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Listen: How to live with your ex

The number of separated couples still living together in Australia is on the rise. Over 50% of people tell us that they have separated but are still living under one roof. The transition from partners to moving out can take some time, but we’re seeing that period grow longer for more and more couples. In this episode, separation and relationship coach Kelly Bagshaw joins us to talk about

  • what’s causing this rising trend
  • making this period work in the best way
  • re-negotiating your relationship, your space, your boundaries and your expectations of each other
  • communication styles
  • support to help you get through this period and move on afterwards.

Listen here, or listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

You can read more in our blog, How to separate from your spouse while living together.

For the latest stats on separation in Australia, you can download our State of Separation Impact Report

If you know someone who will find this podcast helpful, please share.

The Separation Guide aims to make separation and divorce simpler, more manageable and less stressful. To find out more about how one of our Network Members could support your separation, take our free 3-minute Q&A.

Disclaimer
The information in our resources is general only. Consider getting in touch with a professional adviser if you need support with your legal, financial or wellbeing needs.

Disclaimer

The information in our resources is general only. Consider getting in touch with a professional adviser if you need support with your legal, financial or wellbeing needs.

Kate Russell

Are you one of the growing number of people who have separated from their partner but are still living under one roof? Perhaps you’re thinking about separation, and looking down the barrel of staying in the same house for a time. Living together under one roof past your relationship’s best-before date can be tricky. Welcome to The Separation Guide Podcast. I’m Kate Russell, and in this episode, I’ll be learning about how to live with your ex-partner.

Our recent State of Separation Impact Report revealed that the number of separated couples still living together in Australia is sitting at around 55% – an increase of around 25% over the last 2 years.  It’s not uncommon for people to live together for a period when they decide to separate. This transition can take some time. But we’re seeing that period grow longer for more and more couples. In fact there are thousands of people in Australia right now telling us they are still living with an ex-partner.

So, what’s causing this rising trend? And if this is you, whether you’re doing it through necessity or choice, how can you make this period work? How can you re-negotiate your relationship, your space, your boundaries and your expectations of each other? What communication styles are you and your former partner using, and how could a small change make this time easier?  And what support can you access to help you get through this period, and move on afterwards?

To help talk through these questions and a lot more, I’ve invited Kelly Bagshaw onto the podcast. Kelly is a separation and relationship coach. She’s an experienced counsellor and psychotherapist with over 12 years in therapeutic health. And she’s been through a separation herself, and very much understands the emotional turmoil and uncertainty that separation can throw at you. I’m pleased to add that Kelly is also a network member with the separation guide.

I started my chat with Kelly talking about some of the reasons people find themselves living together apart.

Kelly Bagshaw

Some of the reasons that people share with me that they’re still living together even after they’ve decided to separate are not wanting to hurt children by changing their environment, financial concerns, sometimes people are very attached, understandably, to the family home. And I think also, there’s that safety in the familiar. Even though the relationship is not working out and people have made that decision that they will go their separate ways, there is still comfort in maintaining some of the status quo.

Kate Russell

Yeah. So separating such a massive decision and such a huge change in your life, it’s completely understandable to not want to rush things. Have you seen more people are finding that the financial cost of living crisis is impacting their decision to separate?

Kelly Bagshaw

I know that the stats certainly are suggesting that. I actually anecdotally haven’t heard people directly link it to the cost of living. But more generally, there is concern that there will be a significant financial impact on couples separating. And it certainly plays a role in people’s decision-making.

Kate Russell

And what do you think are some of the concerns or fears that might prevent separated couples from separating?

Kelly Bagshaw

I think that people can be really fearful of what separating means culturally and how that might be judged by others. And certainly that can impact people’s decision not to want to exit out of a family home as well for fear of how that might be perceived when it comes to formally separating. There’s a lot of fear around being able to cope emotionally or financially. There’s fears around what that will mean for their relationship with their children. Will they see them and be able to spend as much time with them as they do when they’re living together? I think there’s some fear around making the wrong decision. And even though people perhaps have had the conversation that they’re separating and that they’re going to maintain a relationship of sorts and live under one roof in the short term, there is also some comfort in that, that they haven’t got to make that final decision to live separately. And I think, understandably people sit with some doubt around whether they’re making the right decision.

