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How Long Is Too Long? Taking Time To Break Up

Society often tells us that we should rush to end a relationship - but we may risk jeopardizing our own emotions in the process.

Image by Helena Peixoto licensed under Creative Commons.
Image by Helena Peixoto licensed under Creative Commons.

According to the rules of society, we should move on after a break up as soon as possible. No matter the amount of sensible advice we receive – such as taking one month to recover for every year that we have been in a relationship – the world tells us we should keep on pushing for happiness with someone, fast.

Celebrity culture is very much at the root of that belief that in order to feel whole, we should have and meet our “other half”. Those under the limelight seem to do it so effortlessly: ending a marriage that lasted for years and, suddenly getting caught kissing some other famous person at a bar seems so easy. But I suspect there is a reason for those suspiciously natural encounters: being single looks ugly.

When I got separated from my husband, it took me over two years to actually get a divorce. And every time I met someone who asked me how I was doing, it didn’t take long until I heard something along the lines of: “so, did you get a divorce yet?” or “it’s about time you signed up for Tinder!”

It seems to me that people take for granted and misunderstand the meaning of separation. My observation from people that I know that got divorced is that people tend to use that time to solely consider what financial and custodial arrangements should be made (if children or animals are involved), or drown the pain by avoiding contact with the end with all manner of destructive behaviors.

How can we make decisions that will impact our lives post-marriage positively if we don’t take time to think?

It is difficult to make good decisions when you try to hurry past separation and segway straight into divorce. That is because these decisions can often be stained with powerful emotions like sadness, rage, regret, shame.

Considering your feelings for the other person as you consider what arrangements should be made was also important for me. I decided to separate because it was impossible to stay together, but still had strong feelings for my ex-husband. As well as love, I had a strong sense of duty, which could have been detrimental to any material split or any kind of rational decisions if I decided to hurry.

I am not saying here that my delay in getting a divorce was a calm, level-headed, premeditated decision that ensured a smooth split. There is a lot more to separations than just deciding who keeps the sofa.

I was also waiting for my ex to do something to “save” our marriage, to come and invite himself to watch a movie with me in the small apartment I rented after the initial split, to care for me when I was so ill I couldn’t get out of bed. But it was too late: he had already started a relationship with one of my friends.

Oftentimes I was questioned whether that time between my separation and my divorce was too long, if I didn’t think that time was wasted. I was in my mid-thirties then and I could have lived so much instead of putting my life “on hold” for that period of time, they said.

Today I can see that critics, who made assessments about my marital status without even considering my emotions, were wrong. I needed time to process my grief and sorrow about what was happening, I needed time to understand who I was and who I wanted to be post-relationship, I needed to pause to decide what was important for me to keep going forward – including things in the material sense, but also things that are much more subjective than anyone could understand.

I used to think that the old saying that ‘time heals everything’ was a clichè, but only when I allowed myself to be carried by it that I could finally understand what that piece of traditional wisdom truly meant.

Despite what society tells us that we should defy time and rush to live the new, pausing to look inward could be the way forward – and even if others disagree, doing at your own pace is perfectly okay.



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