End of a relationship

Many things can lead to a divorce or break-up, and likewise, people react to it in many different ways. The nature of the relationship and things leading to the break-up affect how you accept the new situation. For some, the end of a relationship may be a relief after a difficult relationship, for others, it may mean deep sorrow and insecurity. Both partners also process the break-up or divorce at their own speed, meaning that they can have very different approaches to it.

“A divorce is a big change in many ways. A couple breaks up on the level of emotions, finances and assets as well as social relationships.”

The end of a relationship may feel like a failure and a disappointment. It can cause shame and guilt and affect one's self-esteem. What did I do wrong? How could I have prevented this? Changes in life can cause a so-called life situation crisis referring to the turning point between different phases of life and the related experiences. Letting go of old always involves grief.

Separation and the related emotions may feel chaotic. The new life situation may cause feelings of loneliness, feelings of rejection and despair as well as fear. How will I make it? How am I going to cope financially? The end of a relationship may cause a great emotional shock especially if it is unexpected or the result of infidelity, for example. It can be a traumatic crisis. Seeking help for processing a traumatic crisis is a good idea.

Also the effects of the separation on children cause worry. Every child reacts differently to their parents breaking up. The break-up on its own does not necessarily have the biggest effect on the child, because from the point of view of the child, the emotional environment in which they grow and develop is what is relevant. The situation in the family may be difficult for the child already before divorce. Long-term problems most commonly result from situations where there have been difficult issues in the child's family for a longer time already, such as continuous loud fighting between parents or domestic violence.

“Children may present stronger symptoms after divorce if the divorce was very difficult or if one parent drops out of the life of the child.”

Children must be protected from disagreements between spouses. It is important that parents are able to cooperate, because good relationships with both parents, uniform raising by both parents and a loving atmosphere help the child. A divorce ends the marriage, but it does not eliminate family or parenthood.

Read more on children and divorce and explaining about divorce to children from the Family Federation and MLL sites.

Grieving over a divorce and processing it may last a long time

Grieving over a divorce is normal and should be left to run its course. It is ok to feel sorry for a loss. Read more about grief. The end of a long-term relationship may require a complete rebuilding of one's identity. During the grieving process, a person lets go of the old little by little and turns towards the future.

Someone may have built their personality strongly on the relationship during a long marriage. At the end of the relationship, they also have to consider who they really are, what their position in the community is and how will the relationship with friends develop. Later, a separation may even present itself as a source of a new kind of strength, just like recovery from any difficult crisis.

“I had been with my partner for years before we broke up. At first it felt like I was not going to make it. I didn't even remember what it was like to live alone. It was even difficult to learn to say 'I' instead of 'we'. At some point I noticed that I was doing all right. Life now feels pretty good already and sometimes I think about a new relationship. But it may still be too soon for it.”

The emotional turmoil caused by break-up may, however, be so strong that processing the event kind of gets stuck. This may be seen as bitterness, continuous blaming of the ex-partner or as a strong fear of failure that can prevent new relationships or continuing them. Seeking help for processing the situation is always a good idea, and the whole family may need support after a divorce.

Help for family crises is available from municipal family counselling, for example. In some municipalities, only families with children have access to family or couples counselling. If you don't have children or don't have access to municipal counselling otherwise, you can seek help from a crisis clinic, either alone or as a couple. Regional crisis centres. SOS Crisis Centre. Family counselling centres of the church also organise divorce groups and discussion help for divorced people.

You can also talk about break-up on the national crisis hotline.

Eroretki.fi service offers a possibility to evaluate your situation after divorce as well as issues related to children.

Help and information in case of divorce or separation:

Family Federation
Parent's guide (in Finnish) of Neuvokeskus
Lapsitiedon keskus
Family counselling centres of the church
Municipal family counselling
The Finnish Association for Child and Family Guidance
Suomen uusperheellisten liitto (only in Finnish)
Internet groups for students for processing feelings after the end of a relationship are found on the Nyyti ry site.

Also used as reference:

Vanhempien ero 7-12-vuotiaan lapsen kokemuksena ja kohtaamispaikkana perheterapiassa [Divorce experienced by 7–12-year-olds and as a meeting place in family counselling, in Finnish] (Leivo). Perheterapia magazine 3/2009.