Another thing that does come up sometimes for couples, particularly if there is toxicity in the relationship or maybe even abuse, that there can be a real fear around what the reaction might be of the other party if they were to leave.

Kate Russell

What do you think that some of the challenges are for couples when they are in the situation where they’re continuing to live together, even if they’ve made that decision together to separate?

Kelly Bagshaw

I think that sometimes, or oftentimes actually, at least from what I see, is that when people make that decision to separate, they often move into separate rooms in the house. And there’s perhaps already been an absence of intimacy and kind of the parameters of the separation are set around those two things and sometimes those two things only. And I think what really needs to happen in order to be able to move forward and to reduce things escalating is to sit down and have a conversation and really map out expectations around what separating means for each party and having a think about what else might be required in order to effectively live together whilst separated. Because I think when those things aren’t discussed, that’s when tension can build. There’s perhaps disappointment, resentment, which can lead to increased feelings of anger or hurt, which can cause challenges for couples.

Kate Russell

So there’s a huge challenge, really, around communication and setting some clear boundaries in place. You talk there about the potential for escalation. So, how can living together potentially escalate tensions between couples and cause conflicts that perhaps weren’t even there when they decided to separate?

Kelly Bagshaw

Again, I think it comes down to expectations. And what I have seen in some of my clients, what they’ve reported, is that there is an expectation that their role within the relationship or within the family dynamic will remain the same to a large extent. And so this is kind of a gendered response. But what I see, particularly from some women, is that there is still an expectation that they’re maintaining the home, that they’re doing the majority of the childcare, that they’re still cooking for their partner and other domestic activities. And that builds resentment, that builds a lot of hurt and a lot of confusion for people. And so that tension builds and can erupt if it’s not discussed.

And you mentioned communication and I really think that that’s key and also incredibly challenging. It’s usually the thing that has fallen down in a relationship prior to separation and it can be really challenging to sit down and have a conversation with an ex-partner, but it’s going to be more challenging not to. So I really support people to identify the ways in which they may have been communicating and how that could be potentially leading to conflict and what they might be able to do to remedy that.

Kate Russell

So perhaps some of the feelings that have led to the separation in the first place and some of the resentments aren’t going away. Even though the couple has made a decision to separate by still living together, they’re still in the same rut that they were in before.

Now we’re going to talk a lot more about communication today, but I would just like to step back and talk a bit about couples who have children and perhaps how they might approach this situation where they’ve made a decision to separate and they’re having issues with their relationship. So what is your position on how couples should perhaps talk to their children or whether they should share what’s happening in their relationship and how might hiding that from the children impact them?

Kelly Bagshaw

Yeah, it’s a really great question and I think is top of mind for many couples that are separating. I think we have a tendency often to keep as much as possible from kids in order to protect them. And sometimes we can sort of falsely believe that they aren’t aware of tensions within a relationship because there hasn’t been arguing in front of them or discussions in front of them, for example.

But in my experience, children pick up on stuff. Even young children will pick up on tension, they’ll pick up on negative energy, they’ll pick up on the emotions of either parent. And so my best advice, and a lot of the research backs this up is to be as honest as you can with children. Appropriate, of course, to their age and their stage of development. But just to have conversations with children, especially if you’re going to separate and live under one roof for a period of time. Start to get them used to the idea that things will be changing. And there is a plan for parents to live separately and perhaps mum will be doing things with the children individually and dad will be doing things with the children individually and really having that open dialogue. Kids will feel much, much safer if they’re brought in as appropriate to their age and stage, as I said.

Kate Russell

So we might have some explanation about why parents are sleeping in different rooms, for example?

Kelly Bagshaw

And of course, we don’t need to go into details why, depending on the age of the children, again. They will have a really limited understanding of their parent’s relationship and what that means. Much, much different to our understanding of what an adult relationship looks like. And so just reassuring them that they’re loved, that both their parents still love them and they’re still going to be their parents and that families look different and they’ll still be a family. And all those sort of beautiful, supportive conversations.

