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.
How you might feel after a separation
Everyone’s experience of a separation is unique. Even when a separation has been expected, it's common to feel a sense of shock or numbness. It is rarely a linear process where you go from one way of feeling and then on to another. Most people feel a combination of feelings such as anger, loneliness, liberation, fear, excitement, guilt, relief, to name but a few. This can leave them confused as they go back and forwards from one to another. 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.
Our partners are experienced as our main attachment figure; the person that we rely on psychologically speaking. When we experience the loss of this it can feel de-stabilising and make us feel really vulnerable. We might feel less emotionally robust and disempowered. It is a time that you need to take back your emotional investment into your partner and put it back into yourself.
You might also feel anxious about the future and overwhelmed by the number of decisions that you need to make. 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.
Practical issues after a separation
You might find it helpful to write down all the things you've got to deal with. Your list might include:
If you have children, this 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 holiday arrangements. You'll also need to talk to your partner about what to say to the children and how to manage both of your emotions around the children. Coming to terms with not having your children with you all the time can be the hardest thing to do.
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?
Depending on your circumstances you may need to engage with a solicitor or other legal advisory bodies.
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?
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? Regardless of whose decision to end the relationship was it’s going to be a tricky time and as you navigate the loss of our primary partner we may be more open to friendships which can be deeply enriching and affirming. As with most tricky times your feelings will get less intense as you make that bigger investment into yourself.
How we can help
If you’re looking for support with your relationships, we can help. Here’re some of the ways we can work with you.
Ready to talk to someone? We offer a range of ways to speak with a trained relationship expert including ongoing counselling, 30 minute web and phone chats, and one session therapy.
Access hundreds of self-help articles including quizzes and videos whenever you need them – free of charge:
Download the number one app for couples:
How you can help
Have you found this advice helpful? Make a donation to help us reach more people and continue supporting the nation’s relationships:
Take five minutes to fill in a survey about our website so we can make it easier for people to access the support they need.