People respond to separation in their own way and in their own time. Sometimes, two people can grieve the loss of the same relationship in very different ways.  This is completely normal and understandable.  But it can make the process of coming to a resolution more challenging.

At some point, the issues resulting from the separation will need to be addressed and resolved. So when should you consider beginning settlement discussions with your spouse? It all comes down to where you both are in the grieving process.

Many people have heard of the stages of grieving and this model quite appropriately applies to a separation. After all, a separation is the loss of an important relationship from your life and this is bound to carry some level of emotion for anyone. These emotions include:

  1. Shock – This is the stage of disbelief and numbed feelings.
  2. Denial – This is the stage of thoughts that the separation is temporary or the other will change their mind.
  3. Anger – This is the stage of blame and self victimization.
  4. Bargaining – This is the stage of “what if” and “if only” scenarios.
  5. Depression – This is the saddened and more quiet stage.
  6. Acceptance – This is the stage of gradual acceptance of a new way of life and the feeling of possibility for the future.

Some people experience all stages while others experience some and not others. The experience of negotiating a settlement will also vary from couple to couple. However, generally speaking, the most productive and reliable negotiations occur between spouses once they enter the acceptance stage. Otherwise, you will notice and should be cognizant of any of the following trends:

  1. Certain stages, such as shock and depression, may make a person more likely to agree to things because they simply want to end the discussion. A person is likely to regret these decisions after they make them, and this can lead to attempts to reverse the agreements after the fact.
  2. Certain stages, such as anger, may make negotiating incredibly challenging and unproductive. If someone is angry about the separation or an aspect of the separation, it is difficult for them to focus on reflection, consideration of options, and reaching a resolution.
  3. Certain stages, such as denial and bargaining, may also make it difficult to negotiate because one spouse feels guilty or is still hoping the relationship can be saved. In some cases, someone at this stage may be more focused on making the other spouse happy rather than advocating for their best interests.

Always check in with yourself to see how you are coping and what you can do to help yourself get through this undeniably difficult time. If you find yourself frustrated with your spouse in negotiations, consider where they may be in the process of grieving the separation and what steps could help to move the process forward in a positive way.