Could a ‘nesting’ divorce be right for my family ?

Dernière mise à jour : 13 févr. 2021

I know people who want to stay single, I know people who absolutely want to get married. Most people want to love and be loved...I don’t know anyone who aspires to get divorced though. It is quite the opposite of the dreams and aspirations we have when it comes to our love relationships. Rather, it is considered a failure. When it comes to emotions, there is a mixture of sadness, anger, disappointment, hurt, fear...It is a loss.

While we can give 100% to being successful as parents, we can only guarantee 50% of the success in our relationships as only half of the responsibility is ours. Once we have tried everything on our side, sometimes divorce is the only possible solution.

The idea of a “nesting” divorce is to remain a family while no longer being a couple.

The idea of “nesting” is an alternative to children alternating residences after their parents’ separation. While children commuting from one place to another, usually week by week, sometimes day by day, is quite a good solution for parents, it might eventually lead to instability and a lack of comfort for the kids.

When it comes to a “nesting divorce” it is the parents who move with their suitcases week by week, day by day, and therefore they are the ones who deal with instability and lack of comfort.

The idea of nesting is equally linked to the principle of changing as few things as possible when the whole world is changing. Divorce itself is a big change; the family goes through a transformation in order to establish a new way of functioning. The basis of the children’s lives has been shaken.

A “nesting” divorce considers the house the family lived in before the divorce as a nest. That’s why the parallel with a birds’ nest can be drawn. The place where we live plays quite an important role in our daily lives.


Where we live is called “home” and a home is a unique place where we belong. A home is a place we spend most of our time, it is a place where we have created our routines. It is a safe and secure place. It is a place where we can be ourselves. It is a place we are attached to. It has a familiar smell, familiar noises, it has been the backdrop to the story of our lives so far.

Home is the place where we belong. And belonging is an essential human need.

For the majority of kids, the home also means

- their friends,

- their bus stop,

- their school,

- their activities and leisure time.

Children’s worlds are very small and these “things” make up their worlds.

Keeping the family home can add great value to life after divorce and help children adapt to a new reality.

How does it work then ?

The divorcing couple keeps the home as a stable place and they separately take turns being around the kids following the agreed schedule. The schedule is a key matter here, just like in any other divorce involving children. It is adapted according to the needs of each family. Families with infants, young children or teenagers would each have different schedules. Infants need almost every day contact with both parents.

Ideally, each parent should have their own private space in the home. I say ideally because not everyone can expand the size of the house by adding another bedroom. Ideally, each parent would also have an external place to stay while the children are not under their care.

Some couples decide to rent a second place, at least at the beginning of the new set-up. Some seek help from family and friends. Some decide to share an apartment for budgetary reasons. Some later on move in with a new partner.

How to go about a “successful” divorce ?

The nesting divorce is still a divorce but can be considered a success for two reasons:

1. The family keeps its home as a reference point offering stability and security;

2. In order to settle on a nesting divorce, the couple has reached an agreement.

Reaching an agreement

The relative success of any divorce or separation is based on the couple's ability to agree and compromise.

Yet, very often as a married couple, we were not able to reach a compromise or agreement.

In this case, it is essential to be able to do this. Being able to communicate and compromise is one of the skills to learn here.

Learn to communicate and compromise

It is a competence we will need also in our post-divorce life. There will always be topics related to our children that need to be discussed. No need to mention here that the only other alternative when defining our post-divorce lives is to engage in a court procedure. In this case, talking to each other can become very expensive and very often turns into an ongoing battle, which is incredibly time-consuming.

How to go about it then ? Take some distance. Stop the power games and stop feeding the conflict. You are not here to punish the other partner for bringing up the divorce. Put your emotions aside for the moment. You will deal with your emotions separately. Tell yourself that you are not about to change the relationship and discuss the problems. It is not a couple’s therapy session. The problems and conflicts will always remain the same. Though it is very hurtful when discussing the post-divorce agreement, it is important to put the “hurting” issues aside and ask yourself:

“What kind of life do I want to have after the divorce ? What do I want for myself ? What are the most important things for me and my kids ?”