Kate Russell

We’ve talked a bit about what might be stopping people from separating, but I suppose quite a few people actually make a choice to stay living together and to co-parent under one roof after making this decision. So what benefits do you see there are to people having that scenario?

Kelly Bagshaw

Yeah, I think you’re right. And I’ve certainly had people approach me and kind of ask, can we do this? Is it okay to want to try and do this? And I think what’s really important there is just to reassure people that you can write your own rules. There’s no right or wrong about this. And if you are in a situation where you both are mutually agreeing that the relationship no longer serves you, but that you are very committed to co-parenting and there are benefits that you both gain by continuing to share space, then absolutely, I believe that it can be really beneficial and it can be beautiful.

It means that very little might have to change kind of outwardly, which can be lovely for the children, it can be lovely for adults. You haven’t got to change up too much about your routine. You haven’t got to live anywhere differently.

I often speak to people about perhaps still separating finances and of course, that’s personal choice. And, and even if you were to separate finances, there is still a benefit of, you know, you’re sharing costs of things and there would be agreement around how that might be split. Yeah, I think that it could be something really beautiful. And oftentimes people have homes that are set up in a way that would make it possible, like granny flats or converted parts of the house, which would mean that you could live quite separately. Yeah. Again, I would just encourage people to really talk about expectations and boundaries, particularly if you’re planning to do it for the longer term. Are people going to want to look at getting in another relationship at some point? What would be the boundaries around that?

Kate Russell

Yeah. So let’s talk a bit more about boundaries and expectations because I think this is so key to making this period a success. For whatever reason you’re in that situation. How can couples make it a successful time for them, for their relationship, for their family?

This is a transition for people. So they’re going from being in a relationship to being not in a relationship anymore. So it’s a real transition. What kind of strategies do you think people can use from the get-go to start to renegotiate that relationship?

Kelly Bagshaw

I think it’s really important to really sit with yourself and be honest with yourself. And sometimes we’re not great at that. And that’s certainly where I can come in. I do come in as a coach and counsellor, is supporting people to be really honest about what they’re desiring from this situation. Because so often we might say the thing that we think we should say or that will be easiest or will ruffle the least feathers. For example, we might abandon our own needs in order to keep the peace, so to speak. And, and that’s where I was talking to earlier, where that resentment can build. Because if we’re not being honest with ourselves about how this is going to impact us, what we’re willing to give and what we’re no longer willing to give in the relationship, then we are going to start to feel quite resentful towards the other person. And so, yeah, I think that the first piece for any boundaries is really spending some time nutting out what your ideal situation would look like and then entering into a negotiation with the other person to come to a place that you can feel comfortable with.

Kate Russell

And do you think this is an exercise that both people in the partnership should do?

Kelly Bagshaw

Yes.

Kate Russell

So really consciously sit down and think about what they want and then come together and see how they can meet in the middle.

Kelly Bagshaw

Yes. And I think you just used a beautiful word there, consciously and intentionally. You know, really sit and think about what this means for you and for you both and how you would like it to look and go into it with intention.

Kate Russell

Often, people don’t really know what kind of things they might have to think about when they’re thinking about what do I want? And let’s talk a little bit just about setting up some house rules. What are the kind of things people need to consider?  From domestic chores – you talked before about cooking meals – maybe you’ve got shared space in the house that you might want some private time to be able to enjoy. What kind of rules should people think about when they’re considering what their needs are?

