Addressing Fears

When you take the decision to end a relationship it will no doubt raise many questions and fears you have about the future. There are several common concerns that most people experience when a relationship breaks down.

Will I regret my decision?

It often takes two to three years for a person whose relationship has broken down to put their life back together again. After splitting up, many people say they wish they hadn't. Four out of ten people regret their divorce five years later and say with hindsight that they think it could have been avoided. If you believe there is still a chance that your relationship can be saved then there are people who can help you in this process, the best known being Relate.

However, some people say ending a relationship was the best decision they ever made. If you are removing yourself from an abusive situation or one where you felt unable to be your self then you are likely to feel released with a new sense of freedom and raised self esteem. Whatever you do, it is best to make a decision - either put your full energy into saving your relationship or to starting again. Doubts and half decisions can be very debilitating.

Will I be lonely?

However difficult your relationship may have become, you still had a person in your life. If you have had a constant companion for some time it is natural that the gap may make you feel lonely.

Part of becoming single again is taking some time to adjust to life as an independent person. It is a time when many people feel quite energised by the new opportunities now available to them - what were your interests before you got into a relationship, what were some of the things you wanted to achieve yet sacrificed in the relationship. Remember, you now have the time to explore new things, meet new people and enjoy the company of your family and friends. You can find help in our section on Starting Again.

Can I make a clean break and not see my partner again?

Clarity and closure are key to making a clean break. It can be financially and emotionally exhausting to untangle years of a relationship. You have to deal with the fact that it will not happen overnight. Don't muddy the waters by sleeping together or calling when you feel lonely.

If you have been in an abusive relationship then you almost certainly need advice from a divorce law solicitor. You may be able to get a court order prohibiting any unwanted contact from your ex.

Can we remain friends and still see one another after the divorce?

Friendship after divorce works best if both parties have moved on. If you still feel a twinge when your ex partner says they have met someone else then it is unlikely a friendship will be genuine, at least in the short term.

If the relationship has ended by mutual consent it will be easier to remain civil and sort through things in an organised way and stay friends. If this is not the case then you have come to terms with the fact the relationship is over; try to be businesslike about sorting out arrangements and accept that friendship is unlikely to be an option, at least in the short term.

If you have children then you have to remain at least civil for the sake of their emotional well being. Although many relationships end acrimoniously, when access to children is involved many people eventually reach better terms.

What will the impact be on my children and family?

A divorce or separation will have a huge impact on a family - affecting people other than just the couple involved. This should not stop you from walking away from a broken relationship but you must understand that children will always experience grief when their parents divorce and you need to minimise the impact on them as much as possible.

Some people 'forget' children during the process of divorce. They forget to tell the children what is about to happen. It is very upsetting for them to be suddenly told that 'Mum and Dad are getting divorced. Much better that they know you are discussing it and trying to find a solution.

Other people drag children into discussions or arguments. Never involve your children in the debate or ask them to take sides. Clearly and without blame explain the situation and reassure them that you are doing your utmost to find a solution that will be best for everyone. You can reduce the impact on children by ensuring good, continuing communication and honest responses to questions.

How will my children feel or react?

How a child behaves during and after a divorce depends on the age and gender of the child, how difficult the divorce, the emotional maturity of the children and their existing relationship with parents.

  • Children are most afraid of being separated from one parent, will feel loss and lost because their place in the family has changed. The majority of children talk about and even plot to get their parents back together.
  • Some children may hide or deny their own feelings and so should be encouraged and allowed to express their feelings and frustrations too.
  • Some children feel guilty - they may think if they had been better behaved or cleverer at school this would not have happened. Taking on responsibility for their parent's divorce is a heavy load to carry. Ensure children are reassured and released of any guilt.
  • Some children feel divided loyalties which lead to confusion and further guilt. Reassure them that you both feel it is important to still see and care for both parents equally.
  • Parents should never criticise an ex-partner in front of their child. It can be tempting, but is very unfair. Children know they are part of both parents and they may feel they are as 'bad' as the 'ex' is. Never say in anger 'you are just like your father/mother'. A child may associate that with your rejection of each other and feel they are also going to be rejected by you.
  • Some children bottle everything up and show no apparent emotion on the outside. This child is likely to need help to express their feelings possibly through counselling or therapeutic intervention, otherwise may later show signs of depression.
  • Some young children regress to even younger years emotionally - bed-wetting, thumb-sucking , difficult behaviour, sleeplessness and tantrums may all re-appear and are signs of worry and insecurity.
  • Children between six and nine are very vulnerable. They may not understand exactly what is happening but know something is very wrong. They are still very dependent on the security of mummy and daddy. They frequently react with anger, lack concentration or experience problems at school. It is important to address difficulties straight away to avoid more deep seated problems later.
  • Some older children may be able to express a preference for which parent they would like to live with, others may be totally torn apart by the decision. They may react to the divorce with anger, grief or depression and it is common for behaviour to become more challenging and for performance at school to deteriorate. It will be important to consider counselling or family therapy together with individual therapy in order to help children to move on to acceptance of the situation. There is help for teenagers including 24/7 helplines and web sites such as Childline and Divorceaid.

You can find counsellors and family therapists in your region through referral from your GP. You can also find more tips for supporting your children through divorce in Starting Again.