Depending on what has been happening in the relationship, and every couple’s relationship is unique, the ending might feel inevitable and expected or a complete surprise.
Some might describe the initial event as if they were in or witnessing a car crash. Life speeds up and thoughts run away turning life upside down. Others might say it’s like everything is in slow motion and they are devastated.
There are however, certain processes that occur to couples when a relationship is over, both experience loss and both are ‘pushed’ into a period of uncertainty.
“So, is it really over?”, “I can’t believe it’s over”, “I didn’t see it coming”, “Why didn’t you tell me you were this unhappy?”, “I’ll do anything, let’s just try again”. “I tried to tell you, you wouldn’t listen”, “You know we haven’t been happy”, “We’ve been arguing for ages, you just storm off”.
These are normal questions, so don’t be worried.
Coming to terms with losing someone whom you thought you would be with forever, is one of the most difficult journeys a parent can take. Knowing that you will never again be the love of their life. That they no longer ‘want’ you and they have already found someone, or will go on to find someone who will have what you no longer have, is one of the hardest things to acknowledge. How long it takes to accept and move on depends on the individual.
Parents may often find it difficult to separate their couple relationship feelings from their parenting feelings and it is this clash that can get in the way of allowing an ongoing relationship with the children, for the non-residential parent.
So, let’s talk about the two processes you will both have in common. Loss and living with uncertainty.
Whether you have initiated the separation or not, there is one process that you will both go through, loss.
It is the same process that you might go through if a loved one dies and it is common for one of you to be at a different stage than the other.
Imagine this, you are in a relationship, it’s been good, then ok and now it’s not working. You can’t talk to each other, you might feel unloved, criticised, disrespected, not wanted or needed, taken advantage of. Maybe you feel like something is going on but are afraid to ask. You’ve tried to talk but got no-where. Sound familiar?
When issues like this occur in a relationship, if they are not resolved then each of you begins to exhibit different behaviour. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it’s more obvious.
Usually for one person the loss cycle begins, there are 5 stages;
As one person begins to make their way through the 5 stages, the relationship may continue to deteriorate. After a time, there is often a catalyst that will enforce a major change. Commonly when this occurs the relationship has ended for one person. The parent who is at stage 5 and accepts that for them, the relationship is now over.
Then comes the car crash for the other person and they begin their journey through the loss cycle.
Once this has happened everyone is thrown into a period of uncertainty.
Identities are changing from couple to single, from parents together as a family unit, to one parent with the children and the other. Depending on circumstances and who decides to leave the family home, there are many questions that arise during this time.
“Will we have to sell our home?”, “I haven’t worked since we had children, how will we manage financially?”, “What will our friends and family think?”, “How much will. Divorce cost?”, “Will I cope on my own?”.
There seems to be so much to sort out both practically and emotionally and it comes at a time when at least one of you will be “all over the place” emotionally, due to the loss you are experiencing. This can make decision making seem impossible.
“Who wants to agree with the practicalities of legal issues and more importantly organising the children when they are devastated, angry and confused by loss?”
It can turn otherwise rational, clear-thinking parents into what appear to be belligerent, stubborn, unreasonable people.
Being honest with yourself about the relationship whilst you are emotionally upset is, for many, extremely hard. It is important, when struggling to accept that a relationship is over, to get some help. There are many professionals out there who can help you on this journey.
Consulting with a therapist or divorce coach who has experience of helping separating couples will help. Try to choose a family solicitor who offers alternative dispute resolution, that means they offer different ways of problem solving that don’t involve going to court.