Separation and divorce

Separation and divorce are among the toughest experiences you will ever have.

Separation is complex and can involve feelings around the loss of:

  • your partner
  • family structure and routines you’ve been used to
  • friends and the social life you had
  • support and approval from your family and community
  • meaning and identity
  • the family home
  • a dream
  • financial security
  • involvement or reduced contact with your children.

These losses are particularly difficult if:

  • you didn’t want the separation in the first place
  • the separation is sudden or unexpected
  • you feel betrayed by your former partner
  • you are still hanging on hoping it will all go back to how it was
  • you don’t have a support network or are ostracised by your friends and/or other people in the community
  • you fear a future of living alone
  • you have reduced or limited time with your children.

In addition, separation means:

  • practical issues can become more difficult, for example full-time responsibility for your children
  • changes in the nature of some of your social networks and friends.

Separation is extremely difficult and you can expect to experience intense emotions as well as sometimes thinking that you are not coping.

Women may be feeling:

  • scared about the responsibility for the economic future of themselves and their children
  • sad about the break-up of the family unit
  • nervous about how they will juggle work and home commitments
  • resentful about career sacrifices they may have made in their role of homemaker
  • hateful towards their former partner
  • bitter about their new circumstances
  • worried about dealing with bureaucracies and the legal system
  • fearful of making the same mistakes in another relationship
  • concerned that the relationship with the former partner may remain in conflict
  • relief that things are out in the open.

Men may be feeling:

  • frustration, powerlessness and anger
  • relief that differences are out in the open
  • dizziness, with thoughts spinning in circles
  • desperation, ready to drop off the planet
  • determination to stand ground and battle to the bitter end
  • awareness of some hard choices having to be made
  • loneliness and sadness
  • shock, bewilderment and hurt.

These responses, although painful and distressing, are perfectly normal. The good news is that most people who face these intense feelings go on to live fulfilling and happy lives. However, it does take time.

Relationships Australia has produced two booklets for men and women going through separation or divorce. The booklets will:

  • show you are not alone
  • help you make sense of your feelings
  • help guide you through some constructive choices
  • provide options that may be useful
  • raise your awareness of some services that may help.