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Separation: looking after yourself

This tip sheet is also available in Arabic.

Separation and divorce are among the toughest life experiences people can face.
Men report a huge range of intense reactions and feelings during and after separation. Here are just a few: 
  • Frustration
  • Powerlessness
  • Anger
  • Desperation
  • Denial
  • Loneliness
  • Sadness
  • Bewilderment
  • Hurt
  • Relief
  • Isolation
  • Shock 

These feelings can lead to difficulties such as loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, and withdrawal from social networks, family or work commitments.

While painful and distressing, such responses are normal and with time these will lessen.

A new ‘normal’ will settle in, where it will be possible to continue on living a fulfilling and happy life. 

Adjusting to the change

Separation is rarely easy. You will find yourself experiencing the highs and lows that come with all grief and loss. You will revisit memories and feelings you thought you’d left behind.

The emotional and mental impact may test your strength and your capacity to look after yourself. Often, the last thing men want to do is seek support of any kind.

Some men try to deny that the break-up has happened. Others feel ashamed that they are not coping very well. It is important to ask for help if you’re not coping or feel you need it. You’re likely to be surprised at how willing people are to offer support.

You could talk to:
  • MensLine Australia on 1300 78 99 78 - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Friends
  • Family
  • Work colleagues
  • Local GP
  • Counselling services
  • Men’s groups 

It is particularly important to speak to a professional if you are struggling to maintain your normal routine, unable to get out of bed, or have thoughts of harming yourself.

Ways to get life back on track: 
  • Maintain regular routines with eating and sleeping
  • Maintain a balance between activities and time to think
  • Take the time to reflect on where you are now and what you have
  • Stay in touch with family and friends
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid using alcohol and other drugs (including cigarettes) excessively
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 
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User comments

