Separation, Divorce & Trust
Trust is a huge challenge in the work I do with families who are separating or divorcing. Even if an affair isn’t part of the family’s separation story, trust is often sacrificed when one partner shares with another that they no longer desire to continue a future vision of life together.
One spouse’s appetite for separation is experienced as a breach of trust. Haunting thoughts include: “Did she ever really love me?” “If he can break that promise, what else is he lying about?” and “How can I ever trust her again?” If there is an affair, spouses often wonder if they ever really knew or experienced the true version of their partner or if “it was all just a lie.” Often the worry that “I must have never really known him” begins.
When a relationship lacks trust, spouses are challenged to experience any situation as being exactly how it appears, no more and no less. Instead the default becomes assumptions about motives, calculated imputations of actions, and the least generous interpretation possible.
Trust with respect to finances and property between spouses is created by reliance on full financial and property disclosure as a basis for developing agreements. Instead of asking for belief or trust in what a spouse earns or owns, each spouse discloses third party and independent documents that back up the truth of their financial property information. By using actual bank and investment statements, third-party estimates and professional appraisals to communicate the financial and property information, clients don’t have to rely on their diminished trust, but can instead trust the disclosure and exchange of officially documented information, preferably with professional involvement or oversight.
Secondly, developing an understanding that actions must match words is necessary as a foundational step towards establishing or re-creating trust. For trust to happen, people need to do what they say, and what they say to be reinforced in their action. Having clarity about what is expected of one another to move forward and communicating those needs clearly and succinctly between one another are necessary prerequisites to then ensuring that actions match words. Often spouses need someone professionally trained in communication and relationship dynamics to help them develop these skills. When relationships of any nature experience confusion or disparity between actions and words, it’s an invitation for trust to implode and motives for actions to be questioned.
Separation and divorce aren’t just legal issues — they are complex relationship issues as well. Using a strictly “legal” process cannot fully satisfy the needs of the separating or divorcing family; using only litigation or traditional processes can truly worsen the dynamics that led to separation and divorce in the first place, which often radiate from a real or perceived breach of trust.
On the other hand, mediation helps families to achieve separation agreements and work on their challenges outside of courtrooms and without directly using lawyers to negotiate the details of their agreements, all while acknowledging the profound effect that the relationship dynamics, including breach of trust, have on the process.
Choosing a process and a professional who can safely and confidently help you understand how to establish or regain trust in your parenting, finances and property is essential to moving through a separation and divorce as healthfully as possible.
If you or someone you know is contemplating, initiating or experiencing a separation or divorce, contact me.
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