating the exiting spouse can be irreversible. If damage is done to the adult/s in the couple relationship and to the adults in the ’other relationships’, imagine the damage it is doing to the innocent. The children.
I remember the place and time, that moment, when I said to my former husband, “this is not just a separation of us, this is a separation of 18 years of other relationships, of our families. So don’t make it just about us. I hurt for the loss of our family”. From that moment he realised a separation is bigger than just us, the couple.
So, what can we do as family lawyers to help our clients see the bigger picture?
Firstly, bring it back to the children who didn’t ask for the separation. They don’t need to pick a side. Encourage your client to think about the good the other relationships gave them and think about how the separation may be impacting them. Friends don’t need to pick a side, but invariably it happens. Loyalty is okay.
It is also not lost on me that some people who make up the ‘other relationships’ may not bring any good to your client’s life or that of their children. Clearly my comments are generalised.