Separating is a similar task to staying together. It requires empathy and if not empathy at least understanding or at the very least cooperation.

Partners may grow apart as they change or have less in common. Or one may have had enough abuse or criticism. Or feel something is missing or not good enough.

One partner usually starts to separate first. Sometimes years before. They have a head start in adjusting to the coming loss. When they are ready they may open the discussion. Or do things to make the other want to separate like over-react to minor incidents.

Separation can mean the loss of way of life, routines, support, caring, friends, family or home. A loss of ones identity as well as a loss of the other person. A loss of existence.

Separating repeats the childhood separation from mother and family and becoming more independent and self sufficient. Feelings of dependence and rebellion may reappear.

A new life has to be constructed by recovering an old identity or making a new one.

friends and family
A marriage or relationship is in our minds and the minds and memories of friends and also in community expectations and customs. At separation all that has to reorganise itself.

The majority of relationships are ended by the female. Many have a new partner waiting in the wings. Their partners are often taken by surprise. Initial disbelief and shock, gives way to a numbness and despair especially if their children leave.

Most newly separated are shaken and apprehensive and withdraw for a while to recover. Many feel hurt or worthless but come around to build a new separated relationship to accommodate their ex-partner and make the most of the change.

On the other hand it is possible to remain merged in conflict long after separation. Perpetuating habitual or ritual conflict and retaining the partner as a repository of badness. Endlessly playing one last game of 'its your fault'.

Those who are locked in conflict while negotiating a separation are easily manipulated by divorce lawyers into protracted and expensive settlement and custody disputes.

Every separation is different. For example some partners are outwardly friendly but defensive with a rigid positive self image, concerned with appearances, and an overriding sense of entitlement. Typically over protective of their children, dictating their needs and using them for self-gratification.

Some, outraged or thwarted take possessions without sadness and deny their partner's existence.

Some who are are still rebelling against an over controlling parent can't say yes and are manipulative and evasive to resist being swamped.

Some with little empathy may be slow to understand someone else well enough to reach an agreement. Often their partner is easily replaced as they are just a projection of fantasies to be be cast aside when reality begins to intrude. The relationship may have been exciting or glamorous but without real intimacy or caring.

Some have low self esteem and feel negative and critical towards others and so fear and expect criticism and dislike.

Some who are passive and dependent and don't take any initiative to be intimate may take time to accept that there has been a separation.

Whatever their upbringing and style of relationship when couples are acknowledged equally by a mediator and have the space to listen to each other they become more flexible and conciliatory and able to stop to work out the best interests of themselves, friends and family .

Take it in turns to listen and exchange feelings, ideas and preferences as outlined in the conflict resolution pages to regain empathy and find common ground. Or find a meditor to help take it in turns and help translate what is being said, perhaps in ways suggested in the awareness therapy pages.

severe conflict
Severe conflict is more difficult to resolve. A small percentage of partners who have been traumatised in childhood are extremely conflictual. They may relentlessly campaign against their ex, use their children as instruments and insist they side with them. They may be vindictive, panicky, vengeful, indignant or aggressive but usually mellow with age. They defend their role as a parent which is a key part of their self-concept and try to destroy their partner whatever cost to themselves, their children, and their future. Many become extremely agitated and confused during the height of conflict. They can also make up in an instant. But only so many times.

Separating then requires improving self-esteem and coming back to the real world out of the resentments of the past and the abyss of fears of being wronged or abandoned into real hopes for the future.

If empathy and common ground are fleeting or unstable then self interest can be a focus to begin with. Common interests might be to minimise pain, financial loss, property loss, public humiliation, or loss of family or friends. An armed truce.

A mediator can help by providing a clear safe way to negotiate, possibly without face to face contact if need be. The conflict resolution page could be used as a guide.

The stress and loss pages suggest some ways to handle the effects of the changes.

moving on
If you work out what you want there is a better chance next time of attracting the partner you want to be with. And not winding up abused or abusive or nursing an addict. The awareness therapy pages show ways to get there.