Uncertainty is the only certainty in a separation, and this comes with an enormous amount of fear and anxiety.
Research suggests that most separating couples have been thinking about separating for at least two years and as long as six years before actually deciding to separate. That’s a lot of time to live in fear of the unknown.
Feeling scared, anxious and worried at times is normal. However feeling like this for a long time can sometimes be paralysing. Many people contemplating a separation get ‘stuck’ and are unable to move forward. Transitions are difficult at the best of times. Adjusting to change when the future looks bright is not without its challenges so it’s not surprising that a transition into an unknown and very different looking future is scary.
In separation, everyone has their own personal journey. For some, separation is quick, amicable and, to an outsider, seemingly painless. Whether or not this accurately depicts the ‘uncoupling’ experience for that person is unknown. For others, separation is long, drawn-out, and painful or something that is entirely thrust upon them without them having much of a say in it.
A number of years ago the Family Court in one of its many initiatives promoted the concept of ‘timely outcomes’. It made a lot of sense then and still does because it recognised the different stages that people go through as part of the process of separating. The breakdown of a marriage or a long term relationship is a very emotional experience filled with grief and loss. For most people the thought of disengaging from ‘coupledom’ and starting to identify as a single person brings with it an enormous amount of fear and trepidation.
Chances are that if a couple experience a relatively straightforward and amicable separation then they have already lived many months and possibly many years with upset, stress, fear and grief about the loss of that relationship in the lead up to making the decision to separate.
When both people in that couple have had a similar experience it can make the process of divorce, not the impact, smoother – that couple are on the same page. It doesn’t mean however that those people haven’t been scared about the prospect of separation. They have just had time to work through some of their fear prior to each of them communicating to the other their wish to separate.
People in these circumstances almost overcome some of their own fear of ‘uncoupling’ by supporting each other. They cushion each other through the transition. This support can continue after separation. Parties may for example cooperatively close down joint bank accounts or one spouse may help find the other spouse another home to live in, etc. The fear of separation for these couples has lost some of its intensity by the time a lawyer gets involved.
For other couples, the fear of separation is played out in their everyday lives… compromising Facebook posts, overindulging in alcohol and generally poor behaviour. These are all outward signs that a person is struggling.
Sometimes the fear of separation is paralysing – being unable to face a change that is inevitable can make some people act like an ‘ostrich’, burying their heads in the sand. Sometimes both people in a couple are scared and “act out” in these ways. At other times only one person ‘acts out’… making it possibly even scarier for the other person who is coming to terms with the prospect of ‘uncoupling’ in a different way.
Separation is scary. You are not alone to feel this way. Everyone fears change of any kind and with separation…
- People fear loneliness
- People fear a loss of connectedness to their children and worry about how they will cope
- People fear paying bills and learning how to survive financially on their own
- People fear poverty
- People fear a loss of identity and being part of a couple
- People fear the loss of a sense of belonging
- People fear losing contact with extended family members and mutual friends
- People fear a loss of their neighbourhood and local community
and the list goes on…
So what might help? My six best suggestions to overcome the fear of separation are:
1. Surround yourself with reassurance and support
Keep in touch with friends and family and all the positive influences around you. Do things that make you feel good and remind yourself that ‘what doesn’t break you makes you stronger’.
2. Be honest and remain positive
Consider counselling to help you reflect upon your part in the process and ensure you stay strong. Remain ‘future focussed’ – don’t look down, look straight ahead.
3. ‘Swat up’
Get on top of all the information that is available to you. Collect bills, do a budget, engage the help of a friend or family member if you can. Take a pragmatic approach and treat the information gathering process like ‘tax time’. Gather all the information you can and get informed. But remember information can only help you so far.
4. Get professional advice early
Before contemplating a life change it is smart to get clear advice on where you stand and what is involved so you know what to expect and can be prepared for the stages ahead. Expert legal advice helps you understand all the information and how it applies to you.
5. Remember your health
Look after yourself. If you are sleeping right, eating well and exercising regularly then you’re at your best to tackle the many challenges that separation brings.
6. Learn to ‘park it’
You still must get on with life and maintain your routine each and every day. Develop strategies to “park” the issues and fears you are facing and get help to deal with them as and when you can so that you are not overwhelmed by fear itself.
These strategies are all likely to help if you are contemplating a separation.
More about divorce and separation from North Shore Mums:
- Protecting your financial interests during a divorce
- How to cope with separation
- Separation and settling property matters fairly: what you need to know
Have you separated from your husband? What was the hardest aspect of the separation? What advice do you have to others going through the same thing?