Kelly Bagshaw

Yes, all of those. And, you know, your environment is going to play a role here as well. Some people might have very limited space. And you might have to get really creative about that. And maybe you do have a timetable and I guess it’s good to really think these things through but hold an element of flexibility as well. If there’s one living space and one TV and you’ve got a favourite show that you love to watch and that’s your downtime, then ask for that. Ask for that time. And this is where – we’ll get into it, I think –  those communication styles come in. It’s about the way you might approach asking for that that can make or break kind of how that discussion might go, and your chances of getting that need met, I guess. So, yeah, I guess not just kind of assuming that because you have always sat in the lounge watching the TV at that time of night every week when you’ve been in the relationship, that that will continue. You might have to actually stipulate that. Similarly, if you’ve always sat down for family meals, maybe that’s something that’s no longer comfortable. How might you split the groceries? Are you still comfortable in sharing meals? Are you still comfortable in sharing even the fridge space? It can start to sound like you’re getting petty, but if it’s going to reduce points of conflict, if that’s already a point of conflict in your relationship, then it’s worth having a discussion and getting creative about how you might change things going forward.

Kate Russell

It really sounds a lot like how flatmates and housemates set up arrangements and have a roster for cleaning and a shelf on the fridge. I suppose people are entering more into that position.

Kelly Bagshaw

Yeah. And I think that’s a great point when you start to think about I use the term all the time re-negotiating the relationship. You’re still in a relationship. You’re still sharing space. If you’ve got kids, you’re going to continue to be in a relationship even when you live separately. And, yeah, it’s about, okay, what does this relationship now look like? What does it mean now that we’re not in a relationship? Are we housemates? You know, are we friends? And what’s friendship mean to me? How would I treat a housemate if I was living in a housemate? How would you demonstrate respect for the other person?

And this stuff can be really challenging, especially when emotions are high. None of this stuff is easy! And I just want to sort of caveat that it’s very easy to talk about in theory, and it’s not easy to do in practice. It takes some vulnerability, and it takes some courage.

Kate Russell

So, talking about boundaries, perhaps one other boundary we could talk about is inviting other people into the space. Often when people separate, perhaps they might move in different social circles to their partner. What kind of rules or boundaries do people have to think about when it comes to inviting other people into the shared space?

Kelly Bagshaw

Yeah, that’s a great question, and I think people are keen to move forward, and that can mean trying new things, making new friends, or moving in different social circles. So, that’s a great question, and I guess I would liken it back to what we were saying about housemates, is being respectful and considerate of another person’s needs. You’re sharing a space with this person. If it were a housemate situation, would it be okay just to invite lots of people into a shared space without discussing that with your housemate? Would you want the other person to be doing that in return? So, yeah, think holding respect and consideration at the top is the key to those things. And look, one party might also be ready to date. And again, I think that’s about having a conversation, no matter how hard that might be. And if you’re uncomfortable with the idea of somebody bringing back someone that they might have gone on a date with or be in a new relationship with, is having the confidence to say no, you know, and how you would discern the difference in the way that you might respond as somebody’s partner versus how you might respond to someone’s housemate or separating partner.

And I guess what I mean by that is, as hard as it might be, it may no longer be okay to say, I don’t want you to date. Because if you’re not in a relationship with that person anymore, that’s not your decision to make. And that’s no longer something that has to be respected by the other person. And that can be really challenging for people to get their head around versus saying no to somebody they’re dating coming into your personal space is absolutely okay if that’s not something that you’re comfortable with. So discerning the difference between the two of those things, I think.

Kate Russell

Yeah, I think that’s a really good way to think about the difference there about and control. I’m sure the loss of control when you have a separation is a really hard thing to deal with. So keeping control over the things that are appropriate, like your personal space, must be really important.

Kelly Bagshaw

Very.

Kate Russell

Now, you mentioned earlier, Kelly, about people deciding to separate their finances. Could you talk a little bit more about that and perhaps why it might be a positive step for people to start setting up some separate finances?

Kelly Bagshaw

Yeah, I think certainly in the instances that people are living separately under one roof with a view to living independently, it can really help to keep that momentum going and actually really clarify and affirm those boundaries. And so separating bank accounts, perhaps there’s still a joint account for bills or household items, but you may no longer draw your personal spending from a joint account, for example. You know, I think we’ve already framed the beginning of this chat around kind of how the law views separating and formalising that separation. And once you have jointly made the decision that you’re separating and that this is going to be a definite thing, you can apply to Centerlink. You can register as being separated under one roof. You might be entitled to certain benefits as a result of that. You can also apply for child support and start drawing that as well. And all of those things can just be really positive action steps to take in order to continue that momentum and move to towards the desired outcome, which is, in that instance, living separately.

