At best, a marriage or partnership lasts a lifetime; at least all (fresh) couples in love want something like that or something like that. However, the reality is different, as the statistics show. Nowadays, more and more marriages are getting divorced and more and more partnerships are breaking up. If the marriage or relationship can no longer be saved, separation should be considered. In this article, you will learn, based on the experiences in my practice for marriage counseling and couple counseling, how you can end a separation without a war of roses, but with dignity.
At the end of a relationship or marriage, the fundamental question is no longer whether you still love your partner or not, but rather whether you want to continue to live with him or her. Apart from divorce uncontested, when respect, intimacy and trust have disappeared from the relationship, love can still exist, but the relationship and coexistence can often no longer be maintained. Every person who lives in a relationship knows for themselves that relationship work is a day-to-day business. A life together that is characterized by respect and trust can hardly be built all by yourself.
Separation / divorce: preparation for the separation interview
If you want to end the relationship, think about a dialogue in advance in which you can find clear words for your partner, but formulate them without a raised index finger. You should refrain from making statements such as “I no longer feel love for you” or “I have met someone else”. Instead, think about how you can explain to your partner why you no longer want to live by their side.
The best thing to do is to try to make it clear to yourself what is making you unhappy and bothering you, so that you have no choice but to put an end to the relationship. Give your partner enough space to have their own say over and over again and imagine beforehand which compromises your partner could bring into the room and how you feel about these suggestions. In any case, be honest and avoid deliberately hurting your partner.
Even if it may be difficult: Talk to your partner openly about the separated future and clarify in advance how you would like to deal with the issues of maintenance or custody of children together, for example. This saves unnecessary arguments in court. In the best case scenario, you will have come to an agreement on all sensitive issues relating to separation before the divorce date.
Love alone is not always enough
Due to the fact that people mature and change, a relationship can never guarantee that you will really stay together your entire life and share the same needs. Both partners can develop and change differently and, above all, at different speeds on different personality levels. Despite lively communication in the relationship, there may be developments that make it impossible to continue to have an honest and happy relationship.
Honesty is the be-all and end-all – even in the event of a breakup
Most people want their partner to be honest. This is no different in the case of a separation or divorce. As soon as you can talk to your partner in a calm and constructive atmosphere, address the different areas in your relationship. Assess how honest you are with one another and how much you could rely on your partner. In this assessment, be honest with not only your partner but yourself and not only emphasize your partner’s weaknesses. You should be honest and frank with your partner as if you were talking to a good friend.
In any case, you do not have to let your partner accuse you of having failed in the relationship because it is now on the verge of ending. Accusatory behavior is of no benefit to anyone and should be avoided at all costs during separation talks. It is much more constructive to explain to your partner the steps that ultimately led to a breakup being inevitable for you. Again, choose your words wisely and be lenient with one another.
Always keep in mind the guiding principle that you basically want the best for your partner and this also for you, even if you both no longer want or can no longer share everyday life with each other.
If there is separation, then at least fair!
Most people want a stable and lasting partnership. Conversely, this means that very few people find it easy to give up a steadfast relationship and finally separate from their life partner or divorce their spouse.
The longer and more seriously the partnership was, the more difficult it is usually to separate. Common children, a common apartment, a common group of friends, common finances and a common organized everyday life are bonds that cannot be easily, quickly and painlessly split, severed or untangled.
In addition to the technical difficulties, there are also emotional ones, because a separation that is desired or even longed for by both partners means all kinds of pain and stress. A divorce is also associated with dealing with the authorities, which complicates the matter even further, lengthens it and (last but not least) can make it considerably more expensive.
Does the separation really have to be?
Admitting that a partnership has failed is a process that can drag on for a long time. Statistically speaking, the realization rarely comes overnight: Most couples who are finally left with the shards of their relationship have tried at least once beforehand to save their love or marriage. The choice of means depends on the character, attitudes and living conditions of the main participants. Ultimately, a large number of factors, some of which are unpredictable, influence whether and when a couple calls on the help of a marriage counselor or partner therapist in a crisis situation, integrates the circle of friends and family, or tries to resolve their relationship problems behind closed doors on their own.
