Hell. That is a word that often applies to a breakup or a divorce. It rips our heart in two – one part for you and the other for them.
Whatever the form of separation, whether amicable or not, it brings up a hell of a lot of “stuff”. Our stuff. Their stuff. Past losses collapsing into this one. Despair, hope, loneliness, fear. Yup, the untangling of two lives – and of two minds, bodies, souls (if you had that) – it’s the whole gamut alright. It’s no wonder we may avoid it, or put it off.
There’s often a very natural process that is attached to a separation. It spans the range of the four emotions: fear, anger, sadness and perhaps, eventually, some happiness (yes, gulp, there may be at least some positivity in that mix – hope, relief or optimism). Though not necessarily in that order, and most likely not in any sort of nice orderly fashion at all. The emotions come and – eventually – they go. They descend and hang persistently like fog or flash into us like lightening. But eventually they do all pass.
And when the emotions subside, that’s when the understanding of ourselves, our partner and what on earth happened, can begin. There is a very real and very pure positive the comes from a breakup: through the separation from someone else we get to know ourselves, and grow. And that can only be a good thing. As the luminous Nancy Friday said:
“Separation is not the end of love; it creates love.”
– Nancy Friday
One thing is nearly always the case in any separation – there are reasons for it. On both sides. If you are the one being left, you may have to dig deep to find them – but if you want to find them, then find them you will.
You have your experiences of the relationship and your partner will have theirs – whoever makes the final decision. Often our reasons, as well as the way we separate, reflect our usual personality and way of living at its most intense. Try writing down the reasons – your reasons to stay together or part, and what you understand or imagine their reasons to be. You may see how different they are…
A separation is ultimately always a thing of two halves. Whether the relationship withered or exploded. Whether your role in the relationship (and therefore very likely in the parting too) is an active or passive one, a compliant one or an all-guns-blazing one – both parties always play a part in the dying of the last embers. For a relationship is a dynamic. It’s like a see-saw: it cannot exist and function, or dysfunction, without someone sitting on the other end.
That’s why trying to lay blame is nearly always fruitless.
Never has a subject other than heart-break been so written about, sung about, filmed, drawn and discussed. Opinions abound on what is a good relationship, what is a bad one, when you should stay, and when you should leave.
Every separation is an intensely personal experience. It’s one of the most intense changes we can go through – and so very difficult to make generalised comments or give advice. Everyone views and handles their separation differently.
There are however two core pieces of advice that – surely – can’t be ignored and can never be a bad thing for us…
1. Look after your body – chemicals, sleep and food are key. Limit the alcohol and drugs. Sleep as much as you can. Eat as well as you can.
2. Get some support. Friends, family and therapy – especially therapy. No one should go through it alone.
And although it may be hell, there is also a hell of a lot we can learn. For as Zsa Zsa Gabor once said:
“You never really know someone until you’ve divorced them.”
That goes for ourselves too. Even if it does seem the only good thing we can take from the inferno of separation.
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