Counsellor hypnotherapist Susan Leigh joins Tamsin Caine, a Chartered Financial Planner specialising in divorce, to discuss what happens when couples first separate. They consider the differences in individual’s emotional journey and the help that is available to them.
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Susan is a Counsellor and Hypnotherapist who has specialised in relationship counselling since 1998. Based in Altrincham, Cheshire and South Manchester, Susan works with couples in matrimonial or dispute situations, helping to mediate and find compromise no matter the context. Susan’s website is http://lifestyletherapy.net/. She can be contacted by emailing email@example.com.
Director of Financial Planning and Chartered Financial Planner Tamsin Caine has a strong background of over 15 years within the financial services profession. She began Smart Divorce following her own experience with divorce; she now advises people in the same situation as she once was, enabling them to take back control of their life and finances. Smart Divorce website is www.smartdivorce.co.uk. Contact her by email firstname.lastname@example.org
Tamsin Caine: Hello and welcome to the Smart Divorce podcast. This podcast is for you if you’re thinking of separating, already separated or going through divorce. My name’s Tamsin Caine and I’m a Chartered Financial Planner. We’ll speak to some fantastic specialists who can help you to get through your divorce, hopefully amicably and start your new chapter positively. Now, over to today’s guest.
Tamsin Caine: Hi, Susan. Thank you for joining me today on the Smart Divorce podcast. Do you want to introduce yourself first and tell us a bit about what you do?
Susan Leigh: Well, thanks very much for inviting me along, Tamsin. I’m Susan Leigh. I’m a counsellor hypnotherapist. I do stress management, I do relationship counselling, and sometimes people want relationship counselling even when they’re wanting to break up. So there’s all sorts of permutations that you can bring into play if you look into people’s lives, help them cope before, during and after the transition of something as serious as a divorce.
Tamsin Caine: Yeah, absolutely. So what are the emotional reactions that people feel when they first separate? This is where we’re going to start off within this podcast.
Susan Leigh: Well, I think often the lead up to actually finally deciding that you just have come far enough, can be a very wearing, disappointing journey anyway. So whether or not you precipitated the divorce, and it’s often that both people aren’t in the same place at exactly the same time. But whether or not, you can feel a failure, you can feel that you have been run down depleted over a long period of time. It’s not a sudden decision. Knee jerk decision. Even though divorces apparently so much easier these days, it is often still a slow process, particularly if children are involved. So you find that people can be perhaps feeling concerned that they’re disrupting the family, disappointing in laws, there might be religious implications. The financial considerations often weigh quite heavily, as well as the actual emotional angst of breaking up the family, of walking away from somebody. And initially, you got together because you loved each other and were planning to spend your lives together so that whole place from moving from joy and elation right through to this is it, I can’t continue anymore. It is often a wearing, debilitating process, plus all the ramifications associated with it.
Tamsin Caine: Yeah, absolutely. So you mentioned that people are often in different emotional positions when they actually finally decide to separate. What do you usually find? You usually find that that’s a male and female thing, Or how does that manifest itself?
Susan Leigh: I think it can be either. I think sometimes I think the days of the woman being at home and the man being the wage earner that perhaps occurred 20 to 30 years ago. But these days, often both people are working in whatever capacity these days, so it’s not quite as the woman’s beholden on the man because he’s earning all the money and he’s relying on her to drop the whole family edifice up. I think you often find that the emotional journey that the differences between the both of them are on now that people wait until the children have left home and then they can look at each other and say often it’s not uncommon for people say, Who was that I’m living with? Because I think when in busy, busy households you can find that people, the couple, have got so used to just exchanging updates and shopping lists and news, and this is what we’re doing, instructions and so on. Then you know, at nighttime they crash into bed, exhausted on a weekend catching up on chores. So I think that often you can find that over a period of time, people have become worn out with it all, or they’re starting to look at what the rest of the life is going to be like. And sometimes you find one person has said, This is it now, I need to do something more special with my life. And it can be that the partner is absolutely shell shocked at the news of that. They thought they were fine. They were coping OK. Or it can be there’s somebody else in the wings or it can be the one person as a consequence of being told or suspecting that their partners moving on, that they can stop feeling who worse about themselves. Have I let myself go, I didn’t think I was that bad. You know, am I unintelligent, I’m not interesting enough. What’s wrong with me? So we can actually go through that whole process when we’re in that mode. And thinking one partner perhaps is moving on to pastures new. That could be very difficult as well.
