One of the most traumatic events in life is a relationship breakdown. I cannot highlight enough how important is to prioritise your mental health during this extremely difficult period. The ending of a relationship often has the same trajectory as mourning the death of a loved one, so the trauma of this experience should not be underestimated. I often assure people that the deep sense of loss they are feeling following a break-up is normal, but most importantly that they must seek and ask for help if they need it.
Even if the post-separation relationship is amicable that doesn’t mean the relationship breakdown is by any way easy. It is extremely important to maintain physical and mental strength to deal with all the changes that will be happening whether that be moving home, supporting your children through changes in arrangements, carrying on with ‘normal’ life, going through any legal processes, the list quite frankly is endless. People often worry that seeking professional or medical intervention like counselling or anti-depressants will be ‘used against them’. This is not the case, and actually being proactive in seeking support is a good thing.
Below are some examples of what you can do to help yourself, your ex-partner (if they are the one struggling rather than yourself) or a loved one through this difficult period.
- Seek out the support of family and friends. You won’t be a burden.
- Speak to your employer to see if they are able to accommodate any temporary changes you might need workwise and discuss any other workplace schemes that might be available to support you.
- If you are really struggling and have signs of depression go and see your GP. You don’t have to accept medication if it is offered but having it as an option if you need it can only be a good thing.
- Arrange some counselling. It is often a good outlet to speak to a third party that is not involved in anyway and doesn’t know either of you.
- Don’t use social media to vent frustrations. Write a journal or an email to yourself.
- Decide, if you can, when and how you are going to pass on the news of breakdown of your relationship to family, friends and children if you have them.
- The good natural endorphins from having a fast-paced walk or taking up a new sport or exercise of some kind is extremely beneficial. No one is suggesting you take up anything too extreme but just making time to do something that makes you move more than you normally do.
- Meditation. If you haven’t done it before, don’t underestimate the benefits. Just 10 minutes a day can make real difference. These can be accessed online for free.
- Make sure you are drinking plenty of water and eating a healthy diet as much as possible at least.
- Don’t be rushed into deciding or agreeing anything quickly. Keep the lines of communication open where possible, but ask for time if you need it.
- Agree a line of communication that you can cope with. This can be fluid, but it might be for periods of time you need space and so wish to communicate through a third party or just email, in order to limit those interactions when you are feeling particularly vulnerable. It is important to keep some communication stream open as you will need to deal with important matters that sometimes can’t wait, but if constant texts or WhatsApp messages are getting too much ask for a break for a week or so and try a dedicated email address instead.
- Try and agree what will happen financially for the immediate interim period. Often a cause of stress and anxiety can be worry over financial support being withdrawn. Make sure you investigate what benefits or financial support you are entitled to on government websites.
- Try and agree when your ex-partner will be seeing the children. This will be a cause of anxiety for the person leaving the home. The children will also be worrying about this. If you are able to agree some initial arrangements in terms of days and times this will help.
- Try and agree if one of you is moving out what their expectation is of coming back into the property. It is helpful to agree that the person moving out won’t attend without giving the person who is living there at least 24 hours.
- Ensure your children have support other than you. For example, speaking to your child’s school to update them on what is going on. Pastoral care systems within schools often have access to inhouse counselling that can be accessed for your child if they need it.
- Try and keep to routine where you can at least initially whilst you become used to the changes you cannot control.
- If your ex-partner has time with the children, use that time to for yourself. Do things you wanted to do but didn’t have time to before.
Some, or all of the above may appeal to you, and I would strongly suggest taking up as many as you can to get you through this difficult period. There are also some links below to services that you might find helpful.
It is also important, when the time is right, to get some legal advice. Often clients did not see the relationship breakdown coming and feel truly and utterly overwhelmed. Some have no idea as to what the outgoings on the home are, as they have never had to deal with it before, they don’t know what the right thing to do for children is, they want to know their rights over the house and belongings. At Ellisons, these are all things that we will discuss with you in an initial appointment. If you are ready to seek some legal advice in relation to your relationship breakdown, please contact one of the Family team.