The emotional struggles of separating from your partner

When a couple decides to separate, there are both emotional and practical difficulties to work through. This article takes a look at the most common, and where you might seek help if it becomes too much to handle on your own.

The emotional toll of separating from a partner

Deciding to separate from a partner can be emotionally traumatic. Many people admit to feeling depressed and anxious. They often say the realisation that their relationship is no longer tenable, and the resulting separation is akin to going through a grieving process.

The emotional toll of losing a significant other, and the security of being together may provide shouldn’t be underestimated.

There are 5 commonly recognised stages of grief, and being aware of them can be helpful.


This is a common defence mechanism used to buffer the shock of your reality. Not accepting a separation needs to happen can numb emotions. This first stage of grief is only temporary, helping you to deal with the initial pain.


Eventually, you cannot deny your reality any longer, and the pain re-emerges. As you are feeling vulnerable, anger can often rear its head. This can be directed at objects, strangers, friends and family.


Once anger wears itself out, you may be left feeling helpless and vulnerable. A common reaction to this is to bargain with yourself or rationalise your situation. This often takes the form of “if only…” statements, trying to make a deal so the pain can subside.


Sadness and regret are the two emotions often associated with depression. You may be worrying about the financial costs of your separation, and feeling guilty about isolating yourself from people that depend on you.

Seek clarification and reassurance from the right people when you need it. Depression can also be more subtle while you privately prepare to physically and emotionally separate.


In order to begin to get all your affairs in order and start to look forward, accepting your reality is most helpful. Allow yourself to feel; be angry, be sad and allow any other emotion without judgement so you can process what is happening at your own speed.

Resisting often prolongs the healing process, which will keep you in emotional turmoil for longer. Friends and family who will really listen to you can help you organise and cope with your thoughts. Alternatively, professional help can be sought at this difficult time.

It is good to acknowledge that just like other difficulties in life, they affect everyone differently. Try to understand that your partner may be at a different stage in the process than you, dealing with different emotions at different times.

This is why it is often a good idea to physically separate while legally deciding how responsibilities and assets will be decided. With so many emotions bubbling to the surface, it is often not a good idea to be around your partner.

Practical considerations when separating

Practical considerations in separating
Photo: VadimGuzhva, Bigstock

When you initially separate it is a good idea to have an agreement in place to cover essential finances and living arrangements. This is especially important if you have children, to cause the least possible disruption to their lives.

It is unlikely you’ll agree on how assets, finances and custody will ultimately be settled at this early stage, but a putting in place temporary arrangements can help to minimise disruption.

Initial things to consider:

  • Where dependants will reside
  • Custody arrangements
  • Financial arrangements for everyday expenses
  • How you wish to communicate this to family and friends
  • Outstanding bills or debts
  • Who will reside in the house
  • Rent or mortgage payments
  • How assets will be divided

If there is a Family Relationship Centre in your area or other community-based services they may be able to assist you in this regard.

The next step is to decide and agree on a final agreement in respect of how you separation will be dealt with.  At that stage, family lawyers are available to assist and to explain the various ways forward available to you and how to achieve the best and most commercial resolution.

Lawyers can also assist in you reaching agreement on temporary arrangements prior to achieving a final resolution of your matter.

George Leonidas
George Leonidas
With over 25 years of experience in commercial law, I have practised in most areas of the law, and have handled defacto property cases, family law matters, Wills and Estates, Leases, Sales and Purchases of Business, but to name a few.
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