5 counsellor-endorsed tips for men that will help you survive a divorce
Divorce and separation are by no means easy. The process can be lengthy, having great tolls on your physical and mental health.
Luckily, there are professionals readily available to provide legal advice and counselling for parties facing what can be considered one of the most challenging times.
It’s essential to look after yourself and learn how to be attentive to your personal needs and be the best version of yourself, not only for your children but also for yourself.
We spoke with Felipe Oliveira, a registered Men’s Counsellor and our Head of Family Law in Queensland, Vanessa Hernandez, to provide some critical advice for men going through a separation or divorce.
Professional divorce advice for men
Whilst this article focuses on Felipe’s comprehensive experience with male client’s during separation, the tips provided herein are universal.
Felipe and Vanessa collectively provided insight on five key pieces of divorce advice geared towards men that combine the perspectives of both the Legal and Counselling professional services.
1. Surrender to win
In parenting matters, you can often get swept up into the idea of ‘getting the best outcome’ and ‘winning’. Felipe has found that many of his clients fall into the trap of believing you must have shared care of your children to adequately care for and love them. Felipe’s best advice would be to consider ‘Quality over quantity’.
Vanessa agrees wholeheartedly with this advice. Within parenting matters, the Court’s will only provide shared care of your children if the Court deems it to be in the best interest of the children.
So how does the court determine what is in the best interest? Vanessa says that in short, “the Court will ultimately look at all the relevant factors, particularly risks to the children or parties, and other factors such as either parent’s work schedules, whether the parents are co-parenting effectively, the age of the children and whether the arrangements proposed are sustainable. Ultimately, it isn’t about what the parents want, but rather, what is in the best interests of the children.”
So, ask yourself, how much time can I handle to be the best parent I can be?
2. Practice detachment
Felipe’s advice is that parties should learn how to let go of unhealthy and unrealistic expectations. He says that in his experience, many of the mental health issues associated with separation or divorce, such as stress, anxiety or depression, are often the result of holding onto unrealistic expectations or illusions.
Throughout Felipe’s career, he has seen these expectations taking on the form of:
- “I am always right”;
- “money is all that matters”; or
- “if I see my children less, that means I do not love them enough”.
Felipe’s says that in his experience, “the harsh reality is that the majority of these expectations and illusions are not true. Being able to identify and detach yourself from these expectations gives you a solid and positive ground to walk through the challenging processes of separation.”
In Vanessa’s experience, she will often advise a client that family law matters involve different “currencies”. She says, “it’s not just the money you pay lawyers or the money you seek from a property settlement.”
Vanessa describes these other “currencies” to include things like “your time and the time it may take to litigate your matter, your energy, the stress and anxiety these matters cause, your overall health, the absenteeism from work as you attend court or from stress, the impact on your family and your children’s wellbeing as well your co-parenting relationship with the other parent”.
Vanessa says she will often ask her clients, “how much of these other currencies are you willing to spend to achieve your desired outcomes or expectations? What is the outcome actually worth to you?”
3. Journey of Life
Felipe will often advise his clients to “learn to live an Authentic Life.” In essence, an authentic life means the difficult experiences and challenges you face throughout your life will ultimately make you a stronger and happier person.
In Felipe’s work, these experiences are often a pivotal moment for most and lead men to question what truly makes them happy and what they care about the most. Felipe says that “without any challenges in life, there would be no need for a profound self-examination”.
When we asked Vanessa her thoughts on whether difficult experiences make a person stronger, Vanessa told us that in her experience, she often sees a remarkable change in clients even after their first initial consult. “At the first consult, many clients are often feeling shattered, lacking confidence or self-worth, confused, afraid and paralysed by the ambiguity of their future. Their whole world has changed, and they don’t know where to start. Empowering them with information, strategy, solutions, and a pathway forward gives them renewed hope that they will find a way through everything that is happening.”
Vanessa says that “if we as lawyers have done our job correctly, that is, providing understandable advice and solutions whilst being empathetic to the circumstances, the most rewarding part is to see a whole other person at the end of an appointment or a matter. Someone that is more confident and empowered.”
Felipe says that client’s need to give themselves the time to grieve the loss of their relationship and the dream to ‘build a perfect family’. Within Felipe’s years of experience, he often tells clients that “there actually is no such thing as a ‘perfect family’” and that “every family faces its challenges”.
Felipe’s advice is that “in order to truly overcome any challenges in your life, being kind to yourself and acceptance are essential in facing separation with a positive mindset.”
When we asked Vanessa what her thoughts were on grieving the loss of a relationship and the best advice she could provide, Vanessa said, “clients will often wish they had seen it all coming or acted sooner. They are hard on themselves and blame themselves. I often need to remind them to be kinder to themselves. None of us have a crystal ball, and we cannot predict things. People change, and you cannot forever blame yourself for having loved someone or trying to see the best in the person you loved. We are but human. Acceptance of change is key. Focusing on the future and building your “new normal” is essential.”
5. Be clear about the right help
Felipe says that clients must know the difference between help from a lawyer, a friend and a counsellor. He differentiates each as follows:
- A lawyer is there to provide you with legal advice based on your circumstances and ultimately provide the best outcome for your matter.
- A friend is someone to listen to you and provide company during this new phase of your life.
- A counsellor provides you with the opportunity to process the emotional challenges you are currently experiencing and provide valuable lessons to become a more authentic human being.
A valuable lesson learnt throughout Felipe’s career is that these three individuals mentioned above can only provide help within their capacity. Therefore, help should be limited within those respective boundaries.
Vanessa could not agree more with Felipe. She says, “whilst a lawyer is required to provide legal advice, a good family lawyer will always be empathetic, supportive and recommend the correct professionals to truly cater to the client’s needs. Clients should not expect a lawyer to be able to provide services only capable of being provided by a counsellor.”
So, while separation and divorce is a difficult journey no one ever anticipates going through, please know that there is help readily available for you. You just need to be brave enough to ask for it.
Felipe Oliveira is a professional and registered counsellor for men facing relationship issues in Brisbane. Visit Felipe’s website here.
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