Kate Russell

So taking those positive forward steps, and when the time comes to actually move out and have separate homes, you’ve done a lot of that groundwork already by setting those things up separately.

Kelly Bagshaw

Yep.

Kate Russell

So let’s get into the nitty gritty of communication. Very, very difficult. Especially as you mentioned earlier, that often the reason people have decided to separate is that communication really has broken down between them, and it can be very difficult to get it back on track to try and avoid escalating. So I’d like to hear from your perspective as a divorce coach on some tips and strategies couples can use in their renegotiation.

Kelly Bagshaw

Communication is so key and something a lot of us aren’t great at, oftentimes. We kind of think it’s just talking, and it isn’t. There’s much more to it than that. And I think any one of us can benefit from learning more about our communication styles and how that might be received by another person. There’s some beautiful research. They’re very well-known psychologists that are in the US. They developed a piece of research. It’s called the Four Horsemen. And the four horsemen are each a communication style. And they identified that when relationships are breaking down, there’s often one or more of these communication styles present. And those communication styles are criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling.

Kate Russell

Gosh

Kelly Bagshaw

They sound like fun, don’t they?

Kate Russell

Yeah, not really. This is Gottman and Gottman the people you’re referring to?

Kelly Bagshaw

Yes. It’s really important to say that we all fall into these traps more or less of the time. It’s just about identifying where we might be doing that and what we might be able to do differently, I guess. And so Gottman and Gottman, in their research, they also identified some antidotes to those communication styles. And this information is very freely available on the Internet, so just a quick Google, and anyone will be able to find the information. But it’s really approaching things from your perspective can be a really good strategy. So we were talking earlier about the example of wanting to watch it. It’s a pretty low-level example, but we’ll use it: wanting to watch your show on the TV.

Rather than say, “you need to be in your room at 8:00 because I’m watching my show,” you might say, “I’d really appreciate it if I could have the TV at a certain time. It really helps me to wind down from the day and it would mean a lot to me if you could do that.” So you would approach it from your perspective. Share a bit about how you feel you’re using an I statement rather than kind of going in with a you statement.

Or “you’ve always got the TV, why can’t I have it? I only want it for 1 hour.”  And that is more than likely just going to be met with defensiveness or more criticism and you’re just going to get into this back and forth and it’s really unlikely that you’ll get a resolution from that. So, yeah, just those simple tweaks to the way in which we communicate.

And I think the other one that’s really relevant in this situation is stonewalling, which is a less obvious communication style, but that’s really when one person shuts down and they’re not willing to engage in a conversation, and oftentimes that can be a protective strategy for people because they’re becoming very heightened. They’re quite emotionally dysregulated and they can’t take on too much. So oftentimes they just exit the conversation or the other person won’t get too much from them, which can be challenging for the person on the receiving end, because then they feel unheard and supported and devalued and all of those things. And both positions in that scenario are really valid.

So the antidote to Stonewalling would be to say, “I’m feeling really anxious right now. I’m really struggling to concentrate. I want to give this conversation its due, but I’m going to need to take 20 minutes away to just do something for myself to settle, and then I’ll come back to it. Is that okay?” And then that person who’s struggling gets the opportunity to exit. And the person who wants to continue the conversation hopefully can work towards recognising that it’s not the right time and they’re not going to get a productive outcome from it. And so the best thing to do would be to let that person take 20 minutes or whatever time it might be, and then come back to the conversation and let the heat go.

Kate Russell

Let the heat out of the situation. Do you think that it would be really positive to set aside a specific time with your former partner, where in the week we’re going to use this time to talk about relationship issues, setting boundaries, things like that. And the rest of the time we’re going to try and just get on. So you’re not having a kind of constant, not threaten threat of an ambush, but you know that you’ve got a specific time to talk through those issues.

