After the initial January fresh start, how many people who are now in the process of divorce actually start thinking, have I made a mistake? Is it really worth it? How do I stay focused not he future? Will I ever move on?
As break-up rates hit new highs in January and partners go their separate ways it only take a few weeks before there is always the backlash of "have I made a mistake." This is inevitable as however tricky your relationship was there will always be what I refer to as "wobble moments". No matter how bad it was, you can always find a reason to stay if you look hard enough. There will always be something that triggers doubt, even if you were sure at the time, but especially so if it took all your courage to leave.
There is also a tendency after the break-up to look back at the relationship with rose tinted glasses and remember only the good times, the romantic times and all the times when you were happy. It's human nature to reminisce and even exaggerate the reality of the situation in your own mind.
Another reason for break-ups can be the "grass is greener" syndrome that I see a lot when one partner thinks that there is a better scenario for them outside of the marriage. It can be an affair that triggers this or it can be just boredom of routine or a restless personality. Whatever it is it can be dangerous as rarely is the grass as green as it may first appear! However it can quickly become apparent that it was not a good move as reality sinks in.
It is always a good idea to think carefully before you leave your partner. It takes a lot of hard work and effort to build a relationship and should take as much if not more to leave.
Melissa came to see me last year and she was confused about her relationship. At times it was what she referred to as "manageable" and there were other times when it was simply intolerable for her. She felt as if she was on a see-saw continuously oscillating between whether she should stay or leave. To make it worse she had grown close to someone at work who seemed more exciting and fun than her husband and it had made her think there may be better options for her. I worked with her on getting more clarity about her current relationship before she made any decisions either way.
She committed to sitting down with her partner and having an open conversation about what was working and what was not working in their relationship. She was tasked to do this in a non-threatening or blaming manner so the conversation didn't escalate into an argument and so that it created a safe space for them both to talk.
They managed to agree three things each that they loved about their relationship and were worth fighting for. They also agreed three areas each that were not working for them and that they were willing to work together on to improve. They listened to each other's suggestions and wrote up an agreed plan of action. Melissa and her partner agreed to both do their best for their relationship for the next three months. At the end of this time they would reassess and discuss whether they would be able to stay together given that they had dedicated three whole months to do what they could to save their marriage.
This process gave them good communication, a clear action plan on how to move forward and a deadline that they were both committed to working to. It relieved the stress and overwhelm as they each took back some control over their relationship and it meant they could focus on the real issues.
After three months they did both decide to split. It was sad for them both however they each now had total certainty that this was the right move for them. Neither of them had any regrets and now they are separated they are able to focus on moving forward and creating a new life for themselves rather than worrying if they made the right decision.
If you find yourself in the situation that you have left and are unsure if it was the best decision the consider following the same plan that Melissa did. It's important you leave for the right reasons and don't have regrets or "what ifs?"
If you find yourself in the position that you have already left and are worried that you have made the wrong decision then identify the reasons why you are wobbling in your certainty now. It is normal to have moments where you think you may have made a mistake, however this may be for the wrong reasons and may not justify a reconciliation. You will experience some negative emotions and this is to be expected. It may well be that getting back with your partner is not the answer and you have to see these feelings through to come out the other side. For example:
- Feeling lonely is natural and it will take a while to get comfortable with being on your own
- Missing having someone around or living in the home with you will take some getting used to
- Taking on jobs that you have not done before like taking the bins out, doing the washing or looking after your finances are all natural adjustments
- Being afraid that you won't find anyone else to love is not a good reason to return to someone who has not made you happy in the past
- Worrying about how your children will react is not always a good reason to stay in an unhappy relationship as there is help and support available to help you with this
A good exercise to help you get more clarity is to write down your reasons for doubting whether you made the right decision to leave. Check to see if these reasons are part of the natural process of healing after a break-up or whether you may have rushed into the break-up for the wrong reasons. There is no shame in admitting you made a mistake and going back to try to make things work if it is for the right reasons. If you do go back I would recommend following the same plan as Melissa did and having a plan to get back on track.
It is worth bearing in mind that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and there are things you can do to make a break-up easier to cope with. Download my app "7 Steps to a Better Break-Up" for support and advice.