Dealing with Separation in the midst of Social Distancing
Social distancing/social confinement practices of COVID-19 can mean a whole new set of challenges and stress if you are in the midst of a separation or divorce. Suddenly, many of us have found ourselves working from home (WFH) temporarily. Or worse yet, you might be at home because your workplace is shutdown or closed. And to top it off, the kids are now home due to school closures. With all those people in the household 24/7, being in limbo – not knowing where one will be in the near future, whether it’s 3 months or 3 weeks, has got to be one of the most stressful stages of any life change – and especially in separation and divorce.
As Divorce Mediators who work with separating couples on a daily basis, we know, all too well, the pressure you may be feeling. We have seen the trigger points and offer coaching and guidelines to our clients all the time. So in that spirit, here are some tips that might help you to survive living under the same roof and separated, yet now forced to work and live together 24/7.
Give each other space and grace.
Living under the same roof while in the middle of a separation is challenging enough. Under most circumstances, time at work offers a break from being together. With many people on a work from home arrangement, it is all the more important to create a separate work and living space. Be creative, you might need to convert the playroom into a second office or bedroom.
Schedule work time and childcare time.
You might have to divide the day differently, taking turns taking care of your children while at the same time ensuring you are able to get work done. Sit down and create a schedule so that you can balance the new demands.
Stay connected with your support person/group.
Separation and divorce is a challenging time, especially with having to practice social distancing. We encourage our clients to seek out a positive support group or person. With today’s technology, it’s easier than ever to stay in touch with that support person.
Don’t have a support person and don’t know who that should be? Think about who the people are in your life who make you feel better when you are in their presence; whether that is a friend, a relative or a professional acquaintance. If this person helps you feel positive, empowered, optimistic and heard, then you’ve likely made a good choice.. On the other hand; if you’re feeling drained, angry, frustrated; then maybe you should rethink the effect that relationship is having on you at this moment. Taking a break from a friend who simply fuels the fire doesn’t mean you have to abandon them forever (although sometimes that does happen). You really need to think about who are the people who bring positive energy to your life – right now.
Resist discussing details of your future plans with your soon-to-be ex/now roommate.
Divorce negotiations are all about sorting out the future finances and coming up with a plan for the kids. As Divorce Mediators, we always ask our clients NOT to discuss the separation with each other. You are more prone to arguing, especially in confined quarters. If you don’t see eye to eye on an issue, that will only increase what is already a stressful situation.
And if you haven’t already, seek some professional help. A good Divorce Mediator will help coach and guide you both in these discussions in an orderly way.
Revisit your current family budget.
If finances have been a pressure point in the past, chances are it will only get worse with these changes in employment or living situations. This might be a good time to relook at your current budget, and be sure you agree on who is paying which bills and expenses. As part of our mediation process, we help our clients develop an interim “roommate” budget because we know that this new living arrangement can be challenging.
Take some ‘me’ time.
Ensure you have some time for yourself, and with yourself. While this may be easier said than done, especially in today’s crammed situation; carving out some self-care time can help you to be more patient with your kids and more productive at work. This is not the time to cut back on self-care. With most gyms closed now, few coffee shops open; options are more limited – but even taking a 10 minute walk to clear your head can make the world of difference.
Calm the lizard brain – breathe, breathe, breathe.
Scientists know that when people are anxious, they tend to take rapid, shallow breaths that come directly from the chest. This type of shallow breathing can cause an imbalance in your body resulting in increased anxiety.
And when your ex is driving you crazy, remember that you can’t control what someone else says or does, only how you choose to react to it. So acknowledge that and then reclaim your power to move through this challenging time in a way that is helpful for you.
At this point, no one can say how long our ‘at home’ situation will be with us. But it will come to an end. And life will return to a more normal state of living conditions. Hopefully you can use a few of these tips to make these next few weeks (hopefully not months) a little more bearable, or maybe even more enjoyable.
Stay healthy. Be kind. And practice social distancing.
Top 10 Tips to Survive COVID-19 in the Middle of a Divorce by Karen Staewart