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How Do Partners Mentally Accept Separation and Divorce

View profile for Liz Headley
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Unfortunately, there is no easy way that relationship breakdown can be accepted without experiencing the pain of a significant ending. The two people involved in any relationship breakdown, be it separation or divorce, will, more than likely be at different stages of the necessary process to reach acceptance. In my experience, it is rare that both parties have decided, at the same time, that their relationship is over, and it is time to end it. Some relationships naturally end, but even in those circumstances, couples might have a different emotional reaction to the demise of their partnership.

One person will usually take the lead in the pursual of separation and/or divorce, usually inviting a strong reaction from their partner. The reasons for choosing to end a relationship can be many and varied, incorporating layers of complexity ranking from the more obvious reasons, such as abuse or infidelity to more obscure or imperceptible grounds.

Sometimes the relationship might have been rumbling on as usual with no real suggestion that anything is wrong, or that one partner is unhappy. Difficult, emotional conversations about dissatisfaction or unhappiness regarding a partnership will inevitably be difficult and painful, and some individuals will take the decision not to speak about how they feel. This can mean that a lot of emotions are suppressed, resulting in an overwhelming desire to escape from a relationship that is just not working. If this is the case, the blissfully unaware other half can be left feeling traumatised and shocked by their partner’s decision to end what they had believed was a good relationship.

The emotions experienced by individuals going through the separation and/or divorce process are regularly compared to the effects of losing a loved one by bereavement. If someone close to us has died, generally there is no way that we could have prevented that. It will have been out of our control. Despite this, there can still be feelings of guilt, thoughts of, ‘if only I had done this or

that’ and musings that somehow, we could have prevented what has happened. Those of us who have experienced relationship breakdown will possibly also have similar feelings. Once it is known that a partner wants to leave, there can be a variety of reactions; denial, shock, numbness and fear. Maybe the partner who has been struggling in the relationship for a while, might feel an initial sense of relief that they have finally been open about their position.

As things move on and the legal process of ending a relationship is embarked upon, feelings of anger, blame and shame can be felt and sometimes it can be easy to slip into emptiness, depression and despair. At this point it might be wise to seek medical and/or psychological support.

Mental acceptance of divorce can be helped by making sure a compassionate view of self is held, and the ability to recognise flaws and celebrate strengths is part of the individual’s thinking.

It is also particularly useful to reflect on some of the things that might have been done a little differently within the relationship, not with a critical eye, but with the intention of increasing self-awareness so lives can be enriched going forward. These can be things like; learning to communicate needs a little more vehemently at times rather than consistently meeting other’s expectations. Maybe more understanding and empathy could be offered to others, including partners or spouses. If another relationship is sought in the future, the need to ensure that enough time is given to keeping that coupledom alive might be prioritised.

However, we can only react to the things we are made aware of, and strive to improve what is ailing, so if we have no clue that a partner is struggling or concerned about the marriage or partnership, how can we know the changes that might benefit the relationship?

If a person has been treated in an unacceptable manner by an ex-partner, time will be needed to recover from the sometimes-invisible wounds, psychological and physical, that may have been incurred.

In any circumstance, the journey towards acceptance of a significant ending of some description can be long and arduous. However, with it comes opportunity, self-growth can happen, and self-awareness can improve. Getting in touch with your individual identity and making decisions about what you want or don’t want can be enormously empowering. Take every chance to acknowledge your strengths and your worth and recognise you don’t always need a partner’s approval or their validation. When you start to do these things, they are good signs that you are moving towards acceptance.

There are some individuals who, despite being treated very badly by a partner, can forgive them. Acceptance of a relationship breakdown doesn’t rely on forgiveness; I think it is more about developing a deeper understanding of self and what you bring to a relationship.

At Brethertons we offer the opportunity for those who are trying to manage and recover from the ending of a relationship, to attend small therapeutic group meetings. In my experience of facilitating these groups, the attendees offer amazing support to each other and have empathy and a deep understanding of what it is like to experience relationship breakdown. Experiences are shared, friendships develop and long-term ongoing support is offered to each other, making the recovery process an easier journey.

The emotional support that Brethertons offer can help individuals work towards their own goals of acceptance. If you feel you might benefit from some support in this area, please do enquire about what might be available to you. You can email or phone 01295 270999 (Banbury Office), 01869 252161 (Bicester Office), or 01788 579579 (Rugby Office).