Tamsin Caine: Yeah, absolutely. So would you say that it’s a good idea and to wait until you’ve begun to deal with some of the emotional sides before you actually start moving into the whole divorce process?
Susan Leigh: I think if you if you’re able to do that, it’s a good thing. If you’re able to get some money on one side, if you’re able to do some work on yourself, if you’re able to start looking forward, that could be a good thing. But it can also sound quite calculating too. Many of us don’t want to feel that we are being quite so calculating about the whole process of getting divorced. But often it’s not a surprise. Sometimes it is. If we are perhaps following that look will try relationship counselling, we’ll go and see our rabbi or our family priest, we’ll use a neutral family friend. If they’re trying to sort it out themselves, they can. It’s not a surprise that it is coming to the end of a relationship, and sometimes couples do look at each other after 10 15 20 years together and say, You know what? I loved you, but I’m not in love with you anymore and that can be a time where they say, there’s got to be more more to life than this. Men will sometimes look at their careers and say, Well, I’ve supported the family all this time. I’ve done really well in my job. Everything else about my life, you know, I wanted to travel America. I wanted to do all those things that I’ve never had a chance to do while I’ve been with you. I really want to start doing that. Maybe a couple can start doing those things together, but sometimes they can’t and sometimes both of them aren’t in the same place. And it’s true that over a period of 10 15 20 years, we may have unnoticeably started drifting apart from each other and it is time to sort of face up to the fact that we want to do more with our lives, but not necessarily together.
Tamsin Caine: Yeah, absolutely. I know when I got divorced. I definitely had that feeling and that feeling of failure as well that you mentioned before, and that’s really difficult to get your head around. How would you suggest people might think about starting to deal with that?
Susan Leigh: Well, it’s the disappointment, isn’t it? When we got together, we had all these protestations of love we might have been in our early twenties mid to late twenties on DH were not necessarily the same people. Now that we’re back then we had children. We’ve had family. We’ve had all sorts of different things. And I think sometimes, yeah, I mean a big question if I work with somebody, sometimes I work with a couple, sometimes I work with them as individuals, sometimes to do the whole lot and often it is about saying what went wrong. Now we all have to accept consequences of our actions. Whether or not we were the driver behind the divorce, we have to take a lesson from it. A sensible person will take a lesson from any bad, difficult, traumatic experience. So whether it’s the death or loss, an ending, there’s that whole process of anger, negotiation, disbelief. Why me? We can go through the whole cycle of grief that is well documented, whether it’s after a death or an ending of any kind, a health situation, whatever it might be. Sometimes taking personal therapy or taking time for reflection or taking a retreat or taking time away. We face some truth. What is it about me? Our partner may have hurled insults or abuse or may have tried to speak to us. Perhaps we can’t listen, but sometimes we have to take criticism, even we don’t agree. That other person’s opinion of us is their opinion of us and they’re entitled to it and sometimes stopping and saying Is there any validity in this? Do I need to perhaps look at myself? Have I perhaps taken it easy for a long time? Have I let myself go? Am I interesting? Am I very different than I was way back then? Is that okay? And so, working through the whole process of perhaps a little bit of self reflection. It’s not analysis, certainly self reflection on learning from what we’ve gone through. And, I always advocate ah, little bit of time between the ending and starting a new relationship because we have to meet ourselves again. Our marriage may have been over a long time before the divorce and so sometimes, we’ve had time to get used to that ending this imminent even though it was still living in cohabiting living in the same house. But I think sometimes we have to face up to ourselves and discover we can be independent and not necessarily transmission from one relationship to the next, but have a little bit of a time out so that we we get used to ourselves. We perhaps adjust our children to the new state of a situation that’s happening, really reinvented ourselves, redefine our relationships with friends and family who may have had to find a side to go to within the couple. But it is good to have a process of taking time, taking stock, maybe update your image, maybe get to the gym, maybe learn a language, maybe think about finances. Maybe think about setting up a little business or what I really like to do. But this can be an opportunity to reinvent yourself and start afresh. It doesn’t have to be a a desperately despairing ending. We do go through that process. It is part of that package as well.
