The Leaver and the Left
When the decision is finally reached that you are to separate, it is not unusual for couples to be in very different places emotionally and psychologically. Although people go through similar stages of adjustment, couples often go through them at different times and with different degrees of intensity.
Understanding how this affects you will help you to avoid some of the common misunderstandings that arise during this difficult stage.
The person initiating the split is likely to have been unhappy in the relationship for a long time before the actual date of separation. During this time they will typically have gone through stages of dissatisfaction, sadness and worry. Increasingly they will detach themselves emotionally from the relationship. By the time the split happens they will have worked through much of the emotional loss of the relationship. They will be moving on after a break up much quicker than their partner. They may experience great guilt and sadness but also relief. Significantly, they are several miles down the road of adjusting to this major change in their life.
The person who has not initiated the separation, the ‘left’, may have had no idea that the relationship was in such difficulty. They might accept that the relationship was not great but perhaps thought it was a just a stage that most couples experience from time to time. Their reaction is shock, disbelief, hope for reconciliation and anger. Their life has been turned upside down and the process of adjusting psychologically and emotionally to the separation is only just beginning. Significantly, they are at the start of the road that they may not even want to walk down.
What this all means
The leaver, who is psychologically prepared to move on, may not understand why the other is so emotional. He or she may be disappointed that their offer of friendship is being rejected. They may complain that their ex is not accepting the reality and getting on with things. He or she will become frustrated and impatient for decisions to start being made about the future.
For the left however, this emotional stage is more intense and lasts longer. The left may feel that their ex is cold and unfeeling and that their distress is not being understood. They may have lots of questions to ask about why the relationship has ended which they are not getting answers to. Their feelings of rejection are intensified by their ex seeming to want to move on as quickly as possible. They may feel that they are being forced into thinking about issues that they are not ready to deal with yet. It’s too painful for them to be friends, what they need right now is to be left alone.
Not understanding your different emotional states can create problems in communicating which adds further complications to an already difficult and stressful situation.
Our tips and advice section of this site has ideas and resources that can help you when dealing with separation, including advice on life after separation.