Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Surviving Break-ups and Divorce

Yes, I know. And there was a time when I’d never have thought I’d write a piece like this either. But I see so many friends setting out down this path behind me, lurching from the heady heights of ‘I will survive’, to the plummeting depths of despair. It makes me feel so sad for them - I want to gather them up, and give them a great big hug. People who bang on about divorce being ‘the easy option’ have never been through it themselves; they can’t have done to describe it as something only the feckless and lazy would choose to do. So here I am with a virtual hug. I’m going to don my knitted shawl, pour you a cup of tea, and introduce you to ‘Auntie Sammy’s’ Guide to surviving break-ups and divorce.

1. Be kind to yourself. Don’t forget to eat. Oh yes I know, there’s nothing like the ‘break-up diet’ to shed those slovenly pounds, but you need to keep yourself strong. You still need to go to work. If you have children, they still need feeding, dressing, and entertaining. One friend reflected upon how hard it is that everything keeps going even though you feel like hiding in bed. But this is your lifeline. It makes you carry on. Face each day as it comes, each minute as it comes, if that helps. But don’t forget to care for yourself. Spoil yourself with your favourite foods. Try to sleep. And don’t drink too much. Contrary to popular opinion, it doesn’t help. My liver can tell you all about that.

2. Don’t bottle up your feelings. Accept that you are going to feel angry/relieved/sad/euphoric/ despairing/demented/lonely/bitter at different times. It’s okay to feel how you’re feeling. We’re brought up to keep our emotions under control, but if you feel like screaming, then scream at the top of your lungs. And if this scares the children or bring your flatmates running, scream into a pillow - it works! The same goes for tears. If you need to cry - cry. Holding in and suppressing your feelings doesn’t make them go away. They’ll only lurk, ready to re-surface when you least expect it. Get outside, go for long walks or jog or cycle; whatever you need to do, do it, you’ll feel better.

3. Accept that it will get ugly. Leaving a long-term relationship in which you’ve both invested time, emotion and money is not easy. The only people who can truly say they have an amicable split are those for whom neither will be financially worse off without the other, and, either have no children, or they’ve grown up and left home. Otherwise, it is going to get ugly. No matter how un-materialistic you think you might be, there is nothing that reduces people to a grabby ‘mine mine mine’ mentality than a divorce, particularly if your x-partner has already recruited your replacement whose fingers are firmly in the pot that was once yours. It does get ugly, but it will get sorted out eventually. Being able to sort out your finances is all part of the process of letting go.

4.Try not to dwell on negativity. Yes, we’ve all been there: a pot of tea or a bottle of wine with our best friends, and we turn into vicious harpies tittle-tattling over every last annoying habit our x-partner has, every last exasperating thing they’ve ever said, or, and this was a real bugbear of mine, how unreasonable they’re being about sorting out the divorce. It’s so satisfying verbalising those frustrations. I’m not saying you don’t need to do this from time to time. It’s a relief sometimes to have a third person say ’yes, that is wholly unreasonable, poor you’, but if you’re having this same conversation with the same friends over and over again, you’re not making it better. You’re buying deeper and deeper into the story when really, you need to start letting it go. There is nothing to be gained in continually winding yourself up over how horrid your x-partner is being. You are feeding your resentment, and not healing yourself.

5. Remember - this won’t last forever, even though it feels like it at the moment. Difficult times do pass. You will feel better. I’m not saying you’ll look back and laugh, but in time, you will be able to look back. The day my divorce was finalised, I bought myself the ring in the photograph to remind myself of just this; nothing lasts forever. Not the marriage, although, obviously, that was over, but the whole unpleasant process of getting divorced. It was a very long, drawn out saga and there were many dark days when I thought it would never be sorted. It was - eventually.

If you are going through a break-up or divorce right now, I hope these thoughts help. But the real key to feeling better is that ol’ cliché, time: It is only through time the raw pain starts to subside. And I don’t think it ever really goes. If you are a parent, you’ll probably continue to have contact with your x-partner in some form or another, and you may have to face the joys of dealing with step-parents and the like. But having got through the initial dark days, you will emerge a far stronger person that you will have ever thought possible, and things which might once have been a very big deal will seem less significant. And when things get stormy, you will learn to go easy on yourself until everything is calm again.

I am told the best cure for getting over a break-up and divorce is a shiny new partner, but I haven’t had the opportunity to road test that theory for you yet. But you never know what’s around the corner. Maybe you should watch this space!

Do you have any tips to add? Feel free to leave a comment!


  1. Thankfully not been down the divorce route but I think your advice seems very sound and loving. I wish you well and hope that a shiny new partner is just around the corner for you (if that's what you want!)

  2. Thank you Amanada, it's water under the bridge now and I'm quite good friends with the x-husband now it's all over. Not sure about the new partner bit though, I've grown very used to my own company!


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