Tamsin Caine: Yeah, I totally see that. It is certainly something that we talk to clients about. It’s the new chapter, new beginnings, the opportunity to start doing things for yourself, decided without having to refer to another person and their hopes and dreams and desires. You can very much start planning your own life and your own future.
Susan Leigh: And that does involve a few mistakes, that may involve making a few mistakes and a few errors, and that’s also good. Just to suddenly discover, I mean talking about death, when an older couple, one of them dies, the other one suddenly realises they don’t know how to sort out a financial thing, or they don’t know how to get the car booked in for a service. These can be the practicalities that occur when a divorce happens too, that even if we’re a modern couple, there are still often jobs and decisions that one person makes because they know what they’re doing. And the other says, you get on with it, honey. And so it can be remembering to put the bins out, it can be remembering to pay the paper bill, for goodness sake or whatever it might be. But we have to learn to find ourselves and take that time to stand on our own two feet and become independent and relish that.
Tamsin Caine: No, absolutely. I think we very often find that one person takes hold of and control of the finances not in a bad way just because the marriage is a teamwork isn’t it. And one of you looks after the finances because that’s perhaps where your strengths lie.
Susan Leigh: You don’t have to be able to do everything you know. It’s not like I have to sit over your shoulder and watch you check the statement or whatever or check the online banking. It’s a question of trust, and we did trust each other, and maybe that trust doesn’t need to go. But we’re not together anymore. So we’re having to be independent. Even if both parties were reasonable and amicable about it. There’s still a learning curve for each person.
Tamsin Caine: No, absolutely. So you work with couples or individuals when they’re in this point of separation, when that they’re going through perhaps what’s a fearful time over finances, children, et cetera. What can people expect if they sought your help, If they were in that position?
Susan Leigh: Well, I would discover, we would discover together what it is they’re looking for, what the particular issues are, what they’re struggling with, what’s come up for them. Sometimes it can be just being in a place of holding where they’re just getting their act together and reminding themselves to breath, because it can be an overwhelm, where I’ve got everything to do. You know, I’ve maybe got children and he or she, they take them every weekend. They come back with loads the fantastic gifts and the other person’s feeling a bit bereft because they can’t do that. It’s that readjustment process, whatever that involves for each couple. So people often have to learn to readjust and adapt to that. They have to realise that a lot of things are changing. They might have lost some of their friends because they felt that they couldn’t take sides or actually, interesting that even these days, you sometimes find couples will drop a single person because they perhaps feel a little bit uneasy about that or worried or weary or whatever. So that could be all sorts of things that happened. But we didn’t expect to happen. We may have to focus more on our business, our career now and confidence and self esteem and self belief and kind of thing. These can be massive issues for people; stress, grief, crying, not sleeping at night. All these areas can be really put under the spotlight when we’re going through a massive change to our circumstances. And if we have to move house, perhaps, or if we know that some day we have to move house. Are the children staying at the same school and how are you coping with them? So that can be a lot of if you like stress management type issues that come up. But it’s helping that person feel better. Learn that they can survive. Learn that they can do it, learn that they are okay about it. And breathe through that and learn to believe in themselves and take this as a positive step to move forward after. You know, I didn’t want it to happen. I would never want it on anybody else to happen, however it has. I’ve got to get through the other side and part of life’s journey. So that’s what we’re working with often with clients.
Tamsin Caine: Excellent. That sounds really good. So it is it largely a talking process, a process of counselling or do you use the hypnotherapy in those circumstances as well?