Kelly Bagshaw

Yeah. And the word that comes up for me, as you say that again, and what this encompasses, is that intentionality. And whether you’re listening to this and you’re still in a relationship or thinking about separating or maybe wanting to work it out, this is really important for any relationship. And so often we sort of expect that relationships will just do their thing and we don’t put effort in. And so sitting down, no matter where you are in your relationship on a regular basis and checking in or asking questions or asking for needs to be met, or letting the other party know something that was uncomfortable and requesting a change to that is really important for anyone in a relationship.

And so certainly for people living separate sorry, for people living under one roof, but separated, setting that time aside can just really create safety, I think, for both couples as well, to know: all right, this thing’s frustrating me, but we’ve got that meeting booked in on Friday and we’re going to sit down, and that’s an opportunity to talk about it.

Kate Russell

And you know it’s your safe time, that you got an opportunity to raise it that specific time, but also that the rest of the time is safe for you, that someone’s not going to ambush you every moment, every time you walk in the door.

Kelly Bagshaw

Yeah. And I would encourage people to do that. And then when they do notice things that they want to raise in the meeting, obviously to make a note of it for yourself, because that can even help to just diffuse anything that you might be sitting with and make it much easier for you to wait until the meeting.

Kate Russell

That’s right. And by the time the meeting rolls around, that little instance perhaps isn’t a big deal anymore anyway. Time for things to diffuse. So, people who have made a decision to separate, I think it’s really important to acknowledge that they have been married or in a committed de facto relationship and they have often had that other person as their support in their life. And making a decision to separate, suddenly you may feel you’ve lost that support. If you’re still living under the one roof, how can you actually help to support your former partner through the situation while you’re dealing with it yourself?

Kelly Bagshaw

Yeah, I’m glad you raised that, actually, because when we were talking before about sort of setting boundaries and expectations, I think this is a really important piece of that. We’re often each other’s emotional support. We’re each other’s person that you tell about your day when you come home, that you might talk to about something that’s going on in your family or your friendship group. And if you don’t talk about whether you can still be available for each other in that way, then again, we’re leading to that disappointment or resentment or hurt if that person shuts down. And if one person shuts down and is no longer available to that, and then the other person doesn’t have an avenue.

So I think this is a really important discussion. And again, I think it comes down to each person’s capacity. Is there still capacity to offer friendship or support to each other? Is that something that you can be available for, for your partner? Is that something you want your partner to be available for you? And if not, it would be finding a way of getting that support outside of your relationship, I guess. And whether that be with a professional like a coach or a counsellor or through family and friends, then making sure that if you’re losing that role with your partner to put in place some avenues where you can still get those needs met.

Kate Russell

And I think there’s a gendered lens to finding support that often women will have platonic friendships with other women generally and they might have a lot of people that they can talk through their relationship, whereas men maybe don’t have as many avenues. Do you see think this is something in a relationship people need to be aware of?

Kelly Bagshaw

That each other have different avenues for support. Yeah, absolutely. And I think what’s very hard to do when emotions are running high, but what can be very helpful for yourself as an individual as well as the other person is to try and be compassionate for the other person. And accepting of who they are and where they’re at now. And that doesn’t mean we have to like it, but accepting that they’re where they’re at and they’re on their journey can be really beneficial.

So yeah, having compassion for the fact that the other person might not have those support networks in place. Absolutely. That still doesn’t mean you have to be the one to provide it if you don’t have capacity. So it would be in that sort of a situation with the gendered lens, as you say, if it’s a man who doesn’t have any other avenues of support and a woman feeling obliged to offer that, but not really wanting to? Then yeah, encouraging that person to reach out to a professional and I guess supporting them to know that that’s absolutely okay to do.

And look, sometimes you said about women often have big support networks and platonic friendships and people that they’re happy to talk about this stuff with, which is oftentimes true and can oftentimes get in the way a little as well because family can be invested in the relationship going a certain way because of their own relationships with the other person or because of their own experiences. Sometimes friends can offer advice from the best possible place but it might not necessarily be the best choice for you. And so for both parties, I think it can be helpful to speak to somebody who’s impartial.

Kate Russell

That’s a great suggestion, Kelly. I think people often have advice based on maybe their own previous situation as well. But every situation is different. Every relationship is unique. So, yeah, that’s a really good suggestion.

