“I’ll never forget the divorce, but it doesn’t keep me up at night anymore!” – A divorced father
What about if we didn’t get divorced?
Divorce isn’t automatically necessary when your relationship encounters problems. If there’s anything you can still work on in the relationship, it’s worth staying together and finding new ways to solve your issues and improve your relationship. Every relationship goes through difficult stages and faces challenges. When you haven’t properly discussed any disappointments, hurt feelings, and grievances you’ve had in your relationship with your partner, it’s easy to end up feeling apathetic towards each other or arguing constantly. You can also get help to work through conflicts in your relationship.
It can be hard to work through issues you’re having in your relationship alone or with your partner. A professional can help you communicate differently and put your hard feelings and problems into words. Churches offer free family counselling and support for both couples with and without children. You don’t need to belong to the church to use these services. Private couple’s therapy is another good way to get help. Your local health services or family counselling centre can also help you with problems your family is having. A variety of organizations also offer help and peer support. For example, Kataja ry’s website is a good place to find information about relationship courses, lectures and camps.
If you’re going through with the divorce
The divorce can come as a complete shock or be the product of lengthy consideration together. Ending a relationship always causes a serious crisis. Breaking up with your partner might even be the first big change you’ve faced in your life so far. Even though it might feel like life won’t go on, keep in mind that things have a way of working out.
When you encounter a crisis, your psyche goes through different stages as you process the shock. Shock comes first and lasts from a few hours to a few days. After shock comes reaction. During the reactive stage, feelings can be heated, you might have a lot of anxiety and feel desperate, or as if you’ve lost everything and nothing in life matters anymore. After the reactive stage, you begin to process the break-up. During the processing stage, you process the feelings breaking up caused and learn from the experience.
You can confidently say you’ve recovered from the divorce when your thoughts don’t revolve around the divorce constantly, you might have found something positive about the break-up, and your life after the divorce has settled down. Taking a new approach to life is a sign you’ve recovered from the break-up, and usually comes with new habits and interests and sometimes even a new partner.
These stages are completely normal for everyone to go through, and they are normal reactions to an abnormal situation. It’s important to remember that feeling low and having anxiety aren’t permanent states of mind but take some time to pass. It’s difficult to think clearly in the beginning, so avoid making any big decisions right after you break up.
You can’t speed up the stages of processing the crisis, but if you make sure to take care of yourself, you’ll make it through fine. Give yourself time to recover – get help from a professional or some peer support when you need it. Talking is bound to help. Make sure you get enough sleep. Without sleep your psyche doesn’t have the resources to recover properly and you won’t have enough energy to take care of errands during the day. If you have a hobby you enjoy, keep doing it. Your hobby will take your mind of things and give you something else to think about for a while. You might find you need to take sick leave from work right after you’ve decided to break up. On the other hand, sometimes work can be a good place to be and provide safety and structure.
You can find more information on how to cope with the divorce here .
Will I lose my child?
In addition to shock about the relationship ending, the divorce often causes a parenting crisis. Try to focus on the idea that you and your ex-partner are both still parents to your child and can keep working together as parents even though the relationship is over. It can be difficult but try to separate these ideas in your mind. The Finnish Child Custody and Access Act acknowledges that a child has the right to both of their parents and neither parent may deny a child access to the other parent or sever their relationship without reason.
Most fathers find it’s possible to have a co-parenting relationship with their child’s other parent that’s at least satisfactory. Many fathers have noticed that their father-child relationship became stronger and more important after the divorce. When you have custody of your child, it’s good to set aside time to talk, spend time together and do things together. Even though it might be hard to see your children right after the divorce, it’s important for children to stay connected to their father. Being separated from your children can also cause you sadness and anxiety.
Fathers are often worried about losing their children. Another common cause for arguments is disagreements over children’s expenses. Try to stay neutral when discussing this topic, as children and child custody comes with several expenses you need to reach an agreement over.
Do your part to hold up your end of the agreements you’ve reached with your child’s other parent. Find out which children’s affairs need to be taken into account and negotiated during the divorce. Don’t cause your children unnecessary disappointment by making promises you can’t keep and try to avoid bickering or speaking harshly about your child’s other parent in hearing of your children.
Read more about the agreements you need to make involving your children here.
Being a present father when your child is an infant
Fathers have a special and unique place in their newborn child’s life. Your fatherhood is put to the test if you break up during your child’s first year or if you had a child outside of a relationship with your child’s mother. Men can become fathers by surprise and without time to prepare for the birth of a child and becoming a father. A surprise pregnancy can also involve paternity tests and acknowledgement of paternity.
Fatherhood has a special meaning to a newborn child. You might feel insecure and inadequate as an adult, and unsure if you’ll be able to take care of a baby. Even so, be open to getting to know and have a relationship with your child. Studies have shown that having a present father has a variety of positive effects on a child’s life.
Acknowledging paternity when parents don’t live together
If you have a child outside of marriage, you must acknowledge paternity by either declaration or by decision of a judge. Acknowledging paternity means the father-child relationship is made legal. Your child will become your descendant and can be given your surname. Your child also has the right to receive financial support from you as well ase keep in contact and visit you if you don’t live at the same address with your child’s mother.
Your child’s mother is automatically the guardian of your child and has sole custody when your child is born out of wedlock. After acknowledging paternity, fathers can become a guardian by mutual agreement or by decision of a judge. If you want to share custody, you need to sign a shared custody agreement with your local child welfare supervisor. If you acknowledge paternity at your child health centre before your child is born, you become a guardian without any separate agreement or decision on the matter. You can also decide to include decisions on child support and visitation rights in the contract you make with your child welfare supervisor.
Don’t hesitate to reach out for support!
You can get through the divorce and make a full recovery. There are plenty of services available to help you and talking always helps. You can find help for what you’re going through from services provided by your city, your local church, non-profit organizations or the private sector.
Divorce groups are a good way to get peer support and help you process the emotional load of the divorce. There are separate groups that focus on parenting and children’s affairs, such as the “Vanhemman neuvo” group. The Apua Eroon chat is open weekly, and you can use the chat to talk one-on-one with a trained professional. The organization Miessakit ry offers several different forms of support for men, such as groups, support people, and online discussion forums. You can also reach out to a doctor or a mental health professional through your work healthcare. Crisis hotlines are available 24/7 in case of emergency.
“Time helps when you’re recovering from a divorce. Your feelings can be all over the place and you should prepare to have all kinds of strong feelings. It’s important to accept the divorce as a fact, even if it wasn’t what you wanted. Giving it time and talking about things helps. It’s not good to get bitter.”