The Increments of a Relationship Breakdown

April 01, 2021  |   Posted by :   |   Mediation

The breakdown of a relationship is rarely due to one single event. Of course there are moments of high emotion or final straw incidents – the deal breakers that mark the beginning of the end – but in most cases there will be underlying issues, and things will have been gradually breaking down for much longer. A slow accumulation of little things, micro-aggressions, irritations and hairline fractures, until it only takes one more nudge to send the whole thing crashing down… The ‘facts’ put down to prove unreasonable behaviour often only show a tiny portion of the real situation, and infidelity is often a symptom of a much deeper problem within a relationship.

Far too often, it’s communication that lies at the heart of the issue – either a lack of communication or the wrong kind of communication. According to research, the top predictors for divorce are toxic methods of communication such as constant criticism, complaints, and a contemptuous attitude. When a relationship is struggling, resentment begins to build, and it’s easy to fall into these kinds of negative communication cycles. Guilt, anger, frustration and defensiveness begin to pile up until productive communication just feels impossible.

They say ‘love is a verb’ – it takes active participation, it takes work and adjustment, and it evolves over time. We change through the years, we become different people, we are influenced by so many internal and external influences: work, family, lifestyle – even an unexpected global pandemic(!) – and sometimes relationships just don’t change enough to keep up.

Sometimes you can work on your communication to rebuild that former understanding and patience and affection; to love as a verb and actively work on the way you speak to each other, how well you listen to each other, try to see one another’s point of view, be supportive instead of critical, make small acts of kindness or spontaneous romantic gestures. Because just as a relationship tends to break down in a gradual way, it can also be built back up step by tiny step.

Sometimes, though, despite all the active work in the world, a relationship comes to an end because you have simply both become different people. And that’s okay. But finding a way to communicate all these feelings and understand how the breakdown occurred will still help to navigate through the next stage and make separation far less painful and difficult. Using a solicitor committed to a non-combative collaborative approach and, where possible, the use of alternative dispute resolution routes such as mediation or solicitor-to-solicitor negotiation can make a huge difference in reducing animosity in the separation process, focusing on cooperation, negotiation and positive communication rather than entering into a battle of wills in court. The introduction of no fault divorce in the autumn of 2021 is also hoped to help facilitate a more positive route to divorce, removing the need to lay blame and offering the chance to make a dignified, mutual decision to move on.

As always, communication is key. Seeing things from each other’s perspective and talking openly about the slow evolution of your relationship as opposed to those last straw moments can really help to pave the way for reasonable discussions about dividing assets, co-parenting, and reaching a fair settlement.

If you’ve reached the end of a relationship and need advice on the options for separation and how to take an amicable approach, get in touch with our friendly team of solicitors at Frances Lindsay & Co.

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