How to raise your game this Christmas and not your voice

The Christmas season is approaching and can be a time of real stress and anxiety for couples who might already be talking about whether they are going to stay together.

We are often asked whether there are any common themes we come across as family lawyers working with couples going through separation and divorce. We thought that rather than write an article about divorce we could instead share some of the lessons we have all learnt along the way in the hope it might in some way help you, your family or your friends.

Rachael Oakes

Head of the Family Team – Partner, Lawyer and Accredited Mediator

In my work both as a lawyer and a mediator I never fail to be amazed by how different language can create such different responses. Language is a tool that can be used to help couples improve their communication with each other and their family. For example, saying “I’m right – you are wrong” will mean that the issue being discussed just gets stuck. To be able to move forward these types of discussions a couple need to listen to each other and then use different approaches to try and find a solution. One way forward is to ask questions like – what needs to happen for us to find a solution to this together? What options are there for us to be thinking about to try and reach an agreement? Can I do anything differently?

Couples bond when they have a shared interest. Find something you can do together which you both enjoy and book doing it into the diary so life doesn’t take over.

There are some really great books out there that offer some fantastic advice, guidance and ways to develop better skills. This can be a good way to improve emotional intelligence and for people who aren’t ready to talk yet reading books can provide a lot of information that can really help people.

Why good people do bad things – Debbie Ford
Lasting Love – Gay & Kathlyn Hendricks
Feel the Fear and do it anyway – Susan Jeffers
5 love languages – Gary Chapman

Claire Colbert

Partner, Lawyer and Accredited Mediator

Different parenting styles can cause arguments. Trying to work together to parent your children, and talk about the differences to create a united parenting front can reduce arguments.

The Grass isn’t always Greener! A number of clients I have met in the last few years have become dissatisfied with their life/marriage due to the impact of social media. It is easy to compare our lives to perfect pictures and videos posted online, but often there is more to every image than we see. What may appear to be a perfect life, may just be a series of “perfect posts”.

Children can become skilled at divide and conquer of parents! When there is a difference of opinion about any issue, it is important that neither parent undermines or criticises the other in front of the children. Make sure those discussions happen in private and children know that parents support each other and communicate about issues and decisions.

Joanne Thomas

Lawyer and Associate

Communicate with each other. Tell your spouse how you are feeling. People cannot read minds, so do not assume your spouse knows what you want from the relationship. Be bold enough to tell each other how you feel, and be brave enough to do so at an early stage.

It is OK to access professional guidance to help you overcome difficulties in your relationship. Counselling can give an independent perspective and gaining this support early on can often be the key to getting a marriage back on track.

In a busy world it is easy to forget the good times you have had together, particularly once the excitement of the honeymoon period has faded. Take time out to look through old photos, reminisce the good times you have shared together and remember what made you fall in love with each other in the first place.

Gemma Webber-Nicholls

Lawyer and Senior Associate

Make time for each other. Life can get busy, and feeling unwanted or neglected can cause feelings that are often difficult to repair.

Little gestures can make a difference, even a note or text message can be well received and remind the people we love, that we care.

Share household chores; does it need to be one person’s role? That can cause arguments and upset. Marriage is a partnership and sharing chores can help avoid resentment.

Tom Burgess

Lawyer and Associate

Talk about managing your finances as much as you can and agree a shared approach. Differences of opinion about money, the burden of too much responsibility, or feeling excluded from financial decisions, are recurring themes when relationships come to an end.

If one of you has an issue with one of the other’s relatives or friends, discuss it and try to find a way to manage it. One partner failing to get along with the other’s family or friends is frequently a key reason for the breakdown of a relationship.

If one of you is going through a difficult time – for example with illness, bereavement or stress at work – they need to be able to talk about it and be listened to. Feeling unsupported by your partner in a time of need is often a trigger for questioning the future of your relationship.

If seeking a separation or divorce is what you decide is right for you then we can help. We can provide you with all of the information you need to be able to make informed decisions about what you want to do, when and how. We will support you every step of the way. If you would like a confidential discussion about your options then please call us on 01865 781 181.

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