Love, loss and recovery... moving out, and moving on.
Separating from your partner, particularly when your lives have become entwined, can be one of the most painful and liberating experiences you will ever encounter. There are no quick fixes or easy solutions but there is always light at the end of the tunnel. As a coach, divorcee and keen observer of people and relationships, this is what I have learned.
'For the things that unhorse you, for the things that wreck you, for the things that toy with your internal tide- against these things there is no conventional guard'
Alexandra Fuller (Leaving Before The Rains Come).
At each stage of a separation or divorce, there are a bewildering set of practical and emotional challenges to overcome, each apparently more difficult and multi-layered than the last. If children are involved your emotions are likely to be more intense, confused and overpowering. With all of the guilt and confusion it is hard to be kind to yourself, let alone your partner, particularly if you view them as the source of your pain. Letting go and ceasing to judge yourself or each other is your best chance of succeeding.
If you have children, putting them first is the most important thing that you can do. They may find it harder to deal with conflict and fighting than separation. Seeing you both co-operate in their best interests will speed the healing for all of you. Relate and mediation over non-relate and conflict, every time. Open communication and joint discussions with you AND your partner together, will help them accept the situation and will avoid half truths or perceived lies. There is nothing children hate more than being kept in the dark or patronised. They love you both and always will, particularly if you handle the situation with sensitivity and compassion, and avoid falling out in front of them.
Perhaps surprisingly, many people find that they become closer to their children after divorce, if not because of it. They tend to make more effort and even if this is partly driven by guilt, the emotional bond will strengthen over time.There are silver linings and unforeseen consequences, many of which are positive.
Resist the temptation to blame your ex-partner as best you can. You will not always succeed and you may never agree a shared narrative for your pain- many spend their whole lives trying to understand it. By accepting that he or she will be suffering every bit as much as you are and that it takes two to make and brake a relationship, you can focus your energies more positively elsewhere. Easier said than done perhaps, but far better than indulging negative emotions or living in denial.
It is surprising how quickly some (not all) couples recover and how each of them feels lighter, relieved and generally happier, after the split, even if full recovery takes much longer. In the midst of the storm, one step at a time, one day at a time is the best and perhaps only way to deal with it. Many people surprise themselves with their level of resilience and powers of recovery and find that living alone is less lonely than living in a failing marriage or relationship. What's more, you have a better chance of recovery once you get used to your own company and give yourself time- which really does do what it says on the tin.
Don't be surprised if many of your friends feel compelled to take sides or keep their distance altogether. This is a normal human reaction and you may have experienced it yourself in the past. Try not to judge it or let your emotions distort the situation, it is just their way of dealing with it, and perhaps their own doubts and fears as well.
When you are ready to find your next partner, or open enough to let them find you, trust your instinct and the beating of your heart. Learn from the errors you may have made in the past and always try to put your new partner first. Open communication and honesty will enable you to create a reciprocal relationship where you don't have to expend too much energy looking after yourself, because he or she will be doing that for you. Of course there will always be blind spots, misunderstandings and the odd fall out but as long as you both try sincerely to put them right, rather than blaming each other, you have every chance of finding lasting happiness. Beyond this there are lots of things you can do; regular date-nights; more intimacy, less TV; keeping fit; hobbies together and apart and so on. You will find what works for each, and both of you.
Such mindfulness in relationships comes easily to some and for others it takes years of trial and error and unflinching honesty, not to mention courage- which brings me to my last point. One size does not fit all in relationships, or separation. Just as some people are not the marrying kind, others are not the divorcing kind and I am all in favour of staying together, if you can make it work. The important priority is to let go of the resentment and antagonism and to find a way to put each other first. Oh, and perhaps the most important point. If you are compatible, you have every chance to make it work. If you are not and your instinct tells you that this is so, then sadly you may be fighting a losing battle. Learn to listen to your inner voice and trust it.
All too often people stay together AND hang on to the negative emotions, which is surely the worst outcome for all concerned, and particularly children. Finding professional help early enough is advisable. Putting courage and love above fear and resentment is my best advice, whatever you decide to do.