Making the decision to separate can be hard and it’s scary.

The decision requires you to reflect on YOU. The first thing to work out is whether you’re in the right headspace to be making any life-changing decisions right now.

The decision to separate can be an easy one for some people, particularly if there are complex issues like violence, lies, infidelity or other deep-seated problems. But even without these sorts of issues, it can be an extremely hard decision to make, let alone have imposed on you. It can be particularly difficult if you have children because you probably want what is best for them, and working out what that means may not be easy.

Life events, and sometimes life in general, can lead us to question our relationships with significant others, friends, family and work colleagues. The first exercise I want you to do is to simply sit for a moment and reflect. Then read through this list and decide whether you or your partner have experienced any of these events in the last eighteen months that could be affecting your headspace:

•   Miscarriage

•   Pregnancy and/or birth

•   Physical or emotional cheating

•   Physical violence/verbal abuse

•   Career change (change of job, termination)

•   Death of a family member or friend

•   Gambling/addiction issues

•   Criminal offence/victim of crime

•   Moved interstate or overseas

•   Car accident

•   Mental-illness diagnosis/suspicion of you/your partner (including depression)

•   Diagnosis of a mental illness or depression-like symptoms

It could be a combination of one or more of the above, or none. You and your partner could simply have a lot going on at the moment in your life, whether it’s work, the kids, sick parents, or you just aren’t getting on.

Do you need a break to have time to think about your relationship? If yes, what are you going to do about it? It is important to tap into the reasons behind the question mark over your relationship.

I ended up speaking with a counsellor, who really helped me to understand what was going on. My ex and I got together when we were in our early twenties; we had two boys together, and, in hindsight, got married for the wrong reasons. As we got older, we grew up. We both changed and came to realise that we wanted different things in life.

The next part of this exercise involves getting out your phone and going into the notes app, or grabbing a pen and paper. Write down the top five things that keep you awake at night. Which of these top five things do you believe are caused—directly or indirectly—by your partner? Write them down. Are any of them deal-breakers? Is there anything that could be fixed?

Now put your notes to one side and have a think about your relationship. The point of this next exercise is to help you reflect on whether the relationship is going through a rough patch that you could possibly work through together, or if separating is the right decision for you.

It can take weeks, months or even years to make the decision to separate, and it can represent a massive change in your life, so be patient. I’ve worked with people who have come to see me for initial advice well before they making the final decision to separate.

Here are a few suggestions that might help you in your soul-searching when it comes to making that decision:

Sometimes some initial legal advice and information can help you get perspective on what life could look like for you in the event that you and your partner were to separate. This may help in informing your decision.

You can contact us to make an advice appointment if you’d like. Feel free to get in touch

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