Not all relationships make it.
Sometimes, when there’s nothing else for it, marriages and partnerships end in divorce or separation and couples have to go their separate ways. If you have children, it’s important that your break-up goes as smoothly as possible to have as little impact on them as you can manage. Even if you don’t have kids, any relationship break down can affect all other areas of your life.
Separation and divorce common problems
Here our counsellors share support and guidance on how to handle common divorce and separation problems.
How do I move on after divorce?The end of a relationship is always a difficult time. No matter who ended it or when, the future can look bleak and frightening. But life does continue and many thousands of people go on to have happy and fulfilling lives after divorce.
There are many things you’ll need to focus on during this difficult time and at times it may feel overwhelming. But as well as that, you need to focus on yourself as an individual, deciding what you need to do to help you let go of the past and look forward to the future
Like most people, you’re likely to experience a rollercoaster of emotions. Some days you may feel hopeful and maybe even relieved if your marriage had been difficult for a long time. On other days you may feel sad, angry, confused and anxious.
Understanding what went wrong
This is an important step towards recovery. Many people get locked into questioning: Whose fault it is? What did I do wrong? How could they do that to me? Unfortunately, all this kind of questioning does is lock you into the blame game which creates more bitterness and heartache.
It can sometimes be more helpful to focus on what the relationship was lacking and how the relationship failed to meet your or your partner’s needs, rather than blaming yourselves as individuals. Though the answers may be upsetting, the greater the understanding, the easier it will be to let go of the past and move on.
Look after yourself
Over the coming weeks and months you need to really focus on looking after yourself. The end of a relationship can damage self esteem and self confidence. The following tips will help you to get through this difficult time and face the future with hope.
- Keep talking – talking is the best way to prevent isolation and help maintain perspective. You’re not alone and sharing your heartaches and victories with a trusted friend, family member or neighbour will help to carry you along.
- Let yourself grieve – it’s normal to feel shock when a relationship finally comes to an end and it can take time for the reality of this to settle in. You’ll have good days and bad days – give yourself time.
- Let go of anger. Many people feel stuck with their anger. They either feel angry at themselves or angry at their partner. Holding on to this anger maintains an emotional connection between you and your ex and slows up your ability to move on. Make time to relax. Whether you prefer reading a book, going for a walk, soaking in the bath, going for a run or gardening – it really doesn’t matter. Just as long as you give your body time to de-stress. And remember, laughter is the best medicine so make sure you make time to see friends and have some fun too.
- Set small goals – when times are feeling really tough it may feel as if you’re getting nowhere. Setting yourself small achievable goals not only boosts feel good chemicals, but also boosts your confidence. Whether it’s getting a chore out of the way, going out for the evening or starting a new project at work, it will help you to see and know that you’re moving on.
- Look after your health. Make sure you take regular exercise and maintain a healthy diet. Unfortunately comfort eating is more likely to make you depressed than cheer you up.
- Plan ahead – write down a list of all the things you’re going to do when you get through this. When you have bad days, you can use this list to remind yourself that you still have a future ahead of you.
- Get help – if each day seems to be getting harder rather than better, then you may find it helpful to make an appointment to see a Relate counsellor. Relate also runs a one day workshop for people coming out of a long-term relationship.
We’re separating, what next?The decision to separate is never an easy one. Whether the decision was yours or your partner’s, you’re still likely to experience a rollercoaster of emotions.
Even when a separation has been expected, it’s common to feel a sense of shock or numbness as you begin to work through the practicalities that the decision involves. You might also feel anxious about the future and overwhelmed by the number of decisions that you need to make.
If you hadn’t wanted the relationship to end, you may be feeling powerless and angry about what’s happening as well as experiencing sadness and loss.
On top of the turmoil of emotion that accompanies the ending of any relationship, there is a whole host of practical issues to address and important decisions to make about your future. Unfortunately, with all the emotion that accompanies a separation or divorce it can easily feel overwhelming. This is a time when you need to get the support and advice of other people. You might also find it helpful to write down all the things you’ve got to deal with.
Your list might include:
- The children – this of course is the most important issue. Deciding how both of you will continue to provide support and time. You’ll need to think about access arrangements, child care, telling the school, seeing in-laws, birthday and Christmas arrangements. You’ll also need to talk to your partner about what to say to the children and how to manage their emotions.
- Property – you’ll need to decide who will live where. Can one of you stay in the same house or will you sell up and both move? Who will get what from the home and where will pets live?
- Finances – running two homes inevitably means surviving on less income. You’ll need to agree financial support for the children, and who will pay which essential bills. You’ll also need to agree on separating any savings and/or debts that you have and set up separate bank accounts.
- Friends and family – who will tell parents/siblings/extended family members and friends? How much will you say and who needs to know what? How will you maintain mutual friendships and handle relationships with in-laws?
