A CORK woman has set up a business designed exclusively for women who are separated, drawing from both her experience of it as well as her work as a lawyer.
Maria Pentek launched Elevation, which is a community for people who are going through separation or post-separation and need help and support with the day-to-day communication with their ex-partner.
Launched only a few months ago, Maria says she’s overwhelmed with the number of women who are seeking her support in navigating what can be a very lonely and difficult time.
“My husband and I separated in late 2015 and I had tried really hard to apply everything I had learned and seen about separating from working with my clients, and particularly where it can go wrong, and do the opposite.
“I didn’t always get it right but our family came though it intact – separated, and in a new dynamic, but always working through everything as a unit,” she said.
The following years were very busy ones for her, as she was growing her successful law firm in Skibbereen, where she’s from, and it wasn’t until a broken ankle saw her confined to the couch that she had her ‘light bulb’ moment.
“In December, 2020, I broke my ankle and I was forced to sit on the couch at home for six weeks.
“I had an idea in the back of my mind for a couple of years about a different way of supporting my clients. Very often, when people separate, there are no guideposts for how to make a new family dynamic work. When you add in all of the emotions that go with it – blame, resentment, feeling that you did something wrong – it can be a recipe for disaster in terms of good communication. And in my experience, the one thing that those people who come through separation intact had above anything else is that they communicate effectively.
“I had seen in my legal practice that where people are open to learning new ways to communicate, the outcome for the children in the family was always so much better.
“So I started adding in non-legal suggestions and advice for better communication to my clients, and the effects had such an impact, I couldn’t ignore it. The idea never went away, but it wasn’t until I broke my ankle that I had the time to develop it and start to get it off the ground as a separate business.”
During 2021, Maria trained as a coach and set up her website and started running Elevation last November. So far, she’s seeing women from all walks of life and of all ages who are keen to gain a deeper understanding of who they are and how their thoughts and behaviours can help or hinder their relationship with their ex-partners, and as a result their children’s best interests.
“I think that the number one thing that can get in our way of moving past separation and into a new and healthy relationship with our ex- partners, is the very human trait we all have at different times in our lives to apportion blame.
“There are certainly times where right and wrong can seem very clear-cut, and might in fact be very clear-cut. But how we process that for ourselves, and how we deal with the people around us in those situations makes all the difference,” she said.
In day-to-day terms in separation, the common issues she sees arising would typically be: not being able to agree on a regular, structured schedule for access; lack of respect for the other parent – that can show up where for example a parent is running late and doesn’t tell the other person, or cancels at the last minute; name-calling; or arguing about who takes the children to activities.
“In most separations, both parents will generally say that their absolute priority is the children, but all of these things get in the way of that. To put it simply, better communication equals happier parents equals happier children!”
Joining Elevation gives access to a private Facebook group: “It’s where we all hang out and support each other. It’s a safe, supportive and non-judgemental community where you can go to have a rant or ask for help if you’re having a bad day, celebrate any wins or breakthroughs you’ve had, and help someone else out when they need it and are maybe going through something that you’ve been through before.
“And I host a weekly live zoom call which is where the magic happens! I’ll share loads of ideas and tips that can get you thinking differently about your situation and help to break any patterns that aren’t working for you.
“The positive impact that the community is having on the women who are in the group so far is really powerful. My heart is full after each weekly live call when I see the amazing progress everyone is making and the love and support they give to each other,” said Maria.
As well as launching Elevation, it’s been a very busy period for Maria working as a lawyer.
“Solicitors were deemed an essential service and the courts have been running throughout lockdown. In terms of family law, lockdown was really hard. Domestic violence was up. Some parents tried to use lockdown as a way to reduce or eliminate access to the other parent, and while the courts were open, it wasn’t always easy to get urgent cases listed.
One dad I worked with went over eight weeks without seeing his kids and it was heart-breaking. And couples whose relationships were already strained were now forced to spend 24 hours a day together. It’s been tough,” she said.
Maria is already planning to expand the service: “As well as a monthly membership, I’ll be rolling out a more intensive eight-week course soon and I’m really excited about that. And now that lockdown is over, I’ll also be running some in-person day retreats,” she said.
People can join the group at www.mariapentek.com and check it out as well on www.facebook.com/elevationbymariapentek or www.instagram.com/elevationmariapentek