As long as both partners can basically still imagine a happy future together, every further attempt at rescue is worthwhile, even with deep-seated couple problems. If the previous strategies and possible solutions have not worked as desired, this may be the best time to contact a marriage counselor or couple counselor. In individual sessions, joint discussions or during a couple counseling session, not only can clear, constructive and also feasible objectives be worked out, but also feasible ways to get there can be found.
However, staying together for the sake of staying together is neither healthy nor conducive to personal development. If violence is involved, the separation may even amount to a rescue or necessary protective measure.
If love is extinguished or if the common future is decidedly ruled out by one or both partners, this does not mean the end of all common culture and conflict resolution. It’s about damage limitation: After a fair separation or divorce, injuries can heal better, those involved more easily come to terms with their changed circumstances and consequently have greater chances of finding new happiness.
Separation without reproach
How well a breakup was processed can be seen in the way those involved talk about it.
“It just didn’t fit” – this is the conclusion many come to when they look back on previous relationships whose end they have understood and accepted, especially when they are now living in a stable partnership again.
Breakups that are still fresh, particularly painful or incompletely processed, however, cause an increased need for speech, because this is about a lot of guilt and even more shame: about urgent justifications, fulfilled prophecies, disappointed hopes and about everything that should have been done or should not have happened. The need to subsequently draw up lists of errors, to calculate the proportions of guilt and, ideally, to prove that the other person is more to blame for the failure of the couple relationship, is human and can have a liberating effect; however, it is not logical. Strictly speaking, reproaches are only worthwhile if changes are sought. If separation or divorce has already been decided, the blame is mainly manifested in anger, disappointment and feelings of powerlessness. Ex-partner at least should be strong as a kind of compensation for the pain suffered and loss in terms of sense of self and the world.
However, part of a fair separation is to avoid precisely this destructive behavior as much as possible. It is not the mistakes of one partner or the mistakes of two individuals that cause marriages to fail and relationships to break, but rather inappropriate or unbalanced constellations, circumstances and developments in togetherness. Understanding this is essential in a fair separation or divorce.
In the latter insight, there is also the important insight that people who have been through many separations are not necessarily relationally disturbed or even incapable of relational. The cliché that is often used, for example, that some people attract unhappiness or keep making the wrong choice, is more misleading than productive. Because here the possibility that it could “just not have worked” is ignored – a simple, hopeful and conciliatory explanation, which in retrospect surprisingly often turns out to be the only correct and mutually satisfactory one.
Divorce with justice and decency
For a marriage to be divorced, it must have failed. This is assumed when the spouses no longer share table and bed and, as expected, will never do so again.
The so-called guilt principle, which used to apply to divorces, has long been abolished. A year of separation is still one of the statutory requirements for divorce.
Spouses who want to get divorced can (and should) prove through the one-year separation period that their marriage has failed irretrievably. Since the separation relates to table and bed, it can also take place in the shared apartment – the (still) spouses then live like flat share members in separate rooms, and everyone cooks, does the laundry and does the business for themselves.
Understandably, this form of the year of separation is fundamentally out of the question for many people wanting to divorce. However, it is the only option if a partner cannot move out financially or for other reasons at this point in time.
If, after the year of separation, both spouses are still convinced that their community cannot be saved, the marriage can be divorced by the court. A divorce without a year of separation or with a greatly reduced separation period can take place in cases of hardship. The unreasonable severity required for this is assumed, for example, in the case of criminal or violent acts in marriage. However, unreasonableness is always defined by individual feelings, which is why this term can be stretched and interpreted beyond the legal situation.
Consent pays off
A lawyer always applies for divorce. Divorce candidates who agree on the division of the joint property or who have drawn up lists and agreements at the beginning of the marriage can save a lot of money through an amicable divorce. In a controversial divorce, the partners fight, each supported by a lawyer of their choice, for property and material assets, maintenance claims or custody rights. This can be very stressful for children of all ages, especially if their parents’ homes are later far apart. Therefore, it pays off socially and emotionally to seek a fair and amicable divorce and to resolve disputes out of court.
The services of a marriage counselor are not only available to people who want to save their marriage, prevent an impending divorce or find new ways for the love relationship. Those who are determined to separate or who are burdened by an ongoing divorce also benefit from advisory or therapeutic discussions: These can help to understand changes as opportunities, to cope with fears and doubts and to emerge from difficult situations strengthened and with new courage.