Divorce isn’t always painful.
But what is always part of a divorce or separation is loss.
Divorce is all about loss.
There’s no avoiding it. Even if separation or the end of the marriage is something that you consciously wanted and perhaps initiated, you can’t avoid the loss.
Loss becomes a problem that arises when we try to avoid the unavoidable.
Because it’s that fear of loss that keeps many women stuck in a marriage that’s run its course for far too long. Or, on the other side of the coin, leave too soon because what they fear is the loss of themselves.
Just the brain going its thing.
We human beings are biologically wired for connection with our family of origin and caregivers.
This is a natural survival instinct to get our basic needs met. As children, we learn to behave in a way that helps us get those needs to be met. On one level, this is about food, warmth, safety, protection, consistency and most of all, a responsive presence.
David Richo refers to these needs as the 5 A’s: affection, attention, allowing, acceptance and appreciation.
The way we adapt to get our needs met forms the basis of our attachment style, which is carried over into our adult lives and intimate partner relationships. It is when these needs are met that we feel loved.
Love and loss
So what has all this got to do with the loss in divorce?
When a relationship is ending, or there is a perceived end on the horizon, your mind is acutely aware of what it picks up and translates as a threat to your survival, and then the limbic system kicks in.
In the brain’s limbic system, the amygdala connects memories to emotions. The hippocampus helps to store sensory information about experiences to form long-term memories, how we remember how things are and how they relate to one another.
When the limbic system is activated, you are in survival mode, flight, fight or freeze, and your behaviour will adapt to mitigate or prevent the loss.
Burying your head in the sand
This can happen in the most subtle of ways.
- Burying your head in the sand, forgetting the signs of an affair to avoid discovering the truth.
- You overgive and make yourself vulnerable to burnout and resentment.
- Denying that you have needs that aren’t getting met.
- You’re overly positive about your partner and don’t want to talk about the negative that’s hurting you.
- Excuse yourself for challenging the behaviours which cross boundaries in your relationship.
- Avoid the tough conversations about the fragility of your relationship.
But paradoxically, the pain that we are avoiding in letting go and confronting loss manifests anyway.
Staying too long in a relationship that doesn’t work is ultimately a form of pain.
It’s easy to say that you should choose a different path and leave what isn’t working. But you might find yourself lingering in adequate or untenable situations to not experience the loss.
So what exactly might we fear losing if we choose a divorce?
The 1st loss that goes with a break-up
The primary loss is the loss of your partner.
Most people do not anticipate separation when they commit to marriage or a long-term relationship.
Regardless of what your relationship looks like in the future, something will have come to an end. Things that previously underscored your connection, like love, loyalty, intimacy, attention, caring, and obligation, likely will no longer exist.
When there is a primary loss as disruptive as the end of a relationship, there is often a domino effect of subsequent losses.
21 losses you might not expect in divorce
The secondary losses are all those that come with the loss of the marriage.
Here are 21 things you might fear losing when a marriage ends.
Who are you if you’re no longer married? What is your name?
Loss of income, lifestyle, choice and opportunity
A persona attached to being a wife and having a particular form of a family unit may have given you a sense of personal purpose.
Your role in your family, community, business, workplace
Mutual friends who may choose sides or abandon you both.
Your own birth family if you feel they don’t support you and your in-laws
- A home
Representing familiarity, security and safety
- A relationship with a child
For some, alienation is a real risk, but it’s not just about that. Fears about your child forming a relationship with your ex’s new partner or just the child you were used to seeing every day – now you won’t. Loss of closeness with a child struggling with their parent’s divorce.
- A community
Will this mean you have to move away from a network or support system that is vital to you?
- A business
Losing a business, you share with your partner or having to sell a home where your workspace is in the garden.
- Your energy
Having to do things on your own
A vision of the future that hasn’t played out as you had hoped. The loss of hopes and dreams can be overwhelming.
- A religion/faith
That might not accept divorce
Even if you’re not getting on, the loss of the relationship may mean you have to confront fears of being alone.
- Someone to share responsibility with.
Of the direction of your life and your children
- A standard of living
How will one pot will now stretch when divided into two
- Someone with whom you can have memories of a shared history
Of traditions, experiences and memories, like family trips or holidays.
- Someone to support you in difficult times.
One of these things on its own might not necessarily be something you feel that will overwhelm you. That depends on the meaning the particular loss would have for you. But with a few added together, it’s the cumulative effect.
Because with loss goes grief.
That grief might feel overwhelming.
Grief is the natural process that marks the ending of something.
David Kessler the grief expert, states that
Grief is the recognition of that change, but it’s also the loss of a connection. And at its heart, grief is love; it’s love for whatever we had that is now gone.
No one wants to feel grief. We are likely to talk ourselves out of it. But the grief doesn’t go away. It goes underground, into the unconscious, and it waits for a time to resurface.
Contemplating divorce is a time when our grief is called to emerge.
What to do?
Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers the o’erfraught heart and bids it break. Shakespeare – Macbeth.
If you’re thinking about whether to stay or leave a marriage or going through a breakup, it’s important to allow space to acknowledge the loss, feel and grieve.
Sit with it.
Only when we stop do we notice the feelings that we are trying to avoid creeping in can anything shift, and we can unblock our stuckness,
Sitting with the feelings may be painful, but it is a courageous thing to do.
Our feelings are the gateway to inner wisdom and knowledge. When you give space to these raw and painful feelings, you can access the freedom to make choices about your marriage based on what is best for you and your relationship as opposed to because of fear and avoidance.
There is a loss in a divorce, but you don’t need to get lost in it.
Over To You
If you’re worried about loss in divorce and want a safe space to explore this difficult decision, get in touch for a clarity session. I offer video sessions online via a secure platform.
Or call me today on 07535 864836.
Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear from you.
P.S. PASS IT ON
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© Sandra Harewood 2022
Soul Centred couples therapist, counsellor and Jungian Shadow Work coach Sandra Harewood specialise in working with women and couples stuck at a crossroads in their marriage. Relationships are precious; this is your chance to begin a new journey and experience the connection and intimacy you most deeply desire.
Sandra provides a soulful space for her clients to explore creative solutions to their difficulties and deepen their self-knowledge to discover what keeps them ‘stuck’ in their marriages to create and experience extraordinary relationships.