Your heart is breaking. The worst has happened, your partner has left, and you’re wondering how in the hell you are going to pick up the pieces of your life.
You’re exhausted from crying so much, overwhelmed by how to plan for the day, let alone anything beyond the next 24 hours, and crushed by loneliness. A million questions may be racing through your mind, “How did this happen? Is this really the end? What did I do wrong? How can I make it right? How will I pay the bills? Take care of the kids, the home? Will I always feel this awful?”
A separation can feel like a wrecking ball has just swung through the foundation of your life. So what the hell do you do now?
1. Take care of your finances by obtaining a separation agreement
If your partner was earning more than you, or you relied on their income to pay bills, get an agreement in place.
You will need all of your emotional capacity in the next little while so take this important step to ensure you’re not also worrying about bills.
Don’t let pride get in the way of taking care of yourself and your responsibilities.
2. Make a decision on how long you will separate
Some partners do come back together after a separation. “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” goes the old adage and some people find that the time can serve as a helpful cooling off period.
It can be better to take a break than to continue engaging in destructive patterns that only further the erode the very heart of the relationship. One to six months can be a useful time frame, just enough time to reflect and breath, but not so much time that you and your partner have consolidated new, separate lives.
3. Fight for your life
You are going to go through days that will test all of your faith, strength, and courage. You will go through valleys of utter despair and surprising peaks of exhilaration.
Don’t panic as you cycle through various stages of grief, from denial, anger, acceptance, bargaining and sadness.
This is a natural pattern as old as time itself. Countless women throughout history have suffered for love and discovered a deeper capacity for healing, joy, self-confidence, and personal power. Fight for your life, your life, and ask yourself the following questions now:
Who are my friends? How can I strengthen those relationships right now? How can I ask for support suitable to each of my friend’s strengths? Remember, not every friend is going to be a “cry on my shoulder” kind of friend, but might be a friend who’s good at trying a dance class.
What are my interests? How can I tap back into some of the interests that reflect the deepest yearnings of my essential self?
How have I gotten through tough times in the past without engaging in self-destructive behaviors?
What beliefs, activities, acts of creativity, books, organizations, people, places have helped me see the light in dark times?
How can I practice kindness for both myself and my loved one who’s chosen not to be with me at this time? Yes, this is a tough one.
Kindness for yourself might mean letting go of the need to try to figure out the solutions to the problems in your relationship. Sometimes you need to take a mental break allowing time to evolve and work it’s healing on you. Kindness for your loved one might mean respecting their need for space.
4. Have faith
That’s right. Have faith. You are not going to have all the answers and neither will your loved one. Have faith that by nourishing yourself in this time, regardless of what your loved one chooses to do, will have long-term benefits.
Learning to take care of yourself with love, compassion, and integrity will not only improve your relationship should you decide to renew your partnership, but the work you do will also nourish a source of love that comes from the one person who will be with you forever: you.
5. Do something crazy
Okay, before you go out and party like a rockstar, let me rephrase that. Do something that is morally responsible, ethical, noble, and legal. But fun. Dye a strand of your hair blue. Go somewhere new. Learn to dance the tango. Perform at an open mic night. Sponsor a child.
Nothing is more exciting than an interesting person, so be interesting to yourself.
Finally, I want to take a moment to acknowledge that if you were in a relationship that was abusive, going back is not the answer. Seek professional support to help you navigate the complexity of what you might be feeling.
If you would like more support on thriving during a breakup, separation or divorce, you can find my book “Healing Heartbreak: A Guidebook for Women”.
Take good care of yourself.