Susan Leigh: I often well, I offer either or both. A lot of people want both because the talking side can help people clarify what’s going on, often when you’re going through a divorce or relationship ending or even just the trauma of the disruption phase. Where you don’t know what the outcome is going to be. But the talking side can often help people clarify. If I’m working with a couple, I will get them, even if they’re splitting up, I will get them to try to understand each other’s point of view because that often gets lost in the process too. Many a time, I’ve heard two people tell me exactly the same facts, but from a completely different perspective. So you hear the 1st one and you think, my goodness, what a horrible person your partner is. And then you speak to the partner and you realise, Oh, actually your nearly X never mentioned that side of it or, what that looked like that them. So you know, we can get often two very different views, even though the facts might be exactly the same. So there is a certain amount of perspective that needs to come into situations and talking things through could be a very important part of that process. The hypnotherapy side is a good way of addressing underlying patterns. Somebody might be saying, it’s not uncommon for me to hear, here I go again. Or it’s, I’m just a bad person? Or, you know, I can’t even do a relationship or whatever it might be. And so those things may have roots in earlier negative experiences of life that may have had roots in the way they were treated perhaps in the past. Or what they witnessed, maybe even a domestic home situation with their own parents. So there could be lots of different things that have adhered to us, to have stuck to us and we’ve carried with them through our lives and hypnotherapy is a great way of addressing those underlying triggers and responses that we have. But we don’t necessarily know where they’ve come from. We may not eve appreciate what we’re actually doing. So it’s a great way of helping heal. I will discuss with each person individually what it is they want, and that’s what we actually look to work with.
Tamsin Caine: That sounds really good. So I guess there will be people who are a bit fearful. Perhaps of coming to see a hypnotherapist, perhaps have seen, back in the day, and maybe I am showing my age here, but back in the nineties, they used to have these programmes on TV of people getting hypnotised and and making them do daft things and so on. I realise what you we’re talking about is a professional service to help people through situations but do you have people who have that fear over over that sort of therapy?
Susan Leigh: I have people who wonder exactly what’s going on. You know that they’ll come and see me. I got most of my clients from recommends these days. I’ve got somebody flying in from Germany today to see me. So we get people from all over. You know, I get a lot of clients coming up from London and out of the area. So at the end of the day, I think there is a greater appreciation, an awareness of what hypnotherapy can be. In fact, sometimes people staff come specifically because I want the hypnotherapy. But, yes, there could be an underlying concern when they actually come to that point where we’re doing it. That’s why my first session is always two hours long, because I know that in that period of time they get a fantastic opportunity to get comfortable and understand that I’m on board and that what we’re doing is it is an agreed process between the both of us. So everything that happens is agreed in advance. But actually, I tend not to use the word hypnosis or hypnotherapy. I tend to use the word trance because it’s exactly the same thing. If you’re a human being, you spend about 85% of your time every day in a trance state. So if you’re driving somewhere that you go to regularly and you’re on autopilot and then you suddenly go heck, am I here already, or if you wonder around the supermarket and you get to pickles and you think, Oh, yes, I wanted pickles and then you’re back in a trance until you get to cottage cheese or something. Or you’re in a boring meeting and somebody’s droning on and you’re not asleep but you’re not fully awake. And if they say your name, you’re instantly awake and on board, that’s an everyday experience of trance. And that is a good enough state for people like me to actually work with you. So getting that just relaxed, yes, I’m miles away, daydream, drifty, floaty. If something on toward that wasn’t agreed, that was perhaps inappropriate happened to be said, you’d instantly alert yourself. You would be aware of it, you’d come back. But because that doesn’t happen with me, people find very quickly that they can just trust the process and realise how fantastic it is. That’s why I was include a relaxation with every piece of work. But whatever happens, people always, when the hypnotherapy sessions stop, they finish and they go, Wow. I’ve never felt so relaxed, or relieved in my life, I feel like a weight’s been lifted. And that in itself is a fantastic by product of having a session of hypnotherapy.
Tamsin Caine: Yeah, that’s gotta help people who were in this position where the emotional responses are coming at you all the time. You do feel very much like you’re on a roller coaster. To have that experience of relaxation must be fantastic.