So when is it time to move on? What are some signs that it’s like, okay, we’re at a point now that we can separate and look completely putting maybe financial constraints aside, obviously, if this is a situation someone really doesn’t want to be in but can’t afford to move on, maybe they’re ready well before what we’re about to talk about. But if you’re in one of these situations where you’ve decided to stay together, perhaps the kids for the living arrangement, what are maybe some signs that it’s time to make a fresh start?

Kelly Bagshaw

Yeah. Some signs that you might be ready to move on. I guess I’d just touch on what you acknowledged in your question around some people might not have the financial means to move on and that might be the barrier. I sometimes speak to people who believe that finances are more of a barrier to moving out than they are. So that’s not to deny people’s reality. And I understand the cost of living and everything, but sometimes it can be really important to educate yourself as to what your situation might look like on the other side. And that can be around child support, centerlink things we’ve mentioned already. Getting a sense of what an asset split might look like, how much child support you might be getting. Because oftentimes it’s not as detrimental a situation as we might think it is, because we’re approaching it from that fear and scarcity sort of a mindset. 1.8s

Kate Russell

So, Kelly, before we get to the other side of the question, then, do you think getting some advice, perhaps from a family lawyer to understand what an asset split might look like, perhaps a financial advisor? And also you mentioned Services Australia to find out all the benefits you are eligible for in your new situation?

Kelly Bagshaw

100%. And there are online calculators, there’s lots of information online, and I know the network. We’ve got beautiful professionals who can support with those things as well. So, the second part of the question?

Kate Russell

So you’re in this situation, you’ve separated from your relationship, things are going quite well, living as housemates with the kids, but yeah, what might be a sign that you’re ready to take the leap and move on? And also what might stop people from doing that?

Kelly Bagshaw

I think a sign, and this is going to sound like a very kind of counsellor-y, sort of a woo-woo response, I guess, because it’s not going to be a concrete sign. I think it’s about really tuning in and building your awareness of what are your thought cycles? Are you sitting there fantasising about what it will be like one day when you move out? Are you going over and over situations? Are you feeling frustrated? Is there a sense of dread?

I’ll speak from my experience because I also went through a separation. And when I became aware how frequently I was having this thought, it’s really what prompted me to leave. And it was because I was waking up each morning taking a deep breath and saying, just one more day, you can get through it. And all of a sudden, I sort of knew I was saying this to myself, but hadn’t got it fully in my awareness. And when it came fully into my awareness, I just thought, that is no way to live. Like, starting each day, kind of wishing it by

Kate Russell

It’s always going to be just one more day if you don’t do something about it.

Kelly Bagshaw

Yeah. So noticing where you might be stuck, where you might be, repeating patterns of thinking where you might be like I was wishing time away, trying to talk yourself through getting through it and just ask yourself, is that how you want to live your life? Is leaving, and how challenging that will be, worth it if you get to wake up each day thinking, I get to enjoy my day. I get to make my day look however I want it to look, rather than dreading it, like I was.

Kate Russell

Wow. You mentioned just there about being counsellor. So you have many strings to your bow. You’re a counsellor. You are a divorce and separation coach. You also work with couples who are in relationships and looking to improve their communication together. So, Kelly, wearing your counsellor hat how would you work with an individual who’s perhaps in a situation either through necessity or choice but they’re in a situation where, although they’ve made a decision to separate, they’re still living essentially as part of that couple, really, what kind of things could they look at inwardly, and to grow personally while they’re still in that situation?

Kelly Bagshaw

Great question. And I think what’s key here is always turning back on yourself, always coming back to you and what you want and need. Because we can and again, I understand this, but we can become very focused on the other person and what they’re doing or not doing or how their behavior is impacting us. And one of the things I might do when I was working with somebody is to ask questions, to encourage them to ask sometimes difficult questions of themselves.

And I’ll give an example. I have a client at the moment, and she’s living separated under one roof. And she would like things to sort of progress more, to make it more formal. And her partner is not invested in doing that. And she said to me the other day, I just feel so unheard. I keep trying to have these conversations with him, and he’s not listening, he’s not hearing me.

