‘My life’s like the wrong side of embroidery’ laments an ex-husband in the wry French rom-com Chinese Puzzle. ‘Instead of the neat charm I once knew, it’s all ugly knots and unravelled threads.’ Speaking as a counsellor, I have, over the years, heard many variations on this post-separation sentiment, and lots a good deal darker. How can you remain zen when your partner’s long-denied affair turns out to be ongoing and blooming, when a spouse has run up five figures worth of secret debt or the children are crying for their absent Dad? These and many other unanswered questions are left hanging in the air – how did this once great love burn down to ashes? Must you leave the much-loved marital home? Why do you not want to get up in the morning? How will you trust or love again? Will your ex remain a hands-on Dad to the children?
‘I keep Kleenex in my desk drawer’ says one divorce lawyer, ‘but when clients use their costly appointments to vent distress, it’s hard to move on with the business in hand. I gently suggest that they would find it more cost-effective and reassuring to see a counsellor.’ An experienced therapist will help you to express your barely bearable emotions, and to recognise them as perfectly normal responses to this painful situation. Friends and family may want you swiftly back to your old smiling self so they needn’t worry. Your counsellor will help you accept that recovery runs its own course and that you won’t always feel as low as you do right now. Counselling also offers techniques to help you de-stress and regain a sense of being in control. You’ll have help to rebuild your own self-esteem and your children’s resilience and explore how to co-parent with the least possible conflict. Counselling provides a safe space to reflect on how the marriage lost its way and, in time, to reset future goals with optimism. And that, no matter, what the statute book says, is the way forward, leaving grief behind.