The end of a relationship, whether by separation, divorce or dissolution of civil partnership, often feels like bereavement. You may experience a cycle of emotions similar to those after the death of a family member or close friend. In dealing with practicalities like making arrangements for your children, sorting out finances and dividing assets, it often helps if you can first recognise where you are emotionally, and where your former partner is. Understanding this equips you to make rational decisions rather than ones driven by emotion.
You may find that separation following the breakdown of a relationship triggers the following:
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- Anxiety: About the process of achieving a settlement, “Where do I start? How do I sort things out?” and about settlement terms, “Where will the children and I live? Will we have enough money?”
Seeking legal advice at an early stage can help you to deal with these worries. You are likely to feel less anxious if you have information about the legal process, preliminary advice on options for settlement and a plan as to how to take matters forward.
- Guilt: Asking yourself why the relationship has ended, whether it is somehow your fault. You may feel disbelief, agitation and confusion as to the cause of the relationship breakdown, and repeatedly blame yourself. You might also find it difficult, at this stage, to engage in the practical process of separation.
- Anger: A swing in the opposite direction, when you find yourself feeling a deep sense of injustice: you have done nothing wrong, the relationship breakdown is not your fault. It may be hard for you to adopt a conciliatory approach to children matters and/or financial negotiations. You might, at this stage, want to dig in and fight harder.
- Grief: This may surface as you make progress with the legal and practical steps involved in separation, and find yourself increasingly focused on the enormity of what you have lost. It is important to focus also on the future and, if you need it, to seek professional support in dealing with what might feel like an overwhelming loss.
- Acceptance: Chances are that with appropriate legal, practical and emotional support, you find yourself recovered from the trauma of separation – “I am OK!”. Increasingly you look to the future, rather than mourning the past, and find yourself able to cope. Life will never be the same again but you accept this and are well placed to face the future.