And my question to her was, where are you not listening to yourself? Where are you not hearing yourself? Where are you not tuned into what you need and therefore not doing anything about that whilst your energy and your attention is going to look towards being heard by another person. And that can be confronting and really, really challenging, but it invites kind of deeper curiosity and a deeper knowing of yourself.

And so that’s my long-winded way of answering, how can a person work on their own growth? And it’s always about turning inwards, being reflective, building awareness, and understanding yourself more fully. Because I think the stats are something like we live 95% of life on autopilot and 5% in that conscious awareness. And so the foundation of all my work in any of those hats that you beautifully outlined that I wear is to develop that self-awareness and consciousness.

Kate Russell

Now support, you wear a lot of hats. Which of those hats could help someone? So I guess that if you’re in this situation, what are the resources you can turn to to help deal with it yourself, to help deal with your partner, to help your communication, help your children? What are the things someone could do?

Kelly Bagshaw

Certainly divorce coaching would be an appropriate avenue in this sort of a situation. And where coaching is a bit different is that it’s more directive. I incorporate, of course, counselling skills into it, but it might be more practical. We’re more focused on goals. So particularly a couple who are separating but intentionally wanting to move towards living separately, divorce coaching can be great because it can really help to identify those goals and the actions that are required to get towards those goals. And that in itself limits the danger, I guess, of getting stuck in that sort of status quo limbo land and not being able to move forward.

A large part of the coaching that I do is around really establishing what your goals are, what your needs are, and what actions you might take towards achieving those. So much more kind of practical. And I can support people with the process. So some of the stuff we’ve talked about, what they might need to look at a centerlink or how they might go about speaking to somebody about child support, that kind of thing. So some practical support as well. Yeah.

Kate Russell

Great. And then you mentioned with counselling. So counselling is more getting someone to look at themselves rather than the situation. Would that be an accurate way to describe it?

Kelly Bagshaw

Definitely. Counselling is all about the person in the room. So if people might want to vent about what they’re experiencing in their relationship, or get a deeper sense of understanding about what’s going on in their relationship and I can certainly guide them towards understanding that from the perspective of: how is it impacting you, what effect is it having on you? Not from the perspective of trying to make changes to that person’s behaviour necessary, really. And counselling is more kind of more of a flow, it’s much less directive, it’s less goal focused and often can go for longer. The beauty of divorce coaching is a set container, so it’s a set number of sessions which can be helpful, especially when you’re wanting to generate momentum and move forward.

Kate Russell

And Kelly, you also work with couples who are looking to build their relationship to be stronger. Do you think there is some advantage to a couple who or, sorry, a former couple who are in this situation, living under one roof, to perhaps seek some professional help together, not in order to rebuild their relationship as a couple, but perhaps to build a new relationship as a separated couple, especially for parents?

Kelly Bagshaw

I absolutely do think that’s a great option for people. And my focus in those sorts of sessions would be around the communication elements or styles that we were talking about earlier. And a lot of the couple’s work that I do, regardless of circumstances, will focus on that research by Gottman and Gottman and helping each other to understand what they’re really trying to communicate when they say something in a certain way and how they might go about communicating that differently.

Kate Russell

Well, thank you very much. Thank you, Kelly. It’s been really valuable.

Kelly Bagshaw

Thanks so much. Thanks Kate.

Kate Russell

That was Kelly Bagshaw. If you’re currently living with an ex-partner, or you’d like to speak to Kelly about how she might support you through another aspect of separation, there’s a link to her calendar in the show notes, as well as a blog we co-wrote on this topic.

If you’d like to learn more about your options in separation, or you want to be put in touch with professionals to help guide you through, please go to theseparationguide.com.au and complete our 3-minute interactive Q&A, or check out our other podcasts and blogs. If you’ve found the information today useful, please subscribe, share and leave us a review. It’s a great way to help our podcast reach others going through separation.

In the spirit of reconciliation, The Separation Guide acknowledges the traditional custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.