There are many reasons why a relationship ends, but basically, it boils down to the fact you do not or cannot stay in your relationship any longer.
Whilst I believe that relationships need to be worked at and that there are likely to be some really tough times, if you decide it’s just not working then making the decision to part is often the best solution. At least it allows each of you to have a happier life.
Whether you make the decision to end the relationship or not, you are likely to experience many mixed emotions at different times, each of which is valid and normal.
Even if your relationship was toxic, you are likely to have very mixed feelings. After all, in the beginning you fell in love with this person and shared your dreams and plans for a future together.
‘For better for worse, till death us do part’.
When I made those promises I really meant them.
I certainly didn’t envisage my marriage breaking down, or falling out of love with that special person. Planning a new life together was exciting and magical, and nothing but nothing would stop us from having a wonderful life together.
Life wasn’t easy, money was tight, but we had our little house and soon our two daughters. We moved to a bigger house in a lovely little village and life seemed complete.
But then, it all started going wrong. Out of the blue, my husband told me he didn’t love me anymore – and that he had met someone else. I was devastated, and despite attempts to make it work, trust had been broken and neither of us was happy. So we made the decision to end our 14 year marriage, which was a very difficult one.
I experienced just about every one of the emotions I mentioned earlier.
I felt guilty that I couldn’t make the marriage work. ‘Why wasn’t my love enough?’ ‘I should have tried harder’. I felt guilty that I hadn’t done enough to make him happy.
•Guilty that I hadn’t talked to him when things were going wrong.
•Guilty that my children’s family unit had been broken and as a result, they had to move house and schools.
•Guilty that I had to work fulltime to support us, which meant I couldn’t be there for them as much as I needed to be.
Because we were on a very tight budget, those treats they had before were denied them. I became very creative at making recipes with a pound of sausages and a pound of mince for the week!
I felt guilty that we couldn’t turn up the heating – piling on jumpers and huddling under blankets to watch TV.
And the shame! Having to admit to friends and family that my marriage had ended. I couldn’t face the humiliation of their questions or judgement.
Maybe you feel guilt and shame because you ended the relationship?
No one makes this decision lightly. I’m sure you agonised over your decision for some time before taking that brave step.
I can identify with those feelings too, as my second marriage years later was an emotionally abusive one, and I finally took the decision to end it (It took me several attempts).
The guilt I felt about that relationship was because deep down I had doubts from the very beginning. But I was lonely, lacking self-esteem and believed we could make it work. At first, it was ok but soon became controlling and verbally abusive. All wrapped up in his protestations of love and care for me. Luckily my children had moved out by this time, so at least they weren’t directly affected.
I experienced every single one of the emotions I listed above during and after that relationship – in bucket-fulls!
If you have fallen out of love with your partner, and are just going through the motions, unhappy and really can’t make it work, why waste both of your lives being miserable?
It took me more than six years to finally end my second relationship, followed by the divorce from hell. At first I felt guilty…that I should be trying harder. Then I forgave him for his unacceptable behaviour, I made excuses for him, I believed I was to blame (sound familiar?).
My guilt turned to fear of what he might do to me or my family if I tried to leave. So, I totally understand when women tell me they can’t leave their relationship.
Concerns about the effects on your children
It’s not a situation we want for our children. They certainly don’t want to see the parents they love part. And of course, you are bound to feel guilty about any decisions you make that affect them. Moving house and schools away from friends will be a huge wrench for them, and up pops your guilty feelings again.
They too will have their concerns – was it their fault? They will also have divided loyalties, even if their father isn’t the best.
Staying in an unhealthy relationship can cause your children a lot of damage. Heated arguments, even witnessing or being the victims of abuse isn’t healthy.
Guilt around your children can lead to overcompensating behaviour on your part. Especially around gifts and boundaries. You may find yourself in competition with your partner or ex. This may leave you feeling guilty that you have let them down because you can’t afford the lavish gifts your ex and his family give them. You may feel injustice and angry at these times, understandably. But beware – dwelling on those feelings can make you bitter, and is definitely not healthy.
Do you find yourself allowing them to do things you aren’t comfortable with because if you don’t, they won’t like you? Or
worrying whether you are making the right decisions for them?
It can feel quite difficult at times. Children are pretty smart when it comes to these situations, and can understand while at other times they will play on them. Be honest with your children, explain if you don’t have the same disposable income as you would like. They will have to learn at some time that life isn’t always fair. Just don’t drag them into your drama with your ex.
Trust your gut, and if it doesn’t feel right then stick to your guns.
Why not have a family meeting in which you discuss the rules with responsibilities, rewards and penalties? Put them up clearly for all to see. Then you don’t get into the arguments of what’s fair and what isn’t. Children need boundaries to feel loved, even though they kick against them endlessly!
Of course, you are likely to feel frustrated, angry and upset at times, all totally normal feelings and you don’t have to bury them! But find a suitable time and place to allow those emotions to be voiced. Share them with a trusted friend, or even writing those feelings down can be really cathartic.
Feelings of loneliness and isolation
My feelings of guilt and shame led me to withdraw from friends. I felt so ashamed of failing in my relationships. I was so worried they would reject and judge me. But it was a real mistake as I needed that network of good friends around me, especially at such a difficult time.
Good friends will be there for you, so don’t automatically assume they won’t want to know you. Be sure to ask for help when you need it. Pride doesn’t get a dripping tap fixed or that heavy piece of furniture moved. And we all need that friend to share a glass of something with when we feel low.
A word of warning here. Be careful about who you share your thoughts and feelings with; there is nothing worse than sharing with the person who loves gossip, which gets back to the wrong person. Because I didn’t have that network of friends, I felt very lonely. I had to start afresh as on both occasions I moved quite some distance.
When we feel isolated, we can hark back to the relationship and all those feelings can emerge again. Did I really try hard enough? Was it really my fault? That nagging, doubting voice plays havoc with feelings at these times and can distort the trust.
I will never be happy again
Those feelings are bound to come up, and the danger here is that you become involved with someone completely unsuitable who shows some attention. Or you may decide that you never want to meet anyone else because relationships only end in disaster. Healing from the wounds of your last relationship is bound to take time. So be kind to yourself.
Seek professional help if you are struggling. Often someone impartial can help you see a different perspective.
Wendy Capewell is a Relationship Specialist, working with both individuals and couples to create better relationships with themselves and others. We each need to love and accept ourselves for who we are.
Author ~ podcaster ~ speaker~ coach.
Changing the world one person at a time.