Sincerely, with the best intentions for my children, what should my life look like? What is essential and what am I ready to compromise on?

Communicating during the divorce procedure is very demanding, without mentioning the stress and fatigue we have accumulated during the last stage of our relationship. To get through this, the couple can be accompanied, for example by a mediator or a coach, and then discuss the topic they cannot agree on in presence of others. It does help and it is designed for this situation.

According to my experience, communication gets better with time. The ongoing fights, stonewalling, etc. stop the moment we understand that we won’t change the other person. The distance helps greatly. The letting go process allows us to let go of the pain and negative emotions.

The maturity the couple gains while engaging in a “friendly” divorce and the feeling of gratitude seeing your kids grow up without being damaged by constant tension will also reinforce the sense of accomplishment. The feeling of “well done” will allow the communication to become smoother.

Support and self-care

Divorce is a loss and it is a very stressful situation. There are so many emotions going on and we cannot always make space for them. We have to put our emotions aside during the negotiation process. We have to keep showing up strong for our kids every day while maintaining the same routine. At the same time, the social network we had until now, family and friends are not necessarily always supportive and we cannot always open up our hearts in front of them. Very often we are judged; very often, others project their own fears and uncertainties onto us.

For all these reasons and in order to reconnect with your inner self it is important to look after yourself; to give yourself as much self-care as possible. I recommend some of the following practices:

- Breathing. Think of breathing regularly:

- Spending time outside, going for walks, reconnecting with nature;

- Practicing mindfulness in order to stop the continuous self-talk;

- Meditation, Sophrology, Relaxation to change your vibes and clean your energy;

- Massage, Reflexology - anything that involves touch;

- Vitamines. Be sure you continue healthy eating habits;

- Rest. If you cannot sleep, rest;

- Find a passion, engage in creative practice.

In order to get through this difficult period, find support and let yourself be accompanied. This can be seen as a treat. In order to build on your divorce, to learn from it, to process the grief, to let go, to heal, to accept it, to find self-love and to open up to new possibilities, find yourself someone you feel comfortable working with. Psychologists, therapists, coaches, someone who is trained to listen actively without judging, without projecting, without giving advice. Someone who is capable of empathy.

Time makes you forget, but letting go makes you heal.

Important is to heal and grow consciously through that experience.

The cons of a nesting divorce

I will mention two cons. So the first downside would be the strain this arrangement can put on a family’s budget. And secondly, the possibility of a new family being founded with a new partner.

If one member of the separated couple plans to start a new family that could potentially create stress for the new couple because of the needs of a newborn. A newborn baby needs the presence of both parents so one parent, the mother, leaving 50% of the time and commuting with the baby, would be challenging to organise. So something to consider for those who still plan to have more kids.

What are the rules for a divorce?

● Find an agreement no matter what;

Take your time negotiating it. There will be ups and downs and no one can put pressure on you;

Stay focused on yourself not the other one;

Protect your kids - they do not have to know everything about your couple. Children do not understand the complexity of the world so just share what is important for them;

Be available for your kids - they might open up in the moments you don’t necessarily expect;

● Allow your kids to express emotions - it is fine to cry and it is fine to be upset with you;

● If necessary, look for an intervention of a 3rd person, e.g. child therapist, to allow your kids to express their fears and other emotions;

Seek help (e.g. housework etc.) so you can fully enjoy the moments you spend with your kids; housework might stay a potential source of conflict as you share one place so be ready for that;

Make the most of the moments you spend with the kids, do not bring the work home when is your turn;

Be sure you look after yourself too, no one else is going to do that for you; go and meet people, find new hobbies, open up to new possibilities.

Your relationships failed but you are not a failure, there are so many things you have achieved already and there are so many things to come. Practice gratitude and look around for success stories, there are so many of them. Open up to new possibilities, it doesn’t have to be a new love relationship straight away. There are many forms of love and there are many people who love to have you around.

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