I’m no stranger to separation and divorce. As the partner who was left behind, I have navigated that labyrinth – and it can definitely feel like an endless maze. In the process, I encountered several pitfalls. I’m hoping I can help you avoid them by sharing the toughest ones that need to be tackled as you journey through the healing process.
I’m familiar with the confusion, trauma, and pain of this experience. I remember feeling isolated and alone and oh-so-sorry for myself. And then along the road to recovery I developed a single-person identity and learned that I could take care of myself. You can, too.
I like to think that any period of uncertainty in life is a call for a time-out – when we’re faced with specific challenges or problems that feel insurmountable. As uncomfortable and unpleasant the process is, it’s a necessary experience on the road to healing. And often, the same questions keep popping up. Let me help you run through the hardest ones:
The 5 Toughest Questions About Separation and Divorce
1. Who am I without my partner?
You’ve lost your “we” status and are now flying solo. Your adjustment to your new identity will depend in large part on how secure your sense of self was during your marriage.
Take an honest look at how much you relied on your spouse instead of yourself during your time together. In other words, did you develop emotional and behavioral dependencies on your spouse that you must replace with greater self-reliance. Use this experience to get to know yourself and build a stronger personal identity.
2. How do I get over my raw emotions?
One of the biggest challenges is managing your emotions during this vulnerable time. After my separation, I remember an upheaval of my feelings, which can be contradictory at times: love and hate, relief and excruciating pain, self-pity, fear (the predominant feeling), anger, and failure.
Where there is attachment, there is loss. Where there is loss, there is grief. All of the emotions you’re experiencing are part of the grieving process. I know you want to find a way to avoid these turbulent waters, but you can’t. It’s a critical part of your recovery process. This is the time for self-reflection.
3. What should I do about our shared finances?
Part of adjusting to your new reality is rethinking your spending habits and financial situation. Depending on how you both previously planned your finances, you’ll likely need to be more careful with your spending and get the help you need both personally and professionally.
How can you protect your economic interests and financial future as a newly single individual? First, you must come to terms with the fact that you and your partner have separate, distinct financial interests. Second, develop a complete understanding of all the things you and your partner own, as well debts. Third, consult with a recommended financial advisor who has experience in post-divorce or post-separation processes so you can propose an equitable and fair settlement. It goes without saying that your financial advisor should be separate from your partner’s.
4. How do I go out and manage being social with others again?
After my break-up, I felt incredibly alone. I had lost my best friend. I wasn’t sure who could understand my pain, or if I even wanted to share it. What would happen to our mutual friends? It felt easier just to be by myself.
Reach out to friends and family. Try to build a new social routine. Consider joining groups with others who are going through a similar experience. There are so many online groups to help you cope with all the changes you are going through. Although you may feel very alone, there is a lot of support available to you. Don’t isolate.
5. How do I get over the heartbreak in a healthy way?
In addition to the toll your emotional health takes, your separation can play havoc on your physical health as well. Personally, I was plagued by migraine headaches. Your sleep and eating habits can easily be affected. Gradually, and without noticing it, your physical health can decline.
During this period of time, it is critical to maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly and get professional help when needed. This is a time when you are most vulnerable to abusing alcohol and drugs to numb the pain. Your physical well-being is a very important part of your road to recovery.
It may sound cliché, but the thing with cliches is that they’re true: it’s all about perspective. The way you reframe your separation or divorce will determine the way you deal with the challenges that come with it. If you view this transition as an unmitigated disaster and the end of any hope for a new beginning, you might create a self-fulfilling prophecy which guarantees your future unhappiness. It helps to view this time as a very painful but necessary prelude to your self-renewal as a person. The reward is you’ll discover just how capable you are to take charge of your life.
A final note for those who are struggling with the heartbreak of divorce or separation: you are not alone. Take your healing into your own hands but learn from others, too – especially relationship therapists like me – who had similar experiences.
If you want to dive more into self-enlightenment and post-separation healing, order my book, Who Am I Without My Partner? Post-Divorce Healing and Rediscovering Your SELF.