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Posted December 1, Reviewed by Lybi Ma. Leaving a relationship is never easy, even if there is relief on the other side of the process. But obviously leaving a short-term relationship is different from a long-term one: With more investment in time and intimacythe tangling of lives of these relationships makes the untangling more difficult.
Whether or not there's advance warning, unless the ending is truly mutual and few areyour announcement will be a shock to the other party and set off a grief reaction. Likely their first question is: Why? You want to work out your explanation to this question carefully in advance. Ideally talk more about you and your feelings, rather than about the other and their behavior. Instead, you want to be as calm as you can, be clear, give a reason that you can state in one or two sentences.
The danger here is that your message is not clear.
If you offer vague or contradictory reasons, the person is likely to be confused, or will instinctively look for cracks in your argument to push on, or will read into your message what they want to hear. Similarly, if you pile on too much information while the other person is understandably in shell-shock, they will either get overloaded and not be able to process what you are saying, or will again hear what they want to hear, rather than what you are intending to say.
Again, you emotionally want to sort this out in your own mind ahead of time: You want a divorce ; or you want a separation so you have time to sort out your feelings. Be honest and clear, even if your clarity right then is that you are not completely sure. This is the second part of what happens next.
Are we going to see or talk to each other — when, how often? If children are involved, are we still going to do things as a family — when, how? By being clear about you want, about what you are willing to do and not do, it not only allows you to get what you want on the table, but by your clarity helps the other person become clearer too. Sometimes the other person copes by pulling in and cutting you off for a period of time. But more likely you will be barraged with texts or calls or s in an attempt to change your mind, to get more information, to see you and talk, to draw you in.
Under such a constant message assault, it's easy for you to quickly feel frustrated, annoyed, overwhelmed. To avoid this, be proactive rather than reactive.
And you want to follow through on what you say. If you don't, if you are inconsistent, the danger is that you create intermittent reinforcement. This only stirs up hope or encourages the other person to reach out in the same way again and again. Hold to your bottom lines and message, but also acknowledge the pain that you have created and what the other person is feeling. By showing empathywhile taking responsibility for your actions and staying clear and firm, you are compassionately affirming the reality of the situation.
This can create dread that keeps you awake at night. Put these to rest by mapping out a game plan for each of these worst-case situations. You may need to do some research about what are appropriate options or next steps; you may want to consult an attorney. Ideally, you both want to sit down with the kids and let them know in a calm way what is unfolding.
If that is not possible, do the best you can on your own. You'll want to give the kids a few days' notice to any moving out; this gives them time to process what you are saying and space to ask follow-up questions. If you stretch out the leaving-time too long, young children will think it isn't going to happen; older children will be anxious the entire time, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
What to say to the children? Obviously, whatever you say will trigger their own grief that they will have to work through with time. But because their worlds are smaller and more concrete, what children usually need to know about most is what will change in my world now that you are not together. Map out as much as know in detail — that yes, they will be staying at the same school, that they Live in girlfriend and hopefully more ltr only spend the weekend with the dad, etc.
Avoid giving them adult details of your adult problems. Say that this is not their fault, that these are adult problems and adult decisions. And although things are changing, that yes, this is going to be hard for a while, but you are on top of it, ready and able to both care for them and help them through it.
Let them know that they are not responsible for fixing the family, that they don't need to worry or take care of you or the other parent. Family, friends, and co-workers are naturally going to be asking you what happened. Decide in advance to whom and what you want to share.
For those outside your intimate circle, work up some lines so you are not sidewinded at an office party with questions and trying to think on your feet. A counseling setting, with a mental health professional or a minister, can provide a safe place to untangle, to have deeper conversations about the relationship, to make sure that your messages are heard by the other person, to get advice about managing children, etc. Even if your messages and bottom lines are clear, expect that you, too, will be on an emotional rollercoaster for a while, because you, too, are grieving.
Even if the relationship was terrible, grief still sets in, because the grief is a natural element of the untangling and ending process, because it is still a loss that you need to resolve. So, expect to experience waves of second-thoughts, regrets, and loneliness. This is normal.
This is a major transition point in your life, one that is difficult to do all alone. Before stepping out the door, line up in advance people you feel comfortable turning to for support. And if, for whatever reason, you lack these supports, consider individual counseling to help you move through this time. There's no way to avoid the stress that these changes will create, but your overarching goal is to be clear, consistent, and as calm and compassionate as you can.
Bob Taibbi, L. He is the author of 11 books and over articles and provides training nationally and internationally.
Robert Taibbi L. Fixing Families. About the Author. Online: My Website. Read Next. Back Psychology Today. Back Find a Therapist. Back Get Help. Personality Passive Aggression Personality Shyness. Family Life Child Development Parenting. View Help Index. Do I Need Help?
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Adjusting To Living Alone After A Breakup