- Personal survival – what practical steps do you need to make to ensure you cope during this difficult time? Which friends can support you practically, and which emotionally? How can you ensure you have space to relax and space to grieve? And what treats can you reward yourself with when times are tough?
My partner and I are separating and I’m worried that our kids will sufferWe know how concerned separating parents can be about their kids’ feelings. It’s a tricky time when the family changes its form but with some thought and planning, the effect on the children can be reduced. This might sound impossible, especially if you are in the middle of an emotional upheaval, but help is available.
Some Relate centres provide a service called Relate for Parents – you can check to see if this is available in your area. This is a special, one hour, one off information and advice-giving session for parents who may have already separated or who are about to. Children do not attend but they are the main focus and their needs are central to the session. You will be given age-related information and advice about what and when to tell the children. Hand-outs are also provided which can help the children to express their feelings and ask questions.
You can also find information and practical exercises at What next?, our parents’ guide to separation.
Reducing stress for the children
Research has been carried out into the factors connected with reducing stress for children at the time of divorce.
These tips might help you:
- Children will be better able to cope if their parents can be seen to share the responsibility for their welfare. So, telling them together about when and what is going to happen will show to them that you can still be Mum and Dad even though you’re not together as a couple any more.
- While you want to be open and honest with the children, try to keep in mind what they can cope with at their different ages. They do not need to know every single detail about what has gone wrong, nor should they be involved in any conflict between you and your partner.
- Try to keep as normal a routine as possible going. When the routine has to change, introduce the changes as slowly as you can and talk them through with the children.
- Remind them that you will always be their parents even though you may not wish to be a couple any longer
- Reassure them that it’s not their fault that you have decided to separate – this is between the two of you.
- Do everything you can to help yourselves adjust to your new situation, especially if you are the parent with residence.
- Reassure them that you have decided to separate from each other but not from them; you are still their parents. Do not put them in a position where they have to choose between you.
The way a child responds to the new situation will vary according to his or her age, gender and personality type, some ways of coping are obvious, others less so.
Here are a few signs to give you an idea.
- Changes in the way they are at school – a teacher may be concerned and let you know about these.
- Younger children may regress – sleeplessness may be a problem and bed wetting too.
- Depression and sadness. Older children seem to be coping well but may very well be concealing their true feelings as they want to protect their parents.
- A child may change role and become a brother or sister to the parent.
- Adolescents may rebel in a worrying way, which gives cause for concern.
How we can help
Thousands of people come to Relate every year for help with separation and divorce. We help all sorts of people in all sorts of situations, and we can help you.
I’m struggling with low self-esteemIt’s not unusual to feel completely lacking in self confidence at the end of a relationship, especially if you’re not the one who ended it.
There is a sense of loss, dreams dashed and an unknown future lies ahead. It’s no wonder you become uncertain and fearful. Friends and family telling you to go out and meet people is easily said but not easily done when all you want to do is curl up in a fleece with the TV and a cup of hot chocolate.
Self-esteem is about being able to hold a favourable appreciation or opinion of yourself, and when you’re not getting your essential emotional needs met, you can feel unworthy of care and affection.
Everyone loses confidence in themselves now and then and recognising this is the first step in regaining your self-confidence. For some who don’t recognise this, their lack of self-confidence can slip into depression. Whether it’s at work or at home everyone can benefit from feeling good about themselves and their abilities.
Signs of low self-esteem
- Avoiding challenges and opportunities
- Avoiding responsibilities
- Being overly dependent on others
- Relying on others to make decisions
- Putting yourself down
- Isolating yourself
- Becoming highly emotional, possibly depressed
When you feel good about yourself it’s easy to value yourself and regard the world as a great place.
It’s too simple to imagine that by just telling someone to be positive they will start to feel better about themselves, and it is far from useful to agree with them that all is doom and gloom. We all have choice but someone with low self-esteem may not be able to see anything other than the darkness of no confidence. The trick is to enable someone to take responsibility for themselves.
Some tips for raising self-esteem
- Appreciate yourself – make time to relax and unwind, give yourself a ‘gift’
- Accept that you have limitations
- Stop criticising yourself
- Recognise what you have achieved and are good at
- Pamper yourself
- Focus on good feelings, remember times when you have been happy, relaxed and at peace
- Accept compliments when they’re given
- Remind yourself of your good qualities and of times you have been successful
- Try not to think in black and white terms, explore the grey!
- Set yourself realistic goals
- Start an exercise regime
How Relate can help
A Relate book that can help is Loving Yourself, Loving Another: The Importance of Self-esteem for Successful Relationships by Julia Cole.
For more information or to book an appointment with one of our counsellors:-
Phone:- 01908 310010