British divorce courts are expecting a surge in demand following the change to the law allowing a ‘no-fault’ divorce for the first time. But when is a good time to divorce and how can you do it well? Relationship Coaches Matthew and Emma Pruen share their expertise.

Matthew and Emma Pruen

Matthew and Emma Pruen

In our grandparents age dissolving a marriage involved the charade of being photographed in a Brighton Hotel bedroom with a man in dodgy shoes. More recently we had to cite one of five available grounds for divorce: adultery; unreasonable behaviour; desertion; two years separation with consent; or five years separation without consent. Two calm and mature people recognising they would be better apart didn’t count for anything.

This blaming law perpetuated the myth that ending a marriage was bad and someone had to be in the wrong, which stalled the healing and was potentially disastrous for any children’s emotional wellbeing.

But how do you know when it’s time to divorce?

Many couples want to separate when the pain becomes unbearable, only to find that when the high of something new – a lover, a ‘glow up’, an interior design makeover - wears off, the pain comes back in spades. Anyone who married in good faith discovers divorce is a bereavement. It is the death of a dream. Just as we need the lawyers to hash out the legal and financial details, a good relationship coach is often essential to help process the loss and divorce amicably. Divorce is not a substitute for grieving, although it might look like it.

The time to divorce is when you have:

1. Finally said the things you've not been able to say and been heard and understood on the things you've been saying repeatedly. 2. Let go of resentments, honoured the past and released its hold. Ultimately it is about saying goodbye to what no longer serves you and opening up to a positive future. 3. Agreed on the futures you both want as well as managing the overlaps and differences well.

When these three steps have been achieved some people find they want to stay together; others, where one has been clinging on, come to see that it’s time to say goodbye. Nothing is more tragic than realising two years on from the decree nisi that you might have made the biggest mistake of your life. Doing the emotional work is a great investment as regardless of the outcome both parties move on to happier lives whether together or apart.

When these steps have been avoided, or anesthetized with a new lover, a flashy car, or a round the world adventure, couples find that even when the legal side is finalised they are still bonded, but in resentment not love. We all know what a bitter individual harking on about their ex looks like - very unappealing. No-one wants to date someone in this state. There is only one way to really separate and move on and that’s to deal with the emotional stuff before the legalities.

As psychologist Bert Hellinger said, "As a rule, a marriage doesn’t end because one partner is at fault and the other is blameless, but because one or the other is entangled in the unresolved issues of his or her family of origin.”

Not only does healing the past make the divorce process faster and cheaper, it makes us more available for finding new love and it stops us repeating the mistakes of the past. If we persist in blaming the other person for the marriage ending and don’t take responsibility for our part, the next relationship will go the same way. Do you know this syndrome: Two years into the relationship and they start acting like your ex?

To avoid carrying baggage into your future you need to first face the past.

Matthew and Emma Pruen are relationship coaches who offer private or group courses and coaching to support couples to separate well or to heal the pain and reconnect. See for more information or email [email protected]

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