MensLine Admin
27-May-15 02:04 PM
A reminder that MensLine is here to help you through the tough times. Please get in touch on 1300 78 99 78 or register for online counselling here: http://www.mensline.org.au/user/register. If you are in immediate distress, please call emergency services on 000.
MensLine Admin
27-May-15 02:00 PM
Hi David, you are not alone, there are many people facing challenging situations and trying to work out how to keep going. Don’t give up. You can get through this situation with the right support. Mensline counsellors are here to provide you with support through this difficult time in your life. Please get in touch on 1300 78 99 78 or register for online counselling here: http://www.mensline.org.au/user/register
25-May-15 08:48 PM
I didn't realise so many men are in the same boat as me. What is going on in the world? My wife left and took the kids. She has taken everthing that has ever meant anything to me. She has left me shattered and heartbroken. I feel there is nothing to live for now. I have purpose and i feel like a complete loser.
MensLine admin
13-May-15 10:56 AM
Hi Trevor, it is really tough when it feels like there is no one there for you, Mensline have helped many men who have felt the same way. Mensline counsellors are here to provide you with support through this difficult time in your life. Please get in touch on 1300 78 99 78 or register for online counselling here: http://www.mensline.org.au/user/register
12-May-15 08:09 PM
What's the point when you've lost everything and everyone you love???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
MensLine Admin
06-May-15 10:56 AM
Hi Jus, MensLine is here to support you through this difficult time. Please get in touch on 1300 78 99 78 or register for online counselling here: http://www.mensline.org.au/user/register.
06-May-15 07:56 AM
We have only been married for not even a year. Its been tough for all of us as she has a 9yr daughter whom has never had a father figure. She has had enough and wants to move back to the USA. I have no idea what to do or where to turn...
MensLine Admin
02-Mar-15 11:22 AM
A reminder to call us on 1300 78 99 78 or register for online counselling if you have questions or need some help. We are unable to respond here. Separation can be a difficult time and our counsellors are here to chat 24 hours a day.
02-Mar-15 02:50 AM
My wife of 24.5 years wants to leave and go back to her x who lives in the USA. We have lived together for 30 years have 2 fantastic children and now I am told she has never loved me. I do not understand what I have done wrong?
MensLine Admin
23-Feb-15 11:00 AM
Hi Alastair, it can be very painful when a relationship breaks down. Talking to someone can help. Our counsellors are here 24 hours a day if you'd like to have a chat about what you are going through right now. Give us a call on 1300 78 99 78. Take care.
20-Feb-15 07:40 PM
We have been together for 28 years. She tells me she wants more out of life, and she is going to leave. I am so saddened. I put in all I have to this marriage, including destroying my body working so hard. Now she is like a rat leaving a sinking ship. What ever happend to growing old together? So sad especially when I think back on all the times we had.
26-Sep-14 03:45 PM
Hi, I have had the worst experience of my life, My gf we were togetther for 10 years and when I actually got serious and wanted to commit and get married , She dumped me. Man its sooooo hard I dont know whats going on
MensLine Admin
13-Aug-14 12:32 PM
A reminder that MensLine is unable to respond to questions or requests posted here. Give us a call on 1300 78 99 78 or register for online counselling if you would like to discus any of these issues.
10-May-14 08:52 PM
The system needs an overhaul I think the authorities know when people are struggling in their
It relationships. Maybe some forced counselling one on one with the children after signs of trouble would be better to identify possible abusive traits and disorders in people. I think the legal system is a disgusting and my ex manufactured an AVO.
The statements are lies and she should be tried and fined for perjury. It's a continuation of what was a very abusive relationship.
27-Apr-14 01:47 PM
My wife of 13 years told me she no longer loves me.It hurts it feels like my heart has been ripped from my body.The hardest thing is that the kids feel it is there fault
25-Apr-14 10:13 AM
My husband left me emotionally when he rekindled a friendship with an old flame. I was pregnant with our 3rd child at the time. He became so obsessed with this other woman I asked him to leave. He did. Two months on and I am so heartbroken and still love him. Trying really hard not to get depressed. Felt like we had a good marriage as he always said we did at anniversaries etc. he now treats me like I'm just the nanny of his kids. I don't know how I can ever find a man who wouldn't do this - so many have affairs and abandon their wives. Are there lovely men out there who can commit for life and work through issues if they arise rather than giving up?
15-Apr-14 10:38 PM
Just been told wife wants to seperate after 20 years married we have been together for 24 years we have 3 kids 20,18,16 asked her marry me again on our wedding aniversary , and was told she does not feel the same. Then to find out 2 weeks later she's on all these dating sites. Can't even describe how feeling.:(
03-Apr-14 06:44 AM
I'm a hard working, dedicated, loving and loyal father and husband but after 10 years of been with my wife I caught her having a 4 month cyber affair. 3 months on been separated she has found new love with another man here in Australia and if breaks my heart that you can be replaced so easy after all the memories and emotional effort put in. I feel so hurt and I'm struggling to cope with day to day stuff, I'm also experiencing huge seperation anxiety from the children. I don't know what to do. I'm completely lost.
30-Mar-14 05:30 PM
Thank you for the site. My wife and kids left me 8 months ago. May be I am entering my new normal.
25-Jan-14 07:03 PM
My wife moved out last week - says she doesn't love me anymore........ She also says she can't be with me vs my expectations of our relationship are too high???? Oh, and she had an affair too...... I am having 50:50 access to kids, but I feel humiliated and have a sense of unfairness - I want kids all the time. She is cold and selfish - maybe after 22 years I did not really know her at all.
24-Jan-14 11:09 PM
missing family life after wife said she doesn't want to be married anymore.
24-Jan-14 07:33 PM
My wife recently left with my 2 kids and I’m about to go through this troubled journey alone! I’m seeking help from various sources and ‘checking-in’ with sites like this. There’s a whole wave of emotions that I’m feeling right now…but I know I have to stay positive so that I can be the best man and Dad I can be…I know I’ll be happy again.
28-Jun-13 11:32 PM
My wife left me 20 days ago after 18 years I am 44 years old. We have 6 children which 4 are dependant. We had ups and downs for years but i thought it would never end, my future was planned. She found a new man the day she left and said it was for comfort!! I just finished moving her out into her new home today. She says she still loves me and always will but goes to this new man for comfort! This is not our fault guys, yes i feel like my balls have been kicked into my stomach but i refuse to let her blame me. Our ex partners are only trying to justify their be trial and guilt. Chin up guys if this is how our wives were going to treat us for the rest of our lives well we are better off without them. I am sure our sole mates are waiting out there for us somewhere with the true love we deserve.
16-Jun-13 09:16 PM
My wife left me emotionally for 3 years and the moved out With my 4 kids 1 year ago . For most of you this will sound weird and religious .
After 1 year of intense prayer .. I can say rebuilding is beginning . It was that hardest year in my 38 years of life . And I'm glad the sun is starting to shine slowly again . Thank you in part thus site :)
10-May-13 05:05 PM
I am alone. My wife left me for another man. She took our 4 children with her. Apparently they really like him. This is so hurtful because im their father. She has done so much damage to me by accusing me of all kinds of things and even taken out an avo on me when she pushed me through my doorway. She lied to the police and they believed her. After pleading to see my kids at two seperate mediation sessions I am left with no contact with them at all. I can't believe it. I don't work and have to get legal aid for help which takes forever. I'm so desperate and I just want to see my kids again
31-Mar-13 12:14 AM
At the moment its been 13 days out of the house , I feel gutted, angry, dis belief, there is a viod in me, but I know that in time it has to get better. I have to change my ways and stay strong for my children.
02-Dec-12 07:38 AM
I needed to get help and advise on separation and was about to call when I found this tool and its exactly what I'm exeperiancing now. Thank you
18-Nov-12 08:03 AM
Mr. P has a good comment. I also totally agree with what tim said. Personally, I get lonely, angry, and apprehencive about the whole situation. Prayer,Bible reading, and the gym has helped me through alot. I've been seperated over a year and I still get confused.
14-Nov-12 10:00 AM
Wife says she loves me but says she doesnt know if she wants to be married to me. I have been out of the house for 10 days now, and soon she moves out and I move back in with our 2 young kids. I dont even know what to say. Its one day at a time I guess. Good luck in uncharted territory gentlemen.
20-Sep-12 11:34 PM
11 months on and I can genuinely say that while it doesn't seem like it at the time, it does get easier and you do find a "new normal", even happiness again. Just don't try and take the weight of the world on your shoulders alone. Friends, family, professionals, whoever you find can help. There's no shame in getting help from people who really do care for your welfare.
29-Jun-12 11:40 PM
So devastaded... I hope it gets better....to all those in a similar situation... my support and thoughts are with you
18-May-12 10:05 PM
i am really nervous about what is going to happen to my family and relationship over the next few months, i am so glad to see there are sites like this one to help us guys because it seems in these situations the women have full control and it feels like im just along for the ride
15-May-12 06:30 PM
I have never felt so alone and helpless ever,I am not a bad person I love my wife and kids but she has moved on I feel alienated
11-Jan-12 03:56 PM
This was my first Christmas and new years eve without my wife in 29yrs. I have never felt sadder in my life.
25-Dec-11 06:26 PM
Its my first Christmas without my wife and two kids. I was feeling quite sad.. And logged onto this site. I feel better now. :)
Mr p
23-Nov-11 05:07 PM
Life has a way if kickin u in the guts!