Will the grass be greener?

The decision to separate is a very difficult one for people. It is good to think not only about how bad things have been but also whether the grass will be greener on the other side of the separation fence.  These are issues you could discuss with a relationship counsellor.

You may also benefit from a confidential discussion with a family lawyer who can give you some preliminary advice. You could talk about how your finances are likely to be if you separate, and what parenting arrangements you might be able to make for the children. Remember that preliminary advice is just that. Until a lawyer knows what the other person wants, and all the facts about a case, it is difficult to give advice on likely outcomes.

People who are contemplating separation usually have a good idea of the advantages of doing so. What are some of the disadvantages?

Conflict between parents does not necessarily end on separation: Separation creates different sources of conflict between parents from the kind of conflict that occurs when parents live together. There may be arguments about:

  • finances or parenting arrangements in the aftermath of separation, leading to litigation;
  • ongoing arguments about child support;
  • different approaches to discipline, diet and bedtimes in each home;
  • unresolved issues about the breakup that cause continuing tension and hostility;
  • feelings of resentment or jealousy about new partners;
  • difficulties if one parent wants to move a long way from the other parent and to take the children.

These ongoing conflicts take their toll on children.

Financial problems: When a couple break up, neither of them is likely to be as well off as before. There will need to be two furnished homes, two sets of appliances, two electricity bills and a multitude of other duplicated costs. Both will experience a sense of financial loss. One or both of them may need to move to a less expensive area – and that can mean that children need to change schools. Finances can be particularly hard for mothers who have taken time out of the workforce to care for children and who can only work part-time.

New relationships: These can be very fulfilling, but they also have their challenges. If lessons are not learned from the breakdown of the first relationship, the same patterns can be repeated in the next one. Forming step-families may involve numerous pressures and tensions from raising children who have different parents. These children are likely to have a parent living elsewhere, with whom the children have a continuing relationship. Numerous issues can arise in terms of forming a single family unit. These include:

  • discipline
  • issues about financial support for the different children, and
  • difficulties in relationships between the children.

There can also be issues of resentment of step-children and competition for time and attention.So if you are thinking about separation, and there are still good things about your relationship, do count the cost – especially the cost for the children. Many couples pull through difficult times to achieve long-term happiness. There are many relationship counselling services available, and people can get help for a range of relationship-destroying issues such as alcohol or drug addiction, domestic violence, affairs, porn addiction and gambling.  Information about different services can be found at Family Relationships Online, which is here, or by asking at your local Family Relationship Centre.