If you are leaving a relationship because you have found someone else to be with and want a future with them, it goes without saying that this may not make you the best messenger about separation.
Clients often ask me if they should disclose to their ex or soon to be ex whether or not there is another person involved in their lives. The answer to this is complex and in short I usually respond “it depends”. It depends on so many variables and in the end no matter what you do or say, how this news is received is not in your control. So even if you do everything by the book, there are no guarantees that your partner will see things your way and capitulate to the notion of the real reasons for separation and all that entails. Instead they are likely to see the new relationship as usurping their role, as act of betrayal, a wholesale rejection of them and they are unlikely to believe anything you have to say about the circumstances or the timing of that relationship commencing. Their lack of trust will be one of the biggest obstacles to achieving any sort of finality with them in terms of parenting or finalising your property issues.
Ideally, a person who is keen to explore another relationship would be willing to park that until such time as they have honoured the relationship they are in and do the hard work necessary to separate and in a better way. Now that sounds neat and tidy doesn’t it? People’s lives are rarely tidy and instead people tend to lead chaotic and messy lives. So instead most clients want to jump in and embrace that new relationship and all that entails before they have properly extricated themselves from the existing relationship.
So some tips about separating in these circumstances:
- Keep communicating i.e. don’t leave and cut the other person out of your life. If you do the shock and the rejection will be more than they can bear and they will punish you for this
- Counselling should be a request made by you to them and with humility not bravado
- You need to be prepared to say you are sorry about the circumstances surrounding the end of the relationship and own your share of the responsibility for its ending
- You need to articulate and answer questions about your intentions regarding the new relationship. This is best done ahead of time with you doing the work with your own counsellor and then being very careful about how you communicate what is happening in separation counselling with your former partner
- Do not flaunt the new relationship – it will hurt your former partner who is the one being left behind
- Do not spend money on the new relationship and stint your family at the same time – your obligations to your family need to be understood and met – legal advice should be obtained on what those obligations are
- Do not take the new person to those events where you and your ex traditionally went as a couple
- Realise that the new relationship is not really about the other person – it is about how good they make you feel about yourself
- Realise that this feeling may not outlive the new relationship so declarations about the new relationship may be premature
- Don’t behave like a giddy teenager in love – it is very hard for those close to you to forgive or forget immature behaviour
- Do not rush to get engaged to the new partner
- Do not introduce your children to your new partner even if you have moved in together. This topic is one which must be explored with the other parent. Agreements ideally should be reached before such an introduction occurs. This means having conversations about timing and how to introduce the topic to the children and who conveys this to them.
- When introducing your children ensure the mechanics of the meeting are carefully thought through from their perspective, not yours.
- Ensure the children have someone, other than you and their other parent, to talk through any issues or concerns they have.
- Think seriously about the longevity of the new relationship before the children are involved in meeting them.
In relation to the introduction of your children to a new partner, the least helpful attitude is to say “They don’t control me. This is my life. I can do what I want”. Without a Court order restraining you from bringing your children into contact with your new partner, you are at liberty to introduce them. But if you do this contrary to the concerns of the other parent then the price you will pay outside the court system will be significant. It shows a flagrant disregard for their feelings and it also shows an immaturity and lack of insight of where you, as opposed to your former partner, are on the cycle of separation.
This does not mean your former partner controls you or your life forever. There has to be child focused reason at the core of your decision making as parents. The reason is this – children feel terrible when their parents separate and when those parents do it badly. They may often feel that they are to blame for their parents’ separation. They feel conflicted loyalty and forcing them into a situation whereby you are effectively exposing them to a situation they know the other parent is against, will exacerbate that inner conflict. Out of that sense of loyalty, they may resist agreeing to see you. They do not want to be put in a situation whereby you are forcing them prematurely into contact with your new partner. Rather than telling you this (because let’s face it, you are not wanting anything to stand in your way), they will simply retreat. You in turn will blame the other parent and say they are putting the children up to it. In reality, you will only have yourself to blame as there was a better conversation to be had and there was more work (albeit initially harder) by working with the other parent and making concessions which put the children front and centre of your concerns rather than the pursuit of the new relationship.
The information in this blog does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon by you. If you require advice specific to your situation, you must contact Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers for legal advice. The contents of this blog are relevant as at 10 April 2018. We recommend you obtain specific advice relevant to you and your family’s situation.
By Caroline Counsel