Going through a separation and/or divorce can be one of the most painful experiences you’ll ever have.
It is common to wonder how to survive a marriage separation. This is because when a long-term relationship ends, it can be like trying to unglue yourself from a fixture after the glue has set hard.
Even when a relationship hasn’t been a particularly good one, separating can be very painful and you can still grieve over the loss.
Until you’ve been through a separation with a partner (or loss of a partner through death), you may take for granted the ways in which you depend on that person to make you feel significant or loved and to help your life run more smoothly.
Separation and divorce can be a very overwhelming experience, leading to anxiety or depressive symptoms. Many feelings may become prevalent in the process, including grief or profound sadness, heartache, rage, anger, desolation, anxiety, hurt, feeling numb, guilt, doubt and feelings of bitterness. Different feelings can occur together or one after the other in close succession. Some people can also feel suicidal.
Although most people who separate don’t get depressed, separating from a long relationship is a major life event and there is a greater than usual risk that you may become depressed.
Sometimes separation from a partner can actually be a relief and an individual may experience feelings of freedom or liberation, especially if there were psychological issues or domestic violence within the relationship.
Common Reasons for Separation
People separate for different reasons and sometimes there is more than one reason:
- Stress over money, work or study demands, parenting issues, an accident, or trauma and illness are frequent factors which lead to relationship difficulties and may contribute to separation.
- Job loss, alcohol or drug abuse, gambling, domestic violence, and emotional abuse, also cause relationship difficulties.
- People also separate because one partner becomes involved with someone else.
- Communication problems, and particularly poor skills in resolving conflict, are another common factor which can lead to separation.
- Unmet needs are another common cause for separation. For example, one partner may feel that the other is not well matched intellectually. Another may feel that their partner is emotionally ungiving.
- Sometimes people just drift apart. They get to a point where they want to do their own thing or they find their lifestyle preferences are different.
- Sometimes people have irreconcilable differences. These can be in a whole range of areas; for example, what they like to do in their leisure time, imbalances in work-leisure time, and differences in values.
- Sometimes people are at different stages in their lives and there is a mismatch in their expectations. For example, if people are of different ages, one partner may already have children and the other may want the chance to have their own children.
- And there are others who feel that they just aren’t ready to settle down.
How to Survive a Marriage Separation
If you have been wondering how to survive a marriage separation, take things in small steps, rather than trying to sort everything out at once. This can help you to cope with some of the difficulties, as you may feel a sense of achievement as you pass through different stages in the recovery process.
Along the way, it is worth remembering that the process of recovery from separation and divorce takes time – sometimes, a long time. Rather than judge yourself for not going fast enough, it is important to give yourself credit for any small steps you make to help yourself or your children adjust to the changes.
Visiting a psychologist to talk through the issues and feelings you are experiencing can be effective in helping you work out how to survive a marriage separation. Psychologists can provide tools to guide you through the process, and help with any concerns you may have with your children.
Author: Cassandra Gist, BPsych (Hons), MPsych, MAPS.
Brisbane Psychologist Cassandra Gist has a Masters in Health Psychology, and is able to treat clients aged from two years old right through to adulthood. She is experienced in working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, as well as children and families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder.
To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychologist Cassandra Gist, try Online Booking – Loganholme or Online Booking – Mt Gravatt. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology (Loganholme) on (07) 3067 9129, or Vision Psychology (Mt Gravatt) on (07) 3088 5422.