Susan Leigh: Absolutely, it really does help and often for people, they say, they can also say at the end of session, I’m so exhausted, they’ve been sat with their feet up, covered with a blanket for an hour or something. They go I’m exhausted and that’s because letting go of a lot of those stress responses in your body and adrenaline and you generating all that tenseness. To let all that go, can be quite a tiring thing to do. You suddenly go, gosh, my body. You know, I’m relaxed. I’ve let go of a lot of stuff. As well as doing the deep trance work to actually heal, resolve, and sort out those underpinning things have been bothering you.
Tamsin Caine: Yeah. No, absolutely. So would your support differ later on in the process? If it wasn’t initially on separation, if they were fair to down the line?
Susan Leigh: I think initially, in separation, people are upset and so it can be that you’re working with one, but well both people might be guilty or hurt or devastated. So, sometimes, initially, it’s almost like dealing with somebody in the aftermath of the natural physical death, because the grief process can be just as devastating. So when somebody comes in the early stages, it might be that we are together working on helping somebody get through. You know, they’re going to see the lawyer on a regular basis. The other person might not replying to letters. They might not be getting the answers that they need. They may be taking an inordinant amount of time to get the financial support coming through, so that part of the process can sometimes simply be about helping that person keep going. That can be a huge part of the work that I do. All we’re doing is that maintenance. That’s survival, like getting through that helping to cope. And that could be a huge part of what I do in the early stages. Further down the line, if somebody’s coming to see me, then we want might be working with, Where actually did it go wrong? What went on? Where did that disparity go? What’s your bit that you need to own of this? Did you stop communicating? Were you communicating inappropriately? Did you find yourself just being mean? Sometimes I’ve had couples where he’s not spoken for 15 years because he knows that if he speaks, she’s gonna jump on him or say no, I don’t agree or whatever, and and I’ve had couples who’ve done that, a few, quite a few couples where one of them has done that for a long time. And so he’s got to own that. He has to find his voice or a better way of communicating. She’s got to learn that if she wants to have a partner, she’s got to learn a more civilised way of interacting with somebody. A more respectful way. Don’t be psychic. Don’t second guess your partner. So that type of example can be a pattern in any relationship on both sides, whoever they are, have got to own their part in the process, and it might not be a 50 50. It might be a 70 30. But either way. I mean Eleanor Roosevelt, I love this little saying, Eleanor Roosevelt said, We teach people how to treat us, and when we teach people how to treat us, what that means is that we are tacitly even if we’re not speaking, we’re giving somebody permission to speak to us. If we’re not reacting, we’re giving permission for it to continue, or we’re saying OK, whatever. We might be saying whatever with a deadpan face or two fingers up or something. But at the end of the day, there’s that whole thing about just letting it go on. And sometimes we have to say, actually, if I want to have an adult relationship, I can’t continue like this.
Tamsin Caine: Yeah, no, that makes it. That makes complete sense. Thank you, Susan. Is there anything that you think I should have asked you about this area of separation that I haven’t already that we haven’t already talked about today?
Susan Leigh: I think not particularly, I think it. I think any experience, I’m a big believer in any experience it is valued, is valuable. So whatever’s going on in our lives, whatever’s happening, our relationships, whatever processes we’re going through. A bad relationship can teach us about negotiation, can teach us about respect, can teach us about listening and replying, can teach us about participating, can teach us about what we need to learn from this and perhaps becoming a bit more independent, and that can be shocking and alarming and fearful and exhilarating at the same time. And so starting a new starting again can be the beginning of a new phase of your life. So don’t treat it as an ending and say, Okay, I’m sorry it’s happened, I grieve for that process. But actually, it taught me to love. It. It taught me to care for somebody else. And now I’m ready to move on into a new phase of my life.
Tamsin Caine: I think that’s a perfect way to end today. Thank you ever so much for joining me. Susan. It’s been lovely chatting to you. Thank you for listening to the Smart Divorce podcast. If you like details of our guest today or of myself so you can get in touch, please check out the programme notes. Many thanks. See you again soon.