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Ask Ellie: If divorce is inevitable, get informed now

Dear Ellie: Is there a time factor on how long a person can live with someone they no longer love? I’d been doing my best, during the months of the pandemic, to put up with all that I felt was wrong between my husband and me.
Advice columnist Ellie

Dear Ellie: Is there a time factor on how long a person can live with someone they no longer love? I’d been doing my best, during the months of the pandemic, to put up with all that I felt was wrong between my husband and me.

Being locked down, the switch to working from home, the constant needs of the kids when there are no play dates or real school, it was all stressful but necessary for getting through it safely, so I put my emotions aside.

As our area opened up, we joined our closest friends for a couple of patio dinners, but even with some added socializing, I still felt distanced from him, and not normal.

When I learned that I could finally hug my mother in person, I cried. She immediately told me she “understood.”

My parents divorced when I was 10, so I feel she knows my feelings without our having discussed them.

Do I blame the pandemic and stick it out till we’re back to “normal?” Or do I believe some “experts” that we have a second wave coming, maybe even followed later by a third — with our way of life changed to a somewhat different “normal?”

Divorce or Delay?

If, in both heart and mind, you feel that divorce is inevitable, get informed to deal with the issues involved. This personal preparation is especially important now.

Lawyer Russell Alexander, in his second book on divorce law in Ontario — Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Divorce — has added a chapter specifically on divorce during the coronavirus pandemic.

But he first steers away from courts and divorce laws to tips for couples, including self-reflection, communication, couple time, understanding that feeling stress is normal, staying positive — mental health-and relationship-based advice to be considered before contemplating legal matters.

As for going to court, the guiding principle is “co-operation, not litigation,” if at all possible.

Ontario courts are operating only for the most urgent matters, at the time of Alexander’s writing his book.

An example of an “urgent” matter is a request relating to the safety of a child or parent (for instance, a restraining order).

The author’s summary on custody and access — two battles that are fiercely fought by some divorcing parents — shines welcome common-sense light.

Until the pandemic is over, children’s lives and vitally important family relationships cannot be placed “on hold” indefinitely without risking serious emotional harm and upset, he notes.

In these troubling and disorienting times, children need the love, guidance and emotional support of both parents.

Blended families are also addressed with respect to worries over the spread of COVID: “Each family will have its own unique issues and complications.

But no matter how difficult the challenge, for the sake of the child, we have to find ways to maintain important parental relationships — and above all, we have to find ways to do it safely.”

To the letter-writer and others who in the past four months have turned the word “divorce” around in their heads, this book is a primer on the realities involved.

There are many other related issues to consider beyond this book, of course — such as legal and court costs, along with counselling fees to try and avoid divorce if possible.

But if pandemic stress, over-exposure to a controlling partner or some other reason has you considering marriage break-up, you’ll learn a lot from this primer on what’s involved.

Dear Ellie: I have a daughter, 11, and a son, six. The summer programs we’d planned for them aren’t happening.

But though I live downtown in a high-rise condo, I’m lucky to have a couple of friends with backyard pools and a few others who’ve rented cottages just an hour out of town.

Also, I work part-time at home and can do it in the mornings and evenings.

If my daughter’s invited to a pool or cottage (and not my son), I’m thinking it’s assumed that I would stay and visit (due to the drive) and that I’d also have to bring my son.

Am I Right?

You won’t know for sure unless you ask. But you can raise your chances by saying you’d love to bring something — e.g. a fruit bowl or a salad, and some post-swim treats.

Then add: “I hope it’ll be all right to bring my son, whom I’ll watch in the water.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

Divorce in the time of COVID-19 adds stress to stress. Get informed/prepared, unless you/your children need to seek safety first.

Read Ellie Monday to Saturday.

Send relationship questions to Follow @ellieadvice.

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