|Keep Going Strong|
A recent study found that it’s hard for couples to stay together when their friends are breaking up with their partners. It’s not hard to believe, especially if you’ve noticed how friends tend to get married at around the same age and have babies around the same time. All of these milestones are about bravery and seeing someone so close to you take that leap of faith, it sort of says “it’s the right thing to do”. So when you see everyone around you headed for splitsville, you may feel that you’re next. But US therapist and author of Contemplating Divorce, A Step-by-Step Guide to Deciding Whether to Stay or Go, Susan Pease Gadoua argues that it’s not true that separation is contagious because it’s not a disease. “It can happen in clusters, but so do weddings and many other things in life. It can be passive permission for you to get divorced if you’ve been unhappily married,” she explains. But before you decide to call it quits, ask yourself why you are there in the first place. Better yet, why did you choose your partner?
If you’re invested in your relationship, and you committed to it for the right reasons, it can be a wonderful experience. It can enrich your life and bring you great companionship, love, respect and provide a safe environment where you can be yourself without feeling like you’re being judged. It’s important to remember this when you hit a rocky patch with your man. Judy Ramsden, head of counselling at the Family Life Centre in Johannesburg, says, “There’s absolutely no reason to give up on a relationship just because your friends or people around you are splitting up. This should be more of a reason to work harder on your own relationship and to connect with your partner.”
It can feel as if the whole world has an opinion about your relationship, so when storms come, learn to quiet down the noise around you and listen to your inner voice. If you feel your relationship is worth fighting for, then that’s what you need to do. Let go of the fear of failure and be brave enough to admit when things are not going well. Do your best to work things out and explore all options that are open to you, even couples’ therapy. You should also talk to your friends who are breaking up as this can open your eyes a bit about relationships. “The secret here is open, honest communication,” adds Judy.
If the relationships of those close to you are falling apart and you feel that yours is also starting to take strain, your partner should be your best friend. Communicating with him will do your relationship good. It’s important to be there for your friends or family when they are having problems, or even splitting up. But Judy warns that you should avoid bringing their negative energy home with you as it can have an affect on your relationship. If you’re upset by what’s happening around you, rather talk with your partner about how vulnerable it makes you feel so that you both can focus on reassuring each other, instead of looking for problems in your relationship. “It’s best to talk about your fears,” Judy advises.
While you should be honest with your partner, it’s not always a good idea to freely dish out advice to your friends or family if they are experiencing relationship problems. Ntombi, 35, from Johannesburg, learnt this the hard way. “When one of my friends separated from her husband, I was so happy to see her away from him. But they eventually got back together,” she says. “I realised that I wanted her to leave him because the things she used to struggle with are the same issues I deal with in my marriage. I was getting involved in her issues so I wouldn’t have to deal with my own.” It’s best to keep the focus on you and your man.
While taking sides might be tempting, it can get between you and your partner as you will never know the whole story as to why they are splitting. “When friends of ours filed for divorce because the husband cheated, it was such a shock,” says Rose, 32. “I knew the wife really well, so I took her side. I realised that my husband must have known that her man was cheating because they were very close. I was furious that he didn’t say anything and it caused a lot of arguments. “My older sister gave me a stern warning not to destroy my marriage by assuming things. I decided to take the advice before I destroyed all the trust in my relationship. “It turned out that their marriage had been in trouble for a long time.” So accept the fact that only the couple that is splitting up will know all the reasons why. Focus instead on the bond you have with your man.
Getting together is the easy part, staying together is hard, and separating is the hardest. It rips families apart, and could affect your children for many years to come, depending on how the situation is handled. There are no guarantees that things will go smoothly. You and your former partner may argue about assets that you have together and his family might also get involved. A battle for child custody may ensue and a lifetime of issues can stem from that situation. So be smart about the decisions you make and be careful of being pressured into leaving your man if you are not entirely sure it’s the best choice for you.
1. Be supportive. Just because their relationship has failed doesn’t mean you can no longer be friends, so keep in touch.
2. Filter the negatives. It’s natural that your friend may have quite a lot of negative things to say about relationships. Remember that that’s her experience.
3. Plan get-togethers carefully. If you know there is some tension between two people who have split, avoid creating situations where they will end up in the same place. If you’re still close to both of them, see them separately, but don’t get caught between them.
4. A shoulder to cry on. Don’t keep away from a friend if you don’t know how to console them. A hug can do wonders.
5. Give them time to heal. If your friend is not being very nice and makes you feel guilty about having a relationship when hers fell apart, it may be a good idea to just give them space and time to heal.
6. Don’t be envious. It’s human to think that the grass is greener on the other side. Seeing your friend having a great time being single again may make you think that you’re missing out. Remember the good things that you have with your partner.