You may have read my comments in the Daily Telegraph on Monday about a new way of breaking up which has been growing steadily in popularity, albeit under the radar. It's been termed "semi-separating'.
This is when a marriage is coming to an end but the couple decide not to leave the marital home and remain living together under the same roof.
It may seem a strange concept but there are many different reasons for staying in the same home after a breakup, which include:
- Uncertainty as to whether breaking up is the right decision
- Financial reasons
- The couple have children and don't want to break up the family environment
- Lifestyle choice
- Fear of change and of the unknown future apart
- The home is part of the family business and cannot be sold without damaging consequences
Often there is a slow and natural drifting apart that takes place as the relationship comes to an end. There are three stages in the semi-separating process before the final decision to divorce is made.
Stage 1: The couple take separate bedrooms. This is easily explained to the children by saying that Dad snores or Mum has to get up early to for work. It gives the couple each their own personal space which can help to alleviate tensions.
Stage 2: The couple alternate weekend child care responsibility. This means that they will each spend time alone with the kids at weekends. One parent will often be out or stay away when it's their weekend off.
Stage 3: The couple will no longer eat together in the evenings and will live separate lives during the week too.
There are some advantages to semi-separating as it can be a helpful and informative process:
- It makes a divorce easier for the kids as they become used to spending time alone with each parent and having quality time alone with each of them.
- It helps the couple get used to single parenting and often boosts confidence in their own abilities as parents.
- It allows both adults to get used to the idea and avoids rushing into divorce and having regrets.
However, there are some cases where semi-separating would not be a healthy option. For example, if the relationship is so bad that the home environment is toxic to live in. I am a big believer that divorce does not have to damage kids but it does very much depend on the parents' behaviour. If children are subjected to arguments and lots of tension there is a good case for a clean quick break.
Also, on going disagreements between the couple can damage their own potential for a healthy friendship and co-parenting relationship further down the line. Semi-separating may not be a wise option if:
- You are in an abusive relationship
- The children are exposed to a toxic environment and arguments
- Your confidence and self esteem is being eroded daily
In these cases a total separation would be a healthier option and protect both yourself and the children from any further damage.
Every breakup is different and there is not one solution that will work for every couple. Take some time to think carefully about what is best for your situation and don't be afraid to ask for advice from an expert if you need it.