Enduring a separation or divorce is one of the most emotionally intensive events of one’s life (second only, in my experience, to renovating a bathroom).
Ironically, planning a wedding is so intense that we need to have that little sojourn afterwards, called a ‘honeymoon’.
So why don’t we take a planned holiday from divorce?
For most of us, a separation means an intense burn of physical time, and emotional energy – meeting with lawyers, letters and emails to and fro, and in a worst case, preparing for, and attending Court. Every day, you are walking around with this problem in your head – examining it from every angle, over and over, and trying to solve it like a perpetual Rubik’s Cube.
Though we may not admit it, these physical and emotional resources are finite. Every day takes a bit more from us. And it is easy to run out of them before your case is finished.
Why is this important? When you do run out of steam, physically and emotionally, that’s when things go wrong – you are no longer being thoughtful about your case, and are making decisions based on exhaustion, and worse, desperation. As a lawyer, when I hear decisions being guided by ‘I don’t care anymore, I just want it over’, I begin to twitch. That’s no state to be in when making decisions affecting your long-term future.
My advice? Give yourself a break. Literally.
Just as you might have historically planned an annual holiday, plan in the same way for your divorce. A week or 2 to have some radio silence, and give yourself time to think about something else entirely, and re-energise.
And then repeat as necessary.
When I was at law school, we were not taught to support our clients in this way. But 18 years of family law has taught me that most of us will reach a point where we need this ‘break’. It is about self-preservation. When we take time to help ourselves, we are more resilient when the going gets tough.
Here’s how to do it:-
- Tell your family lawyer you need a break. They’ll understand, trust me.
- Plan. Once you’ve identified that you need a break, plan when it will be. Every case has peaks and troughs, and your lawyer will be able to identify a period of ‘downtime’ when less is likely to happen in your case, and you can be absent without any negative impact to your situation. Even the thought of a break will keep you going until it rolls round.
- Go off the grid. Arrange with your lawyer that, absent an absolute worst case, you won’t be in contact with each other. You won’t email, you won’t speak on the phone, you won’t be doing any homework for the case. Don’t break this rule. If you do, you will have defeated the purpose of the break.
- Life in a bubble. During your break, your family law case does not exist. You do not read emails about it. You do not talk about it. You do not think about it. The objective is to create a block of time where you do other stuff to physically and mentally ‘recharge’ – enjoy that exhibition at the museum; mainline an entire season of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’; walk on the beach; dabble at those watercolours; drink Rose while watching the sunset. The things you would do if you did not have lawyers in your life. Whatever feeds your soul.
- Keep it simple. Your divorce holiday need not be elaborate. It can be a week at home in the garden, a driving trip to visit friends, or a week at the beach. Whatever will put you in in a frame of mind to decompress.
- Don’t go out of bounds. Though it may feel foreign not to talk to your lawyer for a fortnight, believe me, the world will not end. Those emails can wait. You have created an opportunity for some brain food, so take it in.
Any significant journey requires a rest stop or 2 before the final destination is reached, so don’t feel guilty about taking some time for ‘you’. Above all, be sure to use your ‘divorce holiday’ as an opportunity to put fuel back in your tank. Your case will be waiting for you when you log back into G-mail, and your family lawyer will hold the fort until then. The fact of the matter is that, when you have topped up your physical and emotional resources, you will be able to attack your case again with new-found energy and creativity.