Staying Graceful When The Chips Are Down
One of the most heartbreaking (and stressful!) events we can endure is the loss of a long-term love. Whether it’s a divorce or a trial separation, it is a traumatic event... not just for you and your partner, but the whole family. The real trick is to turn this loss into an opportunity for growth, because if you can find grace when the chips are down - you’ve won the game.
Sometimes for reasons out of our control we don’t get the ending we think we will.
#1. Take care of yourself. This doesn’t just mean getting really friendly with your friends Ben & Jerry, but also caring for your emotional and physical self. How? Eating well, taking time to relax, and regularly exercising. Keep to your normal routine as much as possible, try not to make any big decisions, and most importantly - don’t try to numb the pain with alcohol or mind-altering substances. Allow yourself to feel.
#2. Reconnect with your identity. Explore your old interests, reignite old passions. Losing your identity as a “partner” can be overwhelming until you remember you’ve had lots of identities in your life… and "your partner's partner" was only one of them. Focus on being a parent and a friend.
#3. Don’t do it alone. Leaning on a community, a group of friends, or a support group is essential at this time. Studies show that isolation can increase stress levels, reduce concentration, and disrupt other parts of your life like work and health. Encourage your kids to find support networks that serve them too.
#4. Treat each other with respect. Nothing is guaranteed in life, and the same is true of relationships. Sometimes for reasons out of our control we don’t get the ending we think we will. And although some emotions might fade away, respect is the one you can always ensure. Be gracious in your interactions with each other (especially those in front of the kids), don’t get pulled into rehashing the past, and try to stay positive and on-topic.
#5. Be the rock. Any transition feels like choppy waters and it can be really confusing if your kids have been used to smooth sailing. Show them that you (and your partner) are still their anchors. How do you do this on a daily base? Listen to them. Reassure them. Lead by example. And most importantly, show them that nothing (big) has changed: they can still rely on you.
The darkness of a break-up or transition is temporary and will be replaced by a lighter future. Pain fades, wounds heal. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. All the clichés are true. Do yourself a favor and focus on yourself and your kids, hold nothing but respect for your partner, and you’ll find that all the pieces fall into place.