How fast, how slow?

Clients often ask me when. When will we be separated? When can I move out? When can I get my husband/wife to leave? When will it be done?

Those of us who are professionals helping people navigate the muddy waters of separation, divorce and family transition have a saying: “You can only go as fast as the slowest person”. The movement of changing relationships is erratic, at best, not smooth and unidirectional, and not evenly weighted. Invariably, one partner is paces ahead of the other, sometimes lightyears. One person is blown away, blasted by the news, stunned, stricken.

In my work as a divorce coach in the collaborative practice model, I am often helping people catch up to one another, to find a movement that is in synch, that doesn’t pull or push too much, thereby easing the distress of transition. It is sometimes akin to walking an eager, runaway dog with one hand while pushing a heavy cart with the other. If I can feel the strain of twisted movement, how much more difficult for my clients?

Divorce can provide some people with their first experience of having to “sit with” themselves and not force movement. It can be an opportunity to examine how all of us, at one time or another, push, pull, twist, drag, strain in order to make something happen, going against the grain of “process” rather than allowing process to unfold and move organically.

This is a blog about separation, divorce and family transition. It is also about movement in everyday life, whether physical or intentional, external or felt-sense experience. It is about the movements that take us through a process, and the choices we make that have us feel ‘flow’ or ‘stuck’ along the way.

  • Phillip

    Dear Dr. Bell,

    We are having an amicable break-up (so far!). I have been sleeping in the basement for almost a year and we have lived quite similarly as we have for ten years (at least as far as the kids are concerned).

    Since kids are involved, we can’t decide if it’s best to tell them what’s happening with mom and dad and then move out in 6 months or a year (long transition) or if we should tell them and have me move out right away (quick transition with no looming deadline).

    Is there any research that says what’s best for kids in terms of a long or quick transition?

    Thank you for any advice you can give.


  • Dr. Allison Bell

    Dear Phillip,

    Thanks for your question and sorry for the delay in responding.
    The research on children of divorce points to the need for clarity more than anything else. Children do best when they know what’s really going on and aren’t left to their own fantasies about it. You and your spouse need to have some sort of plan, long or short-term transition. Once you are both clearer about timing, you can share that information with your children. You can tell them that you are working on separating and taht the transition may take several months, or you can tell them that you’ve decided to separate, have found a suitable place for yourself that they can come spend time at too, take them to see it, involve them in creating a sense of home there, and move. There is a legal question that you should consult you lawyer about with respect to moving out of the marital home prior to having an agreement signed. You and your spouse can agree on this move and can sign an Interim Agreement that indemnifies you in the event of any future litigation, so you are not perceived as having abandoned the family/home.

    Hope this helps, and best of luck to you.

  • Phillip

    Thanks for taking the time to answer!