Ending a relationship is a very stressful event in anyone’s life. We’ve put together this helpful guide which outlines how to recognise the strong emotions you may be feeling, the practical considerations to consider, and where to turn for more help, information or advice.
Normal reactions to your relationship ending
If you have ended a relationship, you may have a confusing range of painful and distressing emotions and reactions.
At times you may have felt:
- rage and anger, guilt and remorse, or relief
- fear, insecurity and rejection
- ambivalence and confusion.
You could also:
- experience high and low mood swings
- eat too much or not enough or drink more alcohol
- have nightmares or sleeplessness or feel extremely tired
- feel unable to function normally
- have a sense that this can’t be happening.
All of these reactions to ending a relationship are normal, and for most people they settle down. If you feel unsafe or feel things are getting out of control and, especially important, if you feel you aren’t looking after your children, it’s time to get help.
You could get help from family and friends, from a counsellor or from your GP. You can also phone the Family Relationships Advice Line on 1800 050 321.
What will change when you end a relationship?
Ending a relationship always involves change and loss. The changes may affect your:
- partner, children, friends and relatives
- familiar roles, routines and place of living
- full‐time parenting role.
- emotional and financial security
- sense of who you are
- dreams and plans for the future.
During this time, try to look after yourself. You will have a lot to work your way through, but make sure you eat well, get some exercise, spend time with friends, and do things that take your mind off your worries and anxieties.
The good news is, given time, most people face these intense feelings, manage the changes and go on to lead fulfilling and happy lives.
Separation or divorce is a complex process – what should I do?
When a couple decides they want to separate, many decisions need to be made.
Practical issues to consider
Some of the practical issues to be resolved as part of a separation include:
- setting up separate residences, and, often, finding somewhere to live in a hurry
- sorting out money and property issues
- making arrangements for the ongoing care of children.
Couples also have to deal with the responses that their children, parents, extended family and friends have to the separation. As separation involves making changes to many aspects of their lives, most people find the journey to a new life, home and relationship is hard, even if the parties have agreed on the need to separate and are being cooperative.
There is support to help you through separation
You can get free information and advice from the following:
- Family Relationships Advice Line: 1800 050 321
- Family Relationships Online website: www.familyrelationships.gov.au
- The Federal Circuit Court website
- The Family Court website
- Department of Human Services website ‐ to find out about child support and your financial entitlements and download their useful publications: www.humanservices.gov.au/separatedparents
Disputes about children and property
The most common areas of difference and conflict following separation are disagreements about care of the children and sharing of property. Under current family law, there is a presumption of equal shared parental responsibility except in cases involving violence or child abuse. This does not necessarily mean a 50/50 time split ‐ arrangements will depend on what is practicable and in the best interests of the child.
Family Dispute Resolution
As an alternative to resolving parenting disputes via legal means, Relationships Australia offers a Family Dispute Resolution service (now compulsory in cases not involving violence or child abuse) for couples in conflict over issues such as child contact.
Family Dispute Resolution provides clients with a safe, supportive atmosphere and a method of talking to one another, to assist them to sort out the issues and come up with acceptable solutions. Relationships Australia has staff who have been trained to involve children in this process.
Understanding how children feel and have been affected by separation often helps parents think and arrive at solutions that are in the best interests of the children. Relationships Australia staff are also able to assist couple to resolve their differences over sharing property. The more amicably and calmly this can be done, the more there is to share.
Ending relationships without using violence or abuse
Ending a relationship can be a traumatic experience for all people involved. It can also be a dangerous time when conflict may escalate. Sometimes the use of violence or abuse increases at the time of 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.
If you feel unsafe, it is important to get help and develop a safety plan.
Relationships Australia offers assistance to people who have experienced family
violence and can advise users of violence on how to eliminate aggressive and violent behaviour and express their anger in constructive ways.
Mensline Australia: 1300 789 978
1800 RESPECT: 1800 737 732
Beyondblue: 1300 22 4636
Police Emergency: 000