It takes incredible courage to contact a lawyer when you know you need to end a long marriage. In fact, human nature dictates that you might spend a while ‘rose tinting’ the relationship in a bid to convince yourself that it ‘wasn’t that bad’. Inner reasoning is perfectly normal. However, a great deal of the bargaining you do with yourself may be indicative of another emotion. Fear.
I often receive phone calls from prospective clients, who are nervous, anxious and scared. It turns out they have been subjected to many years of insidious, controlling and often unbearable behaviour by their spouse. It appears that tolerance to this type of behaviour becomes engrained. The caller may have experienced unimaginable emotional pain without even realising, objectively, how bad their situation has become.
As an experienced family lawyer, I am well versed in marital trauma. Whilst physical violence is perhaps the most recognised form of abuse, controlling and coercive behaviour should not be dismissed as any less serious. This can range from shouting, raging, silent treatment, sulking, gaslighting, withholding money, hiding money, isolating an individual from their family and friends through to sarcasm, name-calling, and nasty comments. If you are subjected to this type of behaviour for long enough you begin to doubt your own sanity. You may decide it’s better to stay quiet to keep the peace, rather than dare challenge your oppressor. Or simply put, you might not know any different.
If you do decide to separate after a long marriage, you may find that your ex-partner’s behaviour gets even worse for a while. There tend to be two main reasons for this. Either genuine sorrow at the breakdown of the relationship and/ or the continuing wish to exert control. It is very common for a party to ‘call off’ divorce proceedings in the early stages out of sheer terror at the other party’s reaction.
This is the time to surround yourself with ‘radiators’. People who are warm and un-judgemental. People who build you up, people who support you and people who believe in you. This is quite a novelty after years of being undermined.
Fear is a perfectly natural human response to life changing situations. That’s why it’s best to be armed with knowledge and options. You need to take control of your future.
When you are going through a divorce, you need someone on your side, looking after your best interests and giving you clear and helpful advice. Whilst it goes without saying that strong legal knowledge is imperative, you also need to choose a lawyer who understands human behaviour, displays emotional intelligence and is able to respond firmly and appropriately to your ex-spouse who, more often than not, will become angry at their loss of control.
Change and fear of the unknown, is daunting. But if you are properly supported, you will get through difficult times and wash away years of toil to reveal your hopeful, bright future.
As Resolution members, the family lawyers at Coffin Mew are trained in dealing with conflict in a way which doesn’t exacerbate existing tensions within your relationship and we deal with issues constructively, conscientiously and with the needs of the whole family in mind.