Talking Helps: Managing Relationships in Lockdown

April 22, 2020, By Slater Heelis

Eluned Roberts, from our family team, shares some wise words about relationships in lockdown and what she has learned from her own experience.

We can each learn a lot by reflecting on the circumstances of this lockdown and the difficulties that we now face in this suspended new reality. Routines changing, everybody permanently at home, plus the added anxiety of general uncertainty, can all take its toll on relationships in lockdown.

New appreciation and understanding

Many of us have developed a newfound appreciation for a number of things that we previously took for granted, including the following:

  • Being a nursery or school teacher takes a very special skill of patience and imagination to engage our children in learning (that I for one certainly don’t have!);
  • Whilst it may be incredibly rewarding and enjoyable, it can also be hard work to be a stay at home parent, even if for just one or two ‘days off’ a week;
  • How hard your partner might work in their job, learning the exact nature of the work that they do and perhaps the emotional toll it can take on them, with seeing it first-hand whilst they work from home;
  • The commitment of your partner who either leaves the house every day, risking their life as a key worker, or stays at home and holds the fort with the children all day, every day, whilst juggling their own work;
  • How much we benefit from being able to leave the house, eat out as a family or with friends, spend time with friends and family and have some time away from one another;
  • How everyone is human and feels exactly the same as you do;
  • And of course, how precious life is and how short it can sadly be for a growing number of our population.

All of this will certainly be taking its toll on relationships in lockdown, even the strongest ones! If there were any cracks in a relationship before, these will certainly be exposed now, with the tension we are all feeling.

We are here to support you

Contrary to popular belief, as family lawyers, we certainly do not relish the idea of an increased number of divorce and separation enquiries as a result of this lockdown. We recognise that separation comes at a cost for all involved, both financial and emotional, particularly where there are children involved. That is why family lawyers should always discuss reconciliation with a client who wants advice on separation. Indeed, we have a duty to do so, and must sign and submit a form to court to confirm that we have discussed reconciliation on every divorce petition that we lodge.

Relationship counselling can be extremely helpful in nurturing any wobbles that come out of increased pressure on relationships in lockdown. The power of talking things through, and gaining perspective and appreciation for how one another feels about a situation, should not be underestimated. We very much hope that many couples who may be questioning now whether they feel able to stay in their relationship once this lockdown is lifted, will consider engaging in relationship counselling. There may even be such services available remotely, with all industries rapidly adapting to remote working.

As family lawyers, we of course also appreciate that every person is entitled to decide for themselves whether their relationship has broken down irretrievably. If a client has come to that decision, we know that it is not taken lightly. We respect that decision by providing advice and support to assist every client in dealing with the legal and financial implications of a separation.

Talking really does help

Many people considering divorce or separation may not realise that there is a wide range of options available when approaching negotiations and achieving agreement on a financial settlement and suitable child arrangements. Certainly the majority of people only think about the court route, as that is what is most often talked about amongst friends, family and in the media. A ‘nice divorce’ which, contrary to belief, is possible to achieve, does not make for a good story over dinner or in a TV drama.

‘Talking solutions’ are, in my view, the best way to achieve a ‘nice divorce’. These comprise of either mediation or collaborative law. Mediation involves a neutral mediator facilitating discussions with the couple, with the aim of helping them to reach agreement on those issues which they cannot resolve themselves.

Collaborative law involves each individual appointing their own solicitor, and both the client and solicitor sitting side by side, working together through a series of meetings to talk through the legal issues and agree solutions.

Both of these alternatives to court give a separating couple the ability to preserve their parenting relationship, dignity and control over the topics discussed, timescale and overall outcome. There is far less chance of there being any misunderstanding or misinterpretation of each person’s objectives and motivations when spoken directly to one another, in a fully supported setting.

In my view, as a collaborative lawyer, experienced family lawyer and parent, I really do believe that for some people, these ‘talking solutions’, of either mediation or collaborative law, can offer a ‘better way’ than the more traditional methods of negotiating.

Talking really can help. To us, and to your partner.

If you are having concerns about being able to nurture your relationships in lockdown, and would like to speak with us, we are available to chat through all options available to help you through these tough times. Call us on 0191 969 3131 or fill in our contact form and we will call you back.