Where to look when things are over

Support: When a relationship is over there is always support and assistance for those involved, especially when things seem too much to handle. Photo: Shutterstock.

Support: When a relationship is over there is always support and assistance for those involved, especially when things seem too much to handle. Photo: Shutterstock.

Valentine's Day has long been associated with heartfelt poems, cute gifts, secret admirers and of course love. But what happens when love isn't on the cards? They say it's better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all, but is that true? What happens when love disappears from a relationship?

While divorce rates rose rapidly to 4.5 per cent in 1976, with "No Fault Divorce" being introduced, the rate continued to slide over the next two decades and now consistently hovers around the 2 per cent mark. Factors such as increased co-habitation before marriage, a decrease in marriage rates and an increase in the average age of couples getting married, have all contributed to the low divorce rate.

Relationships Australia General Manager - Practice Quality and Innovation, Megan Solomon, has over 25 years of experience as a psychologist, and a couple and family therapist. Megan said that it's important to remember that divorce can be a difficult and costly procedure, and that couples should try to resolve issues if a relationship is over.

"When couples separate, often they are not thinking of the finality of divorce, where either one or both people are still hoping to reconcile, or trying some last ditch counselling, or just hoping to their unhappiness together," she said. "Counselling is a good approach to working through how to separate well, where a third party can help navigate decision making and ensure both people get the support they need, individually or in joint planning meetings".

While it can often be difficult to plan and work through issues given the emotional investment when ending a relationship, it is important to remember that a divorce affects more than just the unlucky couple. Children, family and friends can all be caught up in proceedings, so having a plan can help everyone achieve a better outcome.

Counselling is a good approach to working through how to separate well.

Megan Solomon, Relationships Australia

Relationships Australia NSW has a wide range of support services for people experiencing relationship difficulties, including counselling, relationship seminars, and if separating, specialised family law counselling and mediation services. Megan said that during a separation, a timeline is always helpful and there are normally three key steps.

  1. Immediate decisions (initial days/ weeks). Deals with the physical separation including accommodation, finances, who attends social events and arrangements for any children.
  2. Plans for the medium term (3-6 months). Provides some stability for each person (and children) in the period directly after the separation including who stays in the house, which school kids continue at, management of birthdays, cancellation of future plans.
  3. Longer term decisions (6 months onwards). Looking at the future and moving forward including the sale of property, parenting, financial divisions that can be worked through. The legal divorce can be part of that decision making process, as each comes to a moment of accepting it is finally over.

While family and friends can usually be relied on for support and assistance, the emotional journey throughout a separation and even afterwards can be distressing and intense, so couples are encouraged to seek some professional support along the way. For more information on counselling, mediation and the many other services Relationship Australia can provide, visit www.relationships.org.au or call 1300 364 277.

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