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Location: Home Relationship advice Relationship advice topics Managing Separation and Divorce Responses to Separation & Divorce

Responses to Separation & Divorce

Separation is a major stressful event in anyone's life and it can provoke a range of responses and painful feelings.

When a couple separates or gets divorced, the depth of emotional responses that occur are often compared to the effects of a death in the family.

Do you have any of the following feelings?

  • rage and anger
  • guilt and remorse
  • fear and insecurity
  • abandonment and loneliness
  • rejection, feeling unwanted
  • finding it hard to let go of the relationship
  • ambivalence and confusion.

Are any of the following happening to you?

  • mood swings - up and down
  • paralysis or constant busy-ness and activity
  • not eating, or eating too much
  • drinking more alcohol
  • accident prone
  • nightmares or sleeplessness
  • sudden overwhelming tears
  • unable to function normally.

People often report they feel the loss of the following:

  • partner/marriage/children
  • familiar roles/routines
  • full-time parenting role
  • friends/relations
  • feeling of security - anxiety about future
  • money and financial security
  • life style
  • self image - success
  • dreams and plans for the future.

These responses, all painful and distressing, are perfectly normal.

If you are going through separation, you probably have other feelings that you could add to the list. The good news is that, given time, most people face these intense feelings and go on to lead fulfilling and happy lives.

Separation is traumatic, especially when there is ongoing conflict about arrangements that need to be made. It is difficult for people to make the adjustments that are needed after separation or divorce. It is emotionally difficult to detach from someone we have been in a relationship with for a significant period. Although couples have separated, there are still bonds of attachment. These feelings may be around for a long time.

Separation or divorce is a complex process

When a couple or individual decides that they need to separate, they are faced with many difficult issues. First, they have to deal with the responses that they, their partner and their children have to the separation. Then, there are all the practical issues demanding attention, such as:

  • setting up separate residences
  • sorting out money and property issues
  • making arrangements for the ongoing care of children.

As separation involves making changes to many aspects of their lives, people usually  find the journey to a new life, home and relationship to be difficult. This is true even if the parties are amicable about the need for the separation and how they should address it.

Ending relationships without using violence or abuse

Ending a relationship can be a traumatic experience for all people involved, and it can also be a dangerous time when conflict can escalate. Sometimes the use of violence or abuse can become worse during separation, as one partner takes out their anger and frustration on the other, or tries to use violence, threats or coercion to get the partner to stay.

Relationships Australia offers assistance to victims of family violence and can advise perpetrators on how to eliminate aggressive and violent behaviour and express their anger in constructive ways.

next section - Children and Separation

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