Not all relationships last forever, some marriages and partnerships end in divorce or separation and couples have to go their separate ways. There’s a lot to think about when a relationship ends and it can put a strain on all areas of your life. You may be worried about your children, home or accommodation, work, money, debts or what the future holds. Any kind of relationship breakdown can have serious implications on your wellbeing so it’s important to remember to take care of yourself whilst going through this difficult time.
Help with separation & divorce
There are some important options to consider that may help your situation and make a resolution easier to achieve.
One of these options is relationship or family counselling. If you have children, they might also help you explain the situation to them better so they are less affected by the separation, and can help you to communicate better in order to understand and resolve problems. If you choose to open up to a family or couples counsellor, they can provide confidential and non-judgmental support. Talking is difficult, but necessary to reach a resolution so you’ll be encouraged to share your thoughts and feelings on the situation. In the first few sessions the counsellor will ask you to talk through what’s happening and what you’d like to change, you’ll then work together with the counsellor to decide what happens next.
Even if you still retain a good relationship with your ex-partner, talking about money and children can lead to arguments, which make things more difficult.
An option to consider in this situation is mediation, which differs from family counselling and is often used once a couple’s attempt to reach agreements has failed. Any discussion you have with a mediator is in a safe, non-judgmental environment where you and your partner can discuss the practical issues that are involved in divorce. Mediation is used to help couples settle disputes over contact and living arrangements, child maintenance, property and money – which can help pave the way to a smoother separation and means you don’t have to take it to court. A mediator will also explain the legal options that are available for you if you wish to take it in that direction afterwards. This mediation process is called ADR, or Alternative Dispute Resolution, and forms an essential part of formal divorce proceedings.
What about my kids?
One of the most difficult things to do when separating is discussing it with your children. It is important to remember not to involve them in conflict of any kind and to minimize the stress they might feel at home by reassuring them that even though you’re not together anymore, you’re still their dad. Children in this situation often feel like they must choose between parents, remember to remind them that you’re separating from your partner and not them. It’s also really important to remind them that it is in no way their fault, and that it is purely between you and your partner.
The end of a relationship is tough for anyone and can trigger many feelings such as sadness, depression, anxiety, anger, happiness or relief, guilt and shame. All of these things can make being a parent even harder, but it’s important to remember to keep your cool and not let take these feelings out on your children.
Although you may find talking to your partner difficult when discussing living arrangements for your children, it is better to agree on something between yourselves rather than taking it to court.
I’m really struggling with my self-esteem…
It’s not uncommon to feel like you’re lacking in self-confidence at the end of a relationship, after all nobody anticipates it happening. Separation can spark a huge range of emotions such as loss, uncertainty and fears about the future. It is important to remember that these feelings are completely normal, and that nobody expects you to come out of the other side of a divorce or break up feeling like Superman.
Self-esteem is really important and recognizing that you’re not feeling great is the first step towards getting help. When going through a separation you may feel less sociable than normal, feel unworthy of love or affection, or guilty that you couldn’t make it work. All of these are completely normal but can provide a slippery slope into depression if you can’t shake them.
There are a few things you can do to boost your self-esteem and confidence once again, including learning to stop criticising yourself. Whilst it’s difficult to stop replaying situations and conversations in your mind and think to yourself that you could’ve done things better or differently- you have to learn not to think that way. Try not to take things too hard or blame yourself. Sometimes relationships just don’t work, and there’s nothing anyone can do to save them.
It is more important to appreciate yourself and recognise your skills and strengths than to focus on the negatives. Helpful things such as setting realistic goals for the future or taking up a new hobby or some form of exercise can all help you feel yourself again (exercise is proven to lift your mood, after all). Remember to give yourself time to heal and accept compliments when they come your way.
How do I move on after divorce or break up?
The end of a relationship can be an upsetting time and considering your future outside a relationship can cause high levels of anxiety. But you have to remember that life goes on post-separation, and that thousands of people continue to live happy, successful lives afterwards.
The most important thing to do after a separation is to look after yourself. Talking is the best way to stop yourself becoming isolated from your friends and family, so try to maintain communication with people who you feel at ease talking to, be they family members, mates, colleagues or even talking to a counsellor can help. You also need to allow yourself time to grieve and let go of any residing anger you might have.
It’s not easy dealing with the aftermath of a relationship breakdown, but it’s important to remember you’ll have good days and bad days – just like everybody else. Because separation can be an extremely distressing time, it’s also a good idea to give yourself time to relax and let your body de-stress. Do what makes you happiest, whether it’s relaxing with the footy or meeting your mates down the pub, laughter can be a great therapy so make sure you allow yourself to have some fun.
Remember that your physical health is just as important as your mental health in times of stress. Maintaining a good diet and exercise can help boost your self-esteem and your outlook on life. Similarly, if you’re struggling with the emotional aspects of a separation, remember that help is always on hand in the form of friends, family and the CALM helpline. 0800 585858, open 5pm – midnight, every day of the year. Our trained helpline staff can talk through your problems with you and help you decide what to do next or where to go for further support.
Relate, the UK’s leading relationship support organisation can help you at all stages of relationships, including helping you to separate in a way that reduces conflict and helping you to move on from a relationship which has ended. They have developed practical, online support that you can access in your own time. You can find out more by visiting www.relate.org.uk, where you can chat for free to a trained Relate counsellor, or by calling 0300 100 1234.
Where’s your head?
Relate has a brilliant website specifically for guys going through relationship problems with specialist advice on a range of relationship issues. You can find out more here:
Relate’s What Next? Service for separating parents
Relate’s online What Next? service offers practical, step by step advice for separating or separated parents. Using advice and exercises, it helps you to work through the issues affecting you including talking to your children about separation, living arrangements and dividing finances. Find out more here:
Many thanks to Relate and Mens Health Forum for their help producing this content.