Archive for abandonments

What makes us return to a partner, after separation, even if we know it’s not right?

  • If it is very soon after the break-up, it may be that the grief and loss feel overwhelming and unmanageable. This may be particularly true if we have experienced other significant losses in our lives. A panic that we are unable to cope with the sadness, grief and loneliness means we rush back into the security of being part of a couple.
  • It can be that we have suffered insecurities in childhood, or experienced distressing rejections or abandonments. We would prefer to be in a relationship, even if there are difficulties, rather than let that pain resurface.
  • We can fear that we lack the resilience to face life as a single person. We worry that, alone, we cannot manage social situations, or handle finances, or deal with the challenge of being a single parent. We might bargain that accepting the problems in a relationship is a price worth paying.
  • It can be hard, sometimes, to believe that we deserve a different kind of relationship. If we have issues of low self-esteem or a weak sense of identity, it can mean we accept half-measures and are grateful for any attention – however meagre or negative. Feeling ‘not-good-enough’, means we can settle for ‘second-best’ (or, at worst, something destructive or even damaging).
  • We dread that time is running out, that we may not find another partner, or that we might lose the opportunity to have a child.
  • We can repress our own unhappiness rather than contemplate dismantling a relationship which has big emotional investment and commitment. It feels unbearable to face the acute distress of our partner or children. We fear our potential to cause destruction. We are overwhelmed by guilt; with the responsibility of splintering the couple or family. We feel such shame that we patch up the relationship in order to avoid criticism and condemnation from family members, friends, community, or church.
  • Working with a relationship counsellor offers the opportunity to explore our needs and emotions more calmly. It can be a relief to untangle our confused, often unconscious, and often contradictory, impulses. What is being suppressed and avoided?
  • We may choose to stay. Counselling can then help reveal and clarify the dynamics of the relationship. We can be stuck in damaging patterns of behaviour and need to contemplate the changes required. As we address the issues, we can begin to take responsibility for our own role in the difficulties. How can we respond differently?
  • However, if the decision is to separate, counselling can help us manage the disorientating feelings of loss and our fears for the future. Alternative support networks and resources will need to be identified and established. New boundaries and terms of relating will need negotiating. With support, by examining our worst fears, by identifying our best hopes, and by establishing our strengths, a decision to move on and start again, will be more sustainable.