Single again: who am I without a partner?

single-again

Romantic relationships can be a big part of our identity. Especially if they last 10, 20, 30 years – sometimes it’s half of our lives or more. We get so used to being a partner, husband, wife and it’s a shock to our system to suddenly have to see ourselves outside of that role.

Divorce or breakdown of a long relationship is a big trauma, there’s no doubt about it. From realising that it’s over, to actually going through it, and then rebuilding your life afterwards – it’s a huge stress and one of the biggest life changes for most people. And one nobody desires for.

What makes it even harder for many is going back to being single after such a long time of viewing themselves as part of a couple.

Being single again is hard, but not being in a couple any more is even harder.

I know this sounds like the same thing – but there is a significant difference.

THE DREAD OF LIFE AFTER DIVORCE

I recently asked a woman who is in a really bad and dysfunctional marriage – and very well aware of it, as well as in a fairly good position to leave (financially independent, grown up kids): “Why don’t you finally leave him? What’s keeping you there?”. She said to me: “If I left him, I wouldn’t have a husband any more.”

This answer explains the above premise: once you get out of a relationship, you not only lose a partner, you also lose your role as a partner. If you’ve been in a couple for a long time – a big part of your personality is tied into this “spouse person”. Surely you still have your individual identity, but it’s been dimmed by all the changes and adjustments you had to make to create your couple one. And it’s no wonder that you feel unsure of who you are – once you’re not somebody’s spouse any more.

THE SOCIAL STIGMA

Divorcing is not so frowned upon any more as it used to be only a few decades ago, but it’s still seen as a life failure. Not only you as a divorcee feel like you’ve failed – but others often amplify this by pitying, judging and criticising you for not trying harder to save your marriage.

If you’re the one who initiated divorce you might also get resented and ostracised by family and friends who blame you for the break up. Even though we can never know what really goes on between two people, and in most relationship breakdowns both sides carry a part of the responsibility – still, most people will take sides and won’t bother getting the whole story.

But it’s what it is: you’ll never be able to please everyone no matter what you do with your life, so don’t let others’ opinions make or break your happiness – you’ll just have to deal with this as best as you can. Most people who truly care for you will make an effort to understand and support you.

THE GREAT BREAK UP IDENTITY CRISIS

But no matter who gets to keep which friends and relatives in their camp, this is just another layer that adds to the complexity of redefining yourself as a newly single person. You’re used to thinking as “we” and making all important moves in your life in cooperation. For such a long time your life was tied to this person on day to day basis. They were a part of your every major life decision, and many minor ones too.

Part of your self-worth was wrapped into the partner role too. Your marriage was your life achievement, you invested so much in it and now it’s all gone. You felt stronger and more secure when you were in a couple. But now it’s just you again – and you’re the only one fully responsible for everything you do.

GETTING ON WITH YOUR LIFE

I know this can be very overwhelming. But you ARE single now, that’s the reality – and you must look ahead. If you want to be in a couple again – I’m sure you’ll find someone new – but don’t spend your in-between time waiting for them.

Your new life is a new opportunity. New playground for your true self to shine. You can start indulging yourself more, now that you don’t have to think about what your partner thinks about it. You can go back to your long forgotten hobbies or interests, and discover some new ones. You can strengthen bonds with your friends, travel to places your spouse would never want to go, go to courses they thought were not for you.

And you know what, it doesn’t have to be about doing things they disapproved at all – just go and discover yourself again, and do things you love. It will help you rebuild your confidence and your self-worth, and you might even find it’s actually a lot of fun being on your own – having more freedom, more flexibility, more choice.

If you have young kids – this will still be a challenge, but it can be done. The good thing is, they’ll now probably spend some time with your ex too – and that can be your me-time.

I am not here to convince you your break up was a good thing and you should immediately feel good about it. Not at all. Of course you have to take time to feel the grief, the anger, the disappointment, the fear. You have to feel all these emotions, and live through them to have a healthy recovery.

But I just wanted to remind you that, even though it maybe hard to see it now, once you’re on the other side… there is a brand new life awaiting for you, and a brand new chance for you to be happy again.

LET ME HEAR YOUR THOUGHTS

I know this is a very sensitive topic, therefore I’m even more keen to hear what you think. Did you have an identity crisis after a big break up? How did you deal with it? What was that one thing that helped you overcome it?

Thank you for sharing!

