Things don't always go well, sometimes there is not enough love to rebuild, and there are some cases where the only possible thing to do, no matter how painful, is separate.

In these cases it is very important, first and foremost, to "declare a state of crisis", therefore admitting that life in two has become impossible, that all attempts at getting back together have been tried, that going forward "like nothing happened" just creates a lot of pain, that even thought the problem can be forgotten for a day or two and the couple can even make love and pretend all is well, but sooner or later something happens that will lead back to the crisis and everything is back to square one.

The final period, right before separation is always the worst: tension, fights, aggressiveness.

Some couples try to keep everything hidden to the end, maybe only the neighbours realise what is happening because they can hear the fighting, slammed doors and thrown objects, but in front of friends and family, the couple continues to recite the difficult scene on the happy family.

When they finally tell everyone that they are separating, people are shocked, "What do you mean, you're separating? We couldn't tell, you were such a happy couple!" or there are comments of denial,"Don't worry, soon you'll be together again, and it will be better than before," "It's just temporary, it happened to us too." "You're fifty! You don't really want to separate now, do you?" 'If you separate now, you'll be alone when you're old."

These comments, and others like these, are proof of the great acting skills the couple had in playing their public role.

In other cases, the crisis evolves in front of others; actually being with friends and family seem to make things worse, fights in front of everyone at Christmas or New Year's, screaming matches, tears, walking out suddenly, not coming to appointments, "He can go to his mother's by himself. Let him explain why I didn't come!".

In any case, when the news of separation spreads among friends and family, it provokes a series of strong emotional reactions:

  • there are those who worry about the social conventions, which would have all marriages be happy and eternal (even though Italy has a law allowing separation, there are over thirty thousand couples who do so a year), so they find it very difficult to tell reatives about their son/daughter's separation.
  • so they try to justify the fact by defending their relative and attacking the acquired one, "It's all her fault, you know! She completely ignored our boy..." or, "Having a husband like Giorgio, who went out with his friends three out of every four nights...." or the attack focuses on the morality and sexual behaviour of the other (and one wonders why the men are considered "adventurous" and the women are just "wh...").
  • sometimes the other's family of origin is also attacked: "See? Even his father was a liar!" "What else could we have expected from a family of fools!" Like mother like daughter, poor Carlo" and so forth...
  • for these reasons in Italy, in certain socio-cultural contexts, crimes are committed, blood flows, and full-out family fueds are declared
  • then there are the gossips, the neighbours who smilingly ask, "I haven't seen your husband for a while, is he alright?"
  • friends are often unable to be neutral and tend to take the sides of one or the other, generally protecting the one who seems to be more damaged, more the victim of the situation
  • in other cases, if the announcement of the separation is given to another couple who is in a crisis, this could create aggressiveness and denial: "This is impossible, they are separating, they don't have the strength to resist like we do!"
  • or the news of the separation helps others declare thoughts they never expressed before: "You did the right thing, we asked ourselves how you could stand her," "I never really understood why you married him, what did you see in him?"
  • there are also those who think it might be their fault, like the mother who hears about her daughter's separation and asks herself, "What did I do wrong?" "Why hasn't my daughter been able to make her marriage last as long as I have?"
  • other parents confuse a separation with an even more serious crisis, and sometimes ask whether their now-separated son has started drinking or doing drugs.
  • there are also the "buzzards", friends that, when they find out about the separation, offer advice, a shoulder to cry on and understanding in the hopes of obtaining sex in return and immediately try hitting on a recently separated woman thinking that she'll "give it" easily
  • the moralists then join the choir and say, "You have to stay together for the sake of the children," forgetting just how painful it can be for the children to live in a continually tense environment with frequent arguments; and then usually the children of a fifty-year-old couple are old enough to know exactly how unhappy their parents were while living together.
  • others don't even ask why a separation has taken place and just attack, "I am so disappointed in you!" "I never would have expected something like this from you."
  • while the advice coming from couples who have been living a crisis for many years and have not yet separated is usually, "you have to bear with it" "You have to be patient, men/woman are made like that."
  • others suggest that you "keep your husband, keep your wife, and find a lover" which is also the formula adopted by the Italian borgeois in the Sixties; but this solution doesn't really resolve the problem because all it does is avoid it not face it; what's more living a "double" life causes constant stress and uses up a lot of energy.

No matter how it is, it is a difficult moment in life, a moment that is almost always seen as negative, like a defeat and many define it as "the failure of my marriage".

And this goes for both those who remain single after separation and those who live a new love. They are also often pervaded by melancholy and sad feelings, which can be explained as a sort of "mourning", which accompanies the abandoning of the type of life that had been lived up to that moment.

A marriage that finishes after many years of living together also means abandoning certainties in daily living, leaving a house in which one has lived for many years and changing even the most basic routines of life.

Separating from a person that one knows more than any other, with whom, for good or bad, a large portion of one's life has been spent together, can provoke serious anxiety attacks, if we consider the fact that separation usually means heading towards the unknown, full of people still to be met. This can start a panic attack in very unflexible people, who cling to the world around tehm, never expecting reality to change.

Those that, by changing, haven't lost themselves, know that being flexible is the only way to face a constantly changing world like today's. These people have the best interior capability to face a huge change like separation.

What's more, in many cases, especially when a heavily negative situation is resolved, separation can help the discovery of a new dimension of life that helps us accept and understand ourselves better:

  • a woman who has suffered with a domineering, insensitive or maybe even violent husband for years, and finally decides to leave him, will find that separation is the same as saying freedom and will be amazed at what it is like to live without "little domestic tyrants" to serve and to have to explain every little thing to.
  • when this woman finds a new love, she will discover how wonderful a "normal" life can be having a man who respects and loves her by her side.
  • a man who has always been scorned by his wife, discovers with amazement that another woman finds him interesting and that maybe his personality isn't full of defects like he was lead to believe

It depends on us, how we decide to face this moment, it depends on us whether we see it as "the failure of my marriage" or as an experience that has been concluded and has left space for other experiences - left space for the joy of living life in another way.

And all of this helps us undoubtedly get to know ourselves better.


This article is the continuation of "THE 50-YEAR CRISIS IN COUPLES"