These five tips on starting the process of separating from your husband or common-law partner are based on the Parable of the Pony, and inspired by a reader’s question on my article about the warning signs of a bad relationship.
In Divorce Poison: How to Protect Your Family from Bad-Mouthing and Brainwashing, Dr. Richard A. Warshak offers practical advice on separating and divorcing your partner. We had a divorce in our family, and the toxic fallout has been very painful for everyone – not just the divorcing couple and children. One of the best tips on how to start the separation process is to learn early how to stop the spread of divorce poison.
Here’s what a reader said on 10 Warning Signs of a Bad Relationship: “My boyfriend is so jealous, he sulks when my neighbours come and visit me. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this man but I don’t think it will work. He doesn’t want us to break up but won’t change his attitude, and he threatens me if I talk about leaving him. We’ve had so many breakups during last seven years, and nothing has changed, but I love him so much .Should I go for couples counseling or get help with him?”
In the comments section of that article, I told her what I thought she should do. I think she should start the separation process, and get counseling on her own. If you’re in a similar situation, these tips on how to start the separation process might help you move forward in your life.
But first, here’s the Parable of the Pony…
The Pony Parable
Once upon a time, there were twin brothers. One was a pessimist and one was an optimist. Psychologists decided to test the degree to which their personalities differed by performing an experiment with the boys. In the experiment, the young pessimist was placed in a room filled with all the newest toys. The young optimist was placed in a room filled with horse dung.
The boys were left alone in these rooms for two hours. Then, the psychologists interviewed the boys.
When the psychologists opened the door to the room filled with new toys, they found the young pessimist sitting in the middle of the floor crying. They asked him what was wrong. He spent several hours describing the disappointments, flaws, and weaknesses of each toy.
When the psychologists opened the door to the room filled with horse dung, they found the young optimist laughing and digging through the manure. The shocked psychologists said to the young optimist, “What could you possibly be so happy about?”
The young optimist said with glee, “With all this horse poop, there’s got to be a pony somewhere!”
5 Tips for Starting the Separation Process
It may seem like your relationship and the whole idea of separating from your husband or boyfriend is a heavy, stinky, overwhelming pile of manure. You’re suffocating. Overwhelmed. Sad, discouraged, and depressed that you’re in this position. Your dreams of a good, healthy relationship are over. The last think you want to do is think about how to prepare to walk away from a relationship.
Can you be the optimistic boy in the parable, and see the possibilities in your situation? Can you put this parable into practice? While you’re thinking about my tips on how to start the separation process, keep the optimistic boy and his pony in mind.
Make a plan
I work as a Woman’s Advocate at a transition house for women fleeing domestic violence. One of the main types of support we offer is help creating and sticking to a plan. Sometimes it’s a safety plan, housing plan, job plan, financial plan, divorce plan, or even travel plans. The type of plan women need during the separation process differs from case to case, but one thing is the same: having a plan will help you succeed. What is your plan?
Take your separation one day at a time – step by step
You probably have short-term plans and long-term goals. You may have a dozen things to do, including finding a new place to live, taking care of your children or pets, getting money to leave your husband, packing your things while he’s at work, etc. One of the most important tips on how to start the separation process is to take it one step at a time. Don’t freak yourself out by worrying about the future or regretting the past. Break down your action plan or to-do list into small steps, and take one small step every day. Soon you’ll be taking two or three steps in one day, or even a giant leap!
Remember the pile of manure in the parable? It may take a long time to dig out the pony.
If you’re in the process of separating from your husband or boyfriend, you may not see the blessings for several months or even years. You may experience custody battles, parenting hearings, toxic confrontations, shocking revelations about your marriage or partner, or disappointing reactions from family and friends. Find the balance between being optimistic about the separation process and realistic about the messiness of divorce. Don’t lose hope! You will rebuild your life and things will get better.
Get professional help
Call legal aid. Call divorce mediators, professional counselors, women’s advocates, single moms support groups, divorce care groups, women’s help lines, outreach programs, social services. Help is out there! You need to find it, though. Do your research; don’t think that this article will give you all the information you need on how to start the separation process. You need to get personal guidance on your situation, and you need to protect yourself.
In Thinking About Divorce? 4 Options for Unhappy Married Couples, I share different options on how to start the separation process.
Learn how to make the separation easier
As a Christian, I believe an authentic, living, healthy relationship with God makes everything easier. Life is still painful – and separating is still heartbreaking – but it is easier if you believe you’re being cared for by God. I’m not talking about going to church every week or saying rote prayers every night…I mean an actual relationship with your Creator. I’ve coped with the pain of infertility, family estrangements, foster homes, a schizophrenic mother, and chronic illness by relying on God. I trust Him, believe He cares for me, and know He won’t shield me from painful circumstances. He will, however, walk beside me as I dig through the manure to find my pony.
In 3 Ways to Make Divorce Less Painful, I offer a few ideas on flowing through a separation or breakup. Separating is hard and it hurts – but you can make it easier on yourself and your family members.
I can’t offer advice or counseling on how to start the separation process, but it may help you to write about your experience. Call a crisis line or women’s helpline for extra support. Most importantly, don’t give up!