How to cope with separation

Originally published on 25th August 2021 at 3:02 PM
Reading time: 5 mins
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“It’s over.”

These two words, when used in the context of a relationship, can have a deep and upsetting impact on both the person receiving them, as well as the person delivering them. The end of a relationship marks the end of your journey with that other person and, instigator or not, learning how to cope with a separation or divorce and moving on is tough.

Let’s face it, whether you’ve spent weeks, months, or years together, unpicking the dying weeds of romantic entanglement is tough, particularly when there stood a blossoming relationship in their place. The bad news? Separation never gets easier, whether you’re the ‘leaver’ or the ‘left’.

The good news? There are things you can do that’ll help you cope with separation to find a path forward towards a life that not only do you want, but you deserve.

1. Embrace your emotions

There are few times in our lives that are more stressful than the dissolution of a relationship. It doesn’t really matter whether you were the ‘leaver’ or the ‘left’, both sides are likely to experience a rollercoaster of emotions at some point or another.

Whilst it might feel like you’re trapped in a “glass case of emotion”; to quote the fictional philosophical genius that is, of course, Ron Burgundy, it’s important to acknowledge those feelings instead of hiding from them. You might be feeling bitterly angry, desperately upset, horrendously hurt or furiously focused on a new and unknown future; let me tell you this: All of those feelings are normal and part of the process, so don’t suppress your feelings.

Make a conscious effort to surround yourself with a strong network of supportive people. It’s vital that you feel comfortable enough to let them know how you’re feeling. This will, in turn, help you to cope with your separation.

A true friend will feel comfortable just listening. Remember though, if they’re your friend they may feel the urge to try to fix it for you and present ideas and suggestions as to how you can move forward. You might not be ready to heed that advice just yet and that’s fine. Gently let them know you appreciate them, but you need them to hear you right now. If they’ve been through anything similar before, they’ll understand.

How to cope with loneliness after separation

In my experience, there are few situations in life lonelier than the immediate aftermath of separation. Nobody else understands the gravity of what you’re going through because they don’t have the same emotional investment in the relationship as you do. Expect there to feel like there’s suddenly a huge void in place of your relationship – it’s perfectly natural.

Let’s face it, after sharing such a significant part of your life with somebody, you’ll need to re-learn how to be ‘single’ and how to be alone, and this will be the hardest part about coping with separation.

It’s part of the process. Embrace those feelings by acknowledging that they’re to be expected and you’ll find it infinitely easier to move on.

2. Take care of number one

In the wake of separation, lots of people find themselves feeling a little lost. It’s not a nice feeling to know that the path you’ve been walking on whilst you’ve been together has ended up at a dead end. You might find that your motivation and sense of purpose and direction is suddenly in utter disarray.

In these situations, the most important thing for you to do is to look after you.

What do you love doing? Are there any hobbies that you’ve neglected in recent years that you’d love to get back into? Do (more of) it.

This is important because it helps you shift your focus away from what can often feel like a sense of failure, towards a more optimistic vision of the future.

Taking time for yourself will help you build a healthy mindset and feel emotionally stable, with clarity of thought and a new perspective on the exciting future that stands before you.

3. Make a Plan

The French writer, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said:

*“A goal without a plan is just a wish”. *

Once you’ve taken time for yourself and embraced your newfound clarity of thought, it’s time to make a plan for the future:

  • What are the next steps?
  • Where will you live?
  • Do you need to think about separating assets and belongings?
  • Do you have children together?

These questions, and likely many, many more, will need careful consideration and strategic planning. For example, just turning up and laying claim to the family dog without prior discussion could cause a bit of friction.

Always remember to build in plans for support if you need it too. Whether within your friendship group or your family, or a trained professional if you need it. For example, if you’re worried about finances, seek the help of a financial advisor – don’t try to carry the burden on your shoulders alone.

4. Communicate

Communicating effectively will help you in all aspects of your life. However, in the wake of separation, if you want things to remain amicable, or at least civil, it’s crucial. One of the most challenging shifts is moving away from talking to your ex as your partner and adopting a new, less emotionally involved tone.

If you’re married or have children and are separating, you might consider the support of a professional mediator, as they’ll help give you advice on exactly what you can or can’t do.

You can book a free 15-minute advice call with the amicable team, who can give you advice on the next steps if you’re unsure.


Is coping with martial separation harder than a breakup?

Divorce or dissolution can be harder than a non-legal separation (or breakup) for a few reasons. Marital separations often involve more complex factors than a breakup, such as finances, child arrangements, and division of property. This can add a lot of stress and strain to the situation. Also, marriages typically last longer than relationships before marriage, and couples often build a deeper life together. This can make the loss feel more profound.

How do you deal with the pain of separation?

There is no easy fix and someone telling you to ‘get over it’ or ‘move on’ can cause more harm than good. You will move past it in your own time. However, there are a few things you can consider doing that might help, such as mindfulness and meditation exercises, journaling, or seeking the help of a professional therapist.

How do you act during a separation?

Separation is a time of emotional upheaval, so take care of your physical and mental health. Eat healthy, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. It's normal to feel sad, angry, confused, or even relieved. Don't bottle up your emotions – talk to a trusted friend, therapist, or join a support group.

Author: The Breaking Dad, Dan Betts, with daughter Evie @thebreakingdad

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Support for co-habiting couples

Speak to an amicable Coach for support agreeing on your financial and/or childcare arrangements if you're not married or in a civil partnership.

Book a free 15-minute consultation

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