Surviving separation

Geoff Price desribes some of the common traps men fall into on separation, and how to avoid them.

Two thirds of separations are initiated by women. Most of these women are prepared emotionally and logistically; the men involved are often unprepared and surprised. Not being in control of the decision to separate makes it harder for men to cope.

In nearly all cases, men move out - often to live alone where loneliness, disruption and stress result. Their contact with their children is dramatically reduced. Financial pressures increase as men often need to support two households. Many men feel an enormous sense of loss - relationship, children, house, assets and financial security - things that they have struggled for years to create.

Due to their male conditioning, many men have trouble contacting and expressing their feelings. Men typically see seeking support as the hallmark of a weak, deficient or defeated male, have a very narrow emotional support base, have few close friends and are often living alone, isolated and withdrawn.

So it's a myth that for most separated men it's party time. It's a really tough time and there are many dangers and traps to avoid, chief among them.......

Living alone - loneliness and isolation make coping with separation difficult.

Turning to drugs and alcohol or physical violence

Repressing emotions. Failing to grieve the lost relationship

Feeling excess guilt or denying any contribution to the marriage breakdown

Rushing into new relationships, before the old one is understood

Believing the "system" is so biased against me, there's no use trying

Thinking: If I walk away from my kids, I'll be able to start all over again with them later

Putting your job at risk by poor performance

Not exercising or eating a healthy balanced diet

Failure to seek legal advice early in the piece

The good news is that you don't have to lose your shirt, your kids or your life if you learn from the experience of men who have been to that dark place and found their way back to healthy functioning, peace of mind and clear thinking. Here are some hints.

Don't divorce your kids. Pursue your right to father.

Be honest about the situation that caused the separation or divorce - to the extent that children can understand.

Present your ex-spouse in a favourable light. Nothing is gained by making disparaging remarks. Children have a strong need to be proud of their parents who are the foundation of their lives.

Assure the children they are not responsible for the relationship breakdown.

Do not encourage the children to hope that you and their mother will get back together, and make sure they understand that although the relationship failed, there is nothing wrong with their parents.

Reassure the children that they will be cared for, loved and supported.

Settle differences with your ex-spouse privately, do not use children to bargain.

Allow yourself to grieve

Don't try to struggle through on your own, tough it out or simply put your head down at work. Grief is the emotional response to any loss. Separation can involve the loss of relationship, children, property and possessions. In order to heal we need to grieve. One needs to work through grief's emotions in order to let go of the dead relationship, stabilise our personal compass and heal. Unresolved painful experiences can prevent you moving on in your maturing process and can be the forerunner of a wide range of mental and physical disorders.

In separation, the four tasks of the healing process that can lead to mental and spiritual growth are accepting the reality of the loss, experiencing the pain of grief. adjusting to the environment without the lost person and things and moving on with life which includes reinvesting in another lifestyle or relationship.

It is important to express your grief, guilt, anger and confusion. Pain is a limited commodity and when shared does decrease. Through sharing and remembering healing can begin. In grieving, people sometimes think they are going crazy; it is important to know that your responses are normal to an abnormal situation and that grief is a unique experience for each person.

Learn about yourself

Separation is an opportunity to gain insight and a deeper understanding of yourself and your relationships. If you leave a marriage without working on your own deficiencies and damaging patterns of relating you will inevitably take them into new relationships. Worse, you will not only take your hang-ups along with you, you will also take new ones developed by the broken marriage.

For many men separation is an opportunity to revisit their own beliefs and attitudes and assess how they work or don't work for them, this can open the way for insight personal growth and better choices for the future.

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