My partner has ended our relationship – what do I do next?
When your partner makes the decision to leave your relationship, it can feel like you’re in a dark tunnel. A situation has been forced upon you that you didn’t want, and sometimes that you didn’t even see coming. People describe feelings of deep grief, of mourning, of yearning for a future that will never be. It’s like being in a dark tunnel, and being unable to find the way out.
For an unexpected separation, the pathway to closure can be much more complicated. For most people, the end of a relationship means there will still be contact maintained with their ex as you negotiate and finalise your financial settlement, or in the case of children there’s a lifelong job of co-parenting (which doesn’t stop when the children hit the magic age of 18!) This can be exceptionally tough when you’re not the one who wanted the break-up in the first place.
So what to do when you’re faced with an unwanted separation? Here’s our top 4 tips:
1. Don’t put your head in the sand – acknowledge there’s challenges to work through.
We often hear people talk about a sense of disbelief, that they don’t want to accept the relationship’s over, they justify it to themselves by saying their partner is just “having a break”, or “they’ll come back after they’ve had time away”.
This attitude gives little hope to your partner that you’re taking them seriously at all – and in turn makes the challenges you’re facing even more difficult to work through. Your partner has most likely taken some months to contemplate ending the relationship and how to break the news to you and so they will likely be much further down the grief cycle. You should take your partner seriously, and show them that you understand they have made a serious decision, and you’re ready to listen to their concerns.
2. Can you repair the relationship?
If you want to try and to rescue this relationship, then you should start making enquiries about professional help that will suit your family sooner rather than later. There are lots of services available here in the Sutherland Shire (feel free to call us for referrals to support services suitable for you).
Once you have investigated some options, talk to your partner and find out whether they’re prepared to give it a go and listen to their ideas on how they see what mending the relationship would look like. There’s not going to be only one solution, so talk together about different approaches and options to try – it’s time to pull in every support and option you can agree upon.
Now is the time to put some effort in and show your partner how much you care about rebuilding the relationship – be proactive and try show some initiative in that regard, don’t leave it to your partner to figure it out.
3. What if …?
You should prepare for the “either / or” outcomes. What happens if you things don’t work out, and your partner does not re-engage in the relationship?
It’s exceptionally important for you to be prepared for that possibility – this means ensuring you reach out for some advice about where you stand if the relationship is beyond repair. Seeking guidance and advice doesn’t mean you’re being sneaky, or that you’re taking steps to push forward a separation, it just means you’ll be prepared for any eventuality. Find a family law specialist who can meet with you and give you meaningful advice to consider your options. This means you’re in a much better position to make informed decisions.
4. Surround yourself with professional support
This is going to be a time when you will likely feel more scattered than usual – sometimes it’s difficult to process what’s happening, your emotions might be all over the place, there may be confusing signals from your ex, your children are going to pick up on the different atmosphere at home, you might be feeling like “robot” just getting through the routine of each day, or worse you might be turning to unhealthy ways of soothing your distress like ignoring your feelings, alcohol or drugs – there’s all sorts of impacts going on here which will be a new experience.
You may have friends who have been through it before who can offer support, however don’t underestimate the real benefit that professional counselling can bring to this situation. You will very likely be experiencing a grief cycle right now and professional help can help smooth out your scattered head space. The clearer your mind is, the better decisions you will make. We encourage you to see your GP and ask them for a referral to some counselling. Ultimately, you’ll learn some new skills to navigate this difficult territory as you try and rekindle your relationship.
Some couples will reconcile, and their relationship will soar to new heights.
Other couples will formalise their separation and start “flying solo”. If this happens, give yourself enough space to rebuild you – learn from the relationship that’s ended, so you don’t bring the same baggage to your future relationships. Regardless of the outcome, a challenge in your relationship gives you an opportunity to realise you can grow wherever you are, and whatever the circumstances you find yourself in. You have everything inside of you that you need, and the extra support from professionals will help you find your strength to embark on the next chapter.
As they say, there’s only one constant in life that we can count on, and that is that things change… We all change, so take this opportunity to adapt in a way that makes a positive outcome for you. Even though you may feel like you’re in a dark tunnel right now, look carefully and you’ll see there is a light at the other end – reach out to it, don’t stay in the dark – if you don’t change, things will stay the same and the same old problems will keep you in that tunnel. Have the courage to use this opportunity to walk towards the light, where a new beginning awaits you.