LIKE THIS? GET POST ALERTS AND UPDATES IN YOUR INBOX.

You may also like...

10 Responses

  1. parvayne says:

    I am so confused and lost after my break up after 6 years. I had kids that weren’t his but I’ve been crying all day since I’m left with the child and a black eye.i ask myself why are u crying but it’s cos I never got no apology and I’m left with my kid and a black eye confused as hell. HELP ME

    • Petra says:

      Hello. If you’d like to talk about this, I think that is the best option to see how I can best help you. Please send me an email via CONTACT or COACHING page and we’ll arrange a consultation. Take care.

  2. Divorcee-to-be says:

    Thank you for this article. My husband, who I have been with for seven years, just told me two weeks ago that he’s unhappy and doesn’t want to be married to me anymore. It was a huge shock. I’ve spent so long picturing my life, especially our life together, and how that looked, and now it’s like I have no life in front of me. So, I spent the last two weeks going out after work with friends and family, I’m trying to workout more, and I’m trying to stay positive. Obviously I have my moments where I burst into tears, but I can’t stop living because my heart is broken.

    I’m tempted to try to find a new relationship right away, but I feel like I’d just immediately take that relationship too seriously. So I love your advice to do what makes me happy.

    • Petra says:

      Thank you. Glad to have helped. I know it’s not easy to move on and mend your heart, but life sometimes gives us shocking situations not to punish us, but to give us wake-up calls and make us think where we are, and are we really happy there. Wish you all my best on your journey.

  3. Pat says:

    I broke up with my long term partner of 9 years about two months ago. I met someone else who I thought I wanted to be with, but now I am having seconds thoughts about him. Part of me misses being with my ex partner, but I know that we were both unhappy in our relationship and it was best to go separate ways. I am finding difficult to adjust to being single again, since he was a big part of my life but we just stopped loving each other as a couple and became good friends. We are really good friends now and we even talk about our current love lives. It’s hard but I’m getting used to it now.

  4. Nick says:

    Moved with Gf (5 years together) into another country for a better job. After one year she found an older guy so then i moved to another country after 5 months of breaking up (back and forths). Now im alone in a new place that im getting to know better each day. i don’t have no job yet and even though I’ve met some girls, I never really met one that seemed to care about me” in any” near sense that I was used to. Did not kiss anyone nor had sexual intercourse in the last 6 months. Of course I see the signs when younger woman ask’s me random question just to make a conversation, but when I like a girl that’s closer to my age I always feel that I am just a stranger that has to somehow creep into her life to get some kind of attention, while she (being from here) has all her friends everywhere. Being single and in a new country “also this new generation of kids where the word loyal is not existent” is strange and not as it used to be, last time when I was single. Well, I don’t know what I’m doing or what will happen. I tried sports, every day, but real men apparently must have tattoos and muscles like crazy, girls all have pierces and coloured hair etc, seems like here they just look older, I’m like 1m86 and I know a 15 year old kid who’s way taller..t might be this new McDonaldz food they eating all day long… for example everybody thinks im 19 or 20, while im 29. Another negative point for me is that I’ve spent the last 9 years in 2 consecutive relationships. Any advice other then skateboarding 5 km a day, going to clubs, mostly meeting new people that don’t give a damn about me, making friends sometimes, would be appreciated.

    • Petra says:

      Maybe you need to find some new places to meet girls your age. At 29 you will have to make a different effort, because most clubs and bars are now filled with people 10 or more years younger than you. So look for interesting girls your age in interesting places – through hobbies, groups, courses, bars that cater for people your age. Also, maybe you’re still in love with your ex and that’s why it’s not happening – you’re emotionally attached to her and you compare all the new girls with her. When we’re in love with someone we are not really single, and we often can’t get interested in anyone new until we get over that person.

  5. Jessica says:

    Hello. I liked your article. I am in a 2 year relationship but I have found myself unhappy and potentially wanting to leave him. We live together which would make it difficult at first to break up. I am having difficulties with the thought of separating our lives, as I am close with his family and friends, whereas he is not really to mine. I’m really scared about this decision.

    • Petra says:

      It’s not an easy decision to make – if you’d like to talk about it and get more clarity – do get in touch and we’ll arrange a consultation. Please send an email via Work with me or Contact pages.

    • Petra says:

      I think it would be best to talk about this and weigh pros and cons, I can help. Contact me on email and we’ll set up a consultation – you can also fill the form on my Contact or Work with me pages.