Want out but don’t know where to start?

You’re in a relationship that you know is no longer working or worse yet hasn’t been working for a while, and you feel stuck! So many of us find ourselves in a relationship where we live together, have children and/or are intertwined with business or other major commitments; and we do not know where to begin to remove ourselves from the situation with all the other complications that are involved. 

The good news you can do it, you just need to take the first (large) step.  But what is the first step? Well, you have come to the right place to find out.

Step One-Slow down and assess your part.

You probably weren’t expecting this one given the tone of how this article started, but I assure you, this is the most important step.  Every relationship has a pattern to it, or a rhythm to it if you like.  The patterns in our relationships are the problem, and each one of us has a part to play.  Now, before you read any further, this advice does not refer to domestic violence or any kind of abuse.  Back to what we were talking about…I want you to slow down and identify the pattern(s) in your relationship.  What is your part?  Ask yourself, if I change my part in our pattern/dance, will the relationship dance change?  Let’s talk about an example, if you were to communicate more softly (be less critical), open up more emotionally (talk about what you actually feel and need), and maybe even initiate physical connection consistently (could be a hug or even sex if you like), would your relationship dance change enough for you to re-commit, and re-invest in it?  If yes, book an appointment with one of my excellent psychotherapists to discuss how, if the answer is no, then read on!

Step Two – Build a good support network.

This is a big decision in your life, and you want support you can fall back on. Friends and family can play a major part in this so reach out to those in your circle and let them know what you are going through. Sometimes we also want an unbiased shoulder (so to speak) to cry on and share our feelings, doubts, insecurities, or relationship woes we have been experiencing. This is when therapy can be a big help.  When in your life do you ever have the opportunity to talk about you for 50 minutes uninterrupted, receive no judgement, and be as vulnerable as you like?  Exactly, NEVER!!!  You won’t regret trying out psychotherapy.

Step Three – Tell the other person.

Assuming you are in a relationship that is safe (i.e. the other person has never left you feeling threatened if you left them or has been abusive in the past) the first step is to tell the other person you want out. If you are sure about this decision then you owe it to them to be direct (yes, it will be painful for you both) but it is the best way to not lead anyone on or leave any confusion. Often it is easier when you can provide the person with a reason for exiting the relationship.  I don’t usually recommend taking a “break” from the relationship unless both of you are being very intentional about working on your own patterns, and then reassess where you are at in terms of the relationship.  

Step Four – Negotiate 

If you can reasonably get along then negotiate amongst each other first who gets the house or if you both will move out, what works best for the children and schedules if kids are involved.  The research is clear, how you speak to, or about the other parent in front of the kids directly impacts their wellbeing.  Divorce in and of itself does not cause the harm, it’s how you behave thereafter that determines a child’s emotional health and wellbeing.  Friendly is ideal, but being cordial and respectful is good enough.

Step Five – Find legal advice or seek mediation. 

If finances are tight sometimes our workplace offers free legal aide. Contact your human resource team to find out (rest assured it is confidential). Depending on where you live you can also find free or discounted legal aid; also, your support network may also have referrals they can provide. You are not alone; many people have been through this milestone in their life and can share resources they’ve used. There are many legal routes you can take; you do not necessarily need to each get your own lawyers and litigate-a fancy word for fighting that makes your lawyers more money and leaves you with less.  Since we don’t want that, you may want to consider mediation, or mediation done by a practicing family lawyer, or you may want to consider a collaborative legal process.  The cheapest option is to negotiate amongst yourselves, complete the paperwork through the court system, and file the necessary documents yourselves.  It is always advisable to have a lawyer review any agreements you create.  Also, if you own property together you may want to consider having the property appraised or have a real estate agent provide you with their opinion and services. 

Step Six – Find peace.

I adopted a thought-that I think is quite profound to be honest-after going through a difficult time personally.  The thought: no matter what struggle I face in life; I know I will be ok.  How will I know I’ll be ok you may ask.  Well, I know this because I feel loved in my life, and as long as I feel loved, I can face any struggle: relational, financial, spiritual or physical; I hope you feel the same way.  When we know we will be ok, I think we can face any transition in a healthy way, by facing uncertainty, pain, loneliness, anger, and ultimately forgiveness (of self and other).  

If you are unsure this is the final solution for you both, relationship and individual counselling can help.