relationships - dating - love - intimacy - health
The way you think about your relationships, the skills and attitudes you bring to them and the time and effort you put in can make all the difference. People are social creatures and relationships matter to us. We enjoy them, we cry over them and we're curious about how to get our relationships to be the way we want them. How well your relationships work can have a big impact on how satisfied you feel with life. Stimulating, resilient, satisfying relationships with partners, friends and family rank high on many people's wish list for a happy life.
Some relationships end suddenly, some erode over time. Whatever the circumstances, breaking up is a bleak time for all involved. A relationship psychotherapist looks at how to survive the fall-out.


Accepting it's over
For most people, it's a shock when a relationship breaks down. Even if you've known for some time that things aren't working out, the final decision to part will stay with you for a long time.

Even once it's over, it can take months for reality to sink in. During this time it's common to find yourself fantasising about reunion and reconciliation - or recriminations.

What went wrong?
Understanding why your relationship failed is the first step towards recovery. Many people get locked into questioning: Whose fault it is? What did I do wrong? How could they do that to me? This is understandable, but a more constructive approach is to focus on the relationship, rather than individual responsibility. It can be more helpful to think about these kind of questions:

* How were things when we first met?
* What attracted us to each other?
* What made our relationship good?
* How have we changed?
* What external factors have influenced our relationship?
* What has stopped us overcoming our differences?

Although the answers may be upsetting, the greater the understanding, the easier it'll be to let go and move on. During this time you'll experience many emotions, including anger, sadness, guilt, despair and confusion; you can expect good days and bad days.

Holding it together
On top of the emotional turmoil that accompanies the end of a relationship, there's a host of practical issues to address. These might include:

The children - providing support and time, access arrangements, childcare, telling the school, seeing in-laws, birthday and Christmas arrangements.

This is undoubtedly one of the toughest times to be a parent, but your children need to know what's happening. You may think that hiding the severity of the situation protects them, but it actually leaves children feeling confused and may drive them away as they feel they can't trust you.

The amount of information you give them will depend on their ages, but they should be encouraged to ask as many questions as they need. Remember, you don't have to hide your feelings to reassure them that they're loved. In fact, sharing appropriately what you feel will help them make sense of their own emotions and feel OK about showing them.

Research increasingly shows the negative impact on children of separation, but the way it's handled is the key indicator of how well children adapt.

Money and property - who lives where, surviving on less income, managing the finances, who gets what in the home, pets.

Friends and family - telling parents/siblings/extended family members/friends, deciding how much to say and who should tell whom, maintaining friendships and relationships with in-laws.

Personal survival - which friends can support you practically and/or emotionally, how you'll create space to grieve, whether you might benefit from counselling, building relaxation into your schedule, treats can you reward yourself with when times are tough.

This last section is often the most neglected. After a relationship breakdown, many people find themselves struggling with feelings of low self-esteem and self-confidence, and with so many things to organise it can be easy to forget to give yourself time for your own feelings. Be gentle with yourself and gratefully receive all the support you can get from friends and family.