If I had a penny for every time I’d been asked or asked myself this question, I’d have a very full penny jar.
Truth is that there is no one thing, no magic moment, no magic answer in fact. The closest thing I can give to an answer is that you just do. You know. Deep down in your heart, in the dead silence of the night, you just know. You absolutely know. The real question is how you find the courage to listen to yourself, allow yourself to feel the fear and yes you guessed it, do it anyway.
I was talking to my partner about this the other day. My current partner that is. The man who will probably be my next, and I hope last, husband. The this being how you know and when you know, what you do with what you know. Having both been in this situation previously, we both likened it to being like letting a genie out of a bottle. Once you know, you know, and you can’t unknow. You can pretend, we have all been there, put more lippy on, slap a brave face on, buy another handbag, tidy up the house, talk to your best friend, have another drink. You can pretend, but once you know you can try as hard as you might, you can’t unknow.
I’m starting to ramble now and talk in circles. What am I talking about? leaving your marriage, relationship, partnership. That’s the knowing I’m talking about and that’s the most often question I get asked. How do you know? which, roughly translated, means how do I know?
How did they know?
“I knew when I got married that it was all wrong. I knew but yet I still did it. Why? because everyone expected me to, and it felt like too late to back out”
“I spend a lot of time running round making sure everyone has what they need but what about me?”
“My boss rang and asked me to take on a new client. I was so excited and the first person I thought about and wanted to tell was my friend Richard. I knew he’d be excited too”
“I told him I was fed up but he said he was happy and I needed to sort myself out”
“I spend a lot of time walking around on eggshells, trying to stop him getting niggly with me”
“I knew when we argued, he used to storm out of the room and would sulk and ignore me for days afterwards”
“All he ever does is sit around on his x box talking to his friends. I’m surrounded by people but I feel lonely”
“he spends all his money on his car, he never thinks about what the kids need, never mind me”
“I got some vouchers for my birthday and bought myself a new coat in the sales that I had wanted for ages. I came home all excited but when I showed him he said that coat makes you look fat”
“he doesn’t like any of my friends so I don’t see them as much now. It’s not worth the grief”
“we’ve been together for 20 years, I can’t leave now. Where would I go?”
So, what about you? Ask yourself these questions
1. Does he do small but persistently irritating things that he’s not willing to change?
2. Over time have you found out about things like debts, ex partners or other big issues that you didn’t know when you first got together?
3. Do you still trust each other?
4. Do you have the same or similar sexual appetite, is this something that you can talk about?
5. Do you have the same values and care about the same things?
6. Has the relationship become stale, with one of you growing and changing and the other unwilling to?
7. When you make plans are they for you or you and the kids, but no longer include him?
8. Do you still have fun together?
9. Do you fantasize about life with someone, anyone else?
10. Can you envisage a future with him?
11. Do you have lots of history and memories together but find that the 2 of you feel like strangers these days?
Does this sound familiar? Any of it? If so, then here are some ideas.
1. If you can, talk to your partner and tell them how you feel. Talk specifically about how you want things to change, listen to them speak and if you can, work out a plan together and work at it.
2. If talking doesn’t help then talk again, be even more specific about what you need, spend some regular uninterrupted time together, a walk, a takeaway, a film, a night out.
3. If talking together doesn’t work, then think about whether relationship counselling might.
4. Set a time frame to work on the relationship. If the work you are putting in hasn’t worked after a year then ask yourself if it ever will.
5. If you feel like your options to keep the relationship going have run out then work out what your options are, speak to a trusted friend or family member and explain how you feel and talk through what you want to do.
6. Find someone who has been in the same place and ask then what they did, how they knew and what they did next.
7. Think about what you need, would counselling help?
8. If the relationship is over and not retrievable then think about how you are going to end it. Do you need legal advice? housing advice? mediation? help to sort out arrangements for the kids?
9. If you decide to split then what sort of split do you want to work towards? what are your red lines and boundaries?
10. How will you tell key people, kids, family and friends? Is this something that you can do together?
11. Where will you live, when will you go, how will you make that happen? who can help?
12. If you are in a marriage or civil partnership then who will initiate the legal process to end the relationship?
13. If you are leaving a house, then think about what you need, what you REALLY need, more than what you want – some things will be precious and unequivocally important to you to take with you and some things are not worth fighting about.
14. If you have children then what sort of relationship do you want to have with your ex and how long will you need to have it? If your kids are primary school aged or younger then you will have years ahead of navigating handovers, family events, medical issues, parents evenings, birthdays, Christmas, school holidays, school plays……..
15. Think about what sort of split you want to have and choose the solicitor that will help you have it. Amicable? choose a solicitor that specialises in amicable divorce.
16. Need help to sort out financial issues or arrangements with the kids, find a mediator.
17. As much as possible, keep your ego and your emotion outside of the legal or mediation room. Of course, its an emotional and difficult time and you may think that you need to “win” at all costs. Ask yourself in winning, what are you losing.
18. Approach meetings with your solicitor or mediator with specific objectives in mind, do your research and if appropriate take a list of questions that you want to discuss. Make the best use of the time and don’t be afraid to challenge if you are not getting what you need from the meeting. Take the advice, as the expertise is what you are paying for, and its built on years on experience of sitting with similar people in similar places.
19. Take your emotions to your friends, your family, your therapist, your coach. Pay someone to listen to you if you need, but don’t take emotional content to your solicitor or mediator. In most cases its not what they are trained for or interested in getting involved in and in some cases it’ll cost you dearly.
20. Once you are through the process and the dust has settled then take the time to look after yourself, surround yourself with things and people that make you cheery. Be wary of the energy vampires, the friends that want to hear every gory detail and to keep you in reliving the situation. Be wise in who and what you invest your time in.
21. Be gentle with yourself and expect to be working your way through the aftermath for a while to come. Don’t rush at too much endorphin creating things, alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping as a way of escaping uncomfortable feelings.
22. Take some time to stop and dream of what might come next. What do you want to do that you’ve never had the chance to think about before ? what colour do you want to paint your bedroom, what flowers do you want to plant in a window box, what sort of relationship and life might you want to create in future?
If you want to work this through with someone else, at the start, middle or end of the process then I’d love to hear from you. Get in touch at www.wildflowerfire.co.uk.
I’m here to offer coaching, supportive challenge and to help you navigate the situation you are in, alongside whatever legal and mediation help you employ to help you manage your legal and financial situation.