Lifelines: Mark Stalker on coping after separation

My husband and I separated about a year and a half ago and our twin boys, aged six, came to live with me. We both have high-pressure jobs and about six months ago I was finding it hard to cope.

Eventually the boys called their dad and asked him to come and get them. They have been with him ever since. I was devastated and it felt like breaking up all over again. We went to mediation but I admit I wasn’t ready. Now it has stopped and I am stuck. What do I do?

The situation you describe is far more common than you might think. Many parents who separate don’t realise the impact it is going to have in the weeks and months ahead, then find it difficult to cope with the pressures of redefining their work-life balance. You don’t say if you have a supportive family and, if you do, they should be the first port of call for help in looking at turning things around. If you don’t, you may need to look at other ways to help you move forward. A visit to your GP to discuss your emotional and physical wellbeing may be a good start. If you take the initiative and are seen by others, including your husband, to be doing this, that can only be a positive step and one which might, in due course, allow you both to return to mediation to discuss the longer term future for your children.

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MY PARTNER and I are both in our late forties and never expected to be parents. We lived together for over six years when, a year or so ago, she became pregnant. We were both stunned but ultimately very happy about becoming parents. Our son was born five months ago but then it all went wrong. We seemed to argue about everything and I felt I could do nothing right. Eventually I moved out, but am finding it very hard to cope with being back with my mother after almost 25 years, I never thought my life would end up like this.

You have a number of things to try and juggle and, while it isn’t going to be easy, all is not lost. Firstly, I understand that it must have been very hard for you to move back in with your mother after such a long time but I’m guessing that will probably be equally hard for her. You both need to sit down and discuss this as mature adults as, the last time you lived together, your mum was the adult and you were a child. There is a danger that you could return to that if you don’t set out how it will be. You and your partner need to talk too, and the space away may be just what you need to be able to do that sensibly. The dream of being a parent and the reality are two very different things, perhaps even more so than for younger parents. I would suggest you try and meet somewhere neutral to talk and perhaps look at relationship counselling to help you both make sense of your family’s future.

Twitter: @relscot