When you are going through a separation it is easy to fall into a few unhealthy and unhelpful traps. This guide will help you to identify, and avoid, those traps.

1. Withdrawing from people around you that love and value you Sometimes the instinct to withdraw from people around you can be powerful after separation, but it is important that you don’t do this. You may feel embarrassed, inadequate or unsure where you stand with your friendships given you are now not part of ‘the couple’ that you once were. Your true friends will want to be there for you and if you avoid them, you are depriving yourself of their support at the time when you need it the most. Be upfront with your friends, but don’t withdraw. For example, if you don’t want to talk about your separation, just tell them that you would appreciate that you avoid discussing the separation.

2. Negative self-talk Your mind will be very busy, and it is too easy to blame yourself after your relationship has ended. You might find yourself thinking, ‘if only I was more like this…’ or ‘maybe if I didn’t do that…’and ‘I wonder if…’. All of these thoughts stem from, and lead to, negative self-talk. Using negative self-talk after a separation is not going to help you move forward in any way. Be as compassionate toward yourself as you would be to a friend whose heart had just been broken.

3. Keeping painful reminders around you It can be tempting to keep things that you like, that you have collected from the relationship, around you after separation. However, some of those items will hold strong reminders of your ex-partner and/or the relationship, and the constant reminder of this can cause you more pain.

You may not have to dispose of every reminder but give real, conscious thought and consideration to whether the items around you are enhancing your life or if they are preventing you from moving on. If you are not sure if you want to get rid of items just yet, or if they are subject of dispute in your family law matter, place them in storage until a later date. They will be there if or when you need them or are ready to deal with them, but they won’t be burdening you.

4. Allowing yourself to feel like a failure No matter what the circumstances of your separation are, a broken relationship can make us feel like a failure. You can feel doomed to the fate of divorce, single parenting or relationship failure. The truth is that you are not a failure because you have a relationship or a marriage that didn’t work out.

You simply had a relationship that didn’t work out, and you certainly aren’t alone in that. There are countless people, considered successful, either by society or yourself, who have relationships that didn’t work out. Furthermore, you might be surprised to know who, and how many, of those around you have had failed relationships and divorces. As humans we have a tendency to compare our lives to others, and to assume that other people’s lives are ‘perfect’ and that ours is therefore a failure. This is not true in most cases. Remember that most people will not judge you as harshly as you judge yourself, so give yourself a break and refuse to allow the failure thought to show up or stick around.

5. Revisiting mistakes Everyone makes mistakes in relationships; no one is perfect but if the relationship is right and you both love each other then you will each choose to work through mistakes together. If the relationship is at an end there is little point revisiting or reliving either of your mistakes. Once you’ve identified what your mistakes might have been, you can probably learn from them. However, going over them again and again will only make you feel worse and delay your emotional recovery. It is also important not to give up any of your legal entitlements because of any guilt you may be feeling over mistakes.

6. Seeking revenge Divorce and separation is an event where it is common for people to have ill-feelings towards the other party and to wish to seek revenge for any wrongdoings. You may find your thoughts and self-talk wandering into places of how you can ‘get even’, or give the other person what you view they ‘deserve’.

It is probably a natural human response to have some of these thoughts, but the truth is that getting out the vodoo doll and pins won’t help you to resolve your family law matters and move on. Letting go is the sweetest revenge you will ever have, and it will help you to get through the separation or divorce quickly. Doing this will allow you to move onto a happier life as soon as possible. You won’t be able to move on if you stay stuck in blame and anger.

7. Holding on to principles In my work as a lawyer, I always hear people exclaim ‘but it’s the principle!’ Many times my clients are right, however the practical cost of principles rarely makes it worth pursuing. Principles usually cost parties significant money in legal fees due to protracted, negative negotiations that are not based on reasoning or sensible rationale.

More often than not, clients do themselves a disservice and inflict pain upon themselves in the long term by holding on to their principles. Sometimes it’s best to let go of the principle to get a better overall result

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