Reflective Separation Work
Sometimes we struggle to be our “best selves” in our most important relationships. Over time, destructive patterns of withdrawal, criticism, defensiveness and contempt can overwhelm the good parts of the relationship. If the ratio of happy times to hard times is out of balance for a prolonged period of time, the healthiest choice may be to separate. The stress of continued conflict and volatility can be destructive if not handled in a skillful, compassionate way. When kids are involved, the anxiety related to divorce can skyrocket, making it difficult to focus on what is in the “best interest of the children.” The trauma that stems from high-conflict divorce can damage children remaining active within their nervous systems for years to come, affecting their ability to build healthy relationships and to commit to a long-term attachment relationships in the future.
After working with lawyers, family therapists and high conflict divorce specialists over many years, I developed a process for couples, Reflective Separation Work to help couples take some space, turn the heat down, learn to be 100% responsible for what they are bringing to the relationship and make healthier decisions moving forward.
I pay close attention to the “felt experience” of each partner. I request permission to speak with any other therapists, health care providers or lawyers that may be working with the couple so that we can work collaboratively. Together we develop a Reflective Separation Contract between the partners. We identify a timeline or proposed length of separation, then work towards agreement over questions that include who will leave the home, access to the home, communication, household/childcare rights and responsibilities, finances, sexual exclusivity, visitation and finally individual therapeutic goals related to the each partner’s responsibility for the unresolved conflicts and difficult dynamics of the relationship.
Reflective Separation Work helps couples:
• Creating safety through self-regulation
• Identifying individual therapy goals
• Learning new skills
• Gaining insight
• Deepening intersubjectivity
• Exploring communication patterns
• Re-thinking and re-feeling the relationship.
By taking space, turning the heat down, cultivating compassion, learning to become 100% responsible for the impact we have on our partners, we can better to re-evaluate the relationship and the question of whether or not to move forward with divorce.
While the Reflective Separation Contract is not a legally binding agreement, it helps create a “safe container” to do the deeper work. This process has brought many couples back together, strengthening the possibility of awareness, compassion and real behavior change. Couples who have decided to divorce report being able to remain calmer, with an increased capacity to navigate the transition with a more amicable attitude, averting the risk and the damage of high-conflict divorce.
Let’s get started with an initial consultation to explore whether Reflective Separation Work is a good fit for your needs. Please click here if you would like to schedule a consultation or to learn more.