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Surviving the breakup

by Graeme Davidson Feb 2010

Ann left Bill after 17 years of marriage. “I feel bad about breaking my vows” she explained, “but Bill treated me like I was an old shoe and he still doesn’t understand how I felt lonely and neglected even though we shared a bed”.

Ann’s leaving Bill to live alone because she felt lonely seems like a contradiction, but despite the uncertainty, the upheaval, and probably having to take a drop in their standard of living, most women prefer to go solo than remain in an unhappy relationship. Women are the ones who do most of the leaving. Men mostly tend to stay and only initiate a split if they find another love interest. Few men leave to go solo and few women rush into the arms of someone else.

Going solo can be more of a shock than most of us realise. Though you may have started grieving over your failed relationship well before you split, you may still face a jumble of strong emotions: relief at having shed a burden and excitement about your new adventure, but on the downside, guilt at giving up on your relationship or breaking your holy vows. Then there’s anger at yourself or your ex partner for your failings as well as grief and regret that your relationship ended on the rocks. You can feel happy and then break down in tears when you get out two coffee mugs instead of one. If you have kids, you may worry about the effect the break-up will have on them, how you’ll cope as a single parent or how a sharing arrangement will work out.

Above all, you’ll feel the loneliness. “At first I enjoyed the luxury of not having to think about Bill and his needs. I’m not saying I want him back, but I kind of miss him being around”, Ann confessed. Bill, on the other hand, broke down in tears and told me how he found the loneliness “unbearable” without Ann.

It can help if you have several close friends who are willing to be there for you and discuss your issues and feelings. Your friends will need to be very understanding as you are bound to have mood swings and repeat yourself as you rebuild your life. Avoid using your kids as confidants: it’s unfair.

Having a support network certainly helped Ann to adjust quickly after her marriage ended, whereas Bill, who had plenty of work colleagues but few friends, felt abandoned and bitter and tried to dull the pain with alcohol and TV. Eventually a worried Ann persuaded him to seek professional help. He needed to accept his marriage was over and that he might benefit from finding a roommate and joining church and other social groups where he could find friends to help him create a new life.

We are often much harder on ourselves than on others. Despite insisting that he would stand by Jesus, St Peter let him down. And he was the rock on whom the Church was built. So, don’t cast blame, or assume that others will point an accusing finger. Recognise that despite the wonderful times you once had with your ex, and your best intentions, your relationship has failed. Accept that you will grieve and that you need to learn from the experience, and with God’s help, move on with your life.

Of course, that’s easier to say than do. Love that’s turned sour often contaminates a person’s thinking. Even devout Christians can find it difficult to forgive. One woman I met at a book launch was still raging to anyone who’d listen about her ex’s infidelities 12 years after their relationship ended. So avoid bad-mouthing your ex, seeking revenge, making access to the kids difficult or using them as pawns to get back at your ex. That kind of behaviour re-infects the wounds instead of helping them heal. Others are bound to find it off-putting too, which will limit your social life.

The strain of staying in a bad relationship can damage your health but so, too, can the stresses associated with going solo. Separated people are more susceptible to accidents, illness and early death. As well as having a support network of friends, it’s important that you eat nutritious meals, have regular sleep and exercise and that you seek professional help if you have prolonged difficulty sleeping or can’t shake feelings of anxiety, stress, depression, or suicidal thoughts.

Most ex partners miss the physical intimacy. Some, out of desperation, seek out sex and are disappointed when they feel they’ve used someone or been used. Others, especially men, plunge into a committed relationship before they’ve had time to distance themselves emotionally from their ex. This increases the chances of the new relationship also failing, which was what Ann feared would happen to Bill.

See also:

When you feel like you're sharing a bed with a stranger >> more
Infidelity: in hot pursuit of a better organsm or better intimacy? >> more
Divorce risk factors >> more



See also
Should we intervene to prevent suicide? >> more
Divorce risk indicator >> more
When you feel like you're sharing a bed with a stranger >> more
Surving the breakup >> more
Suicide terrorism as a desperate weapon of liberation >> more
Ned Flanders — popular face of Christianity >> more
Seven common myths about religion >> more
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