Now I do feel the pain of separation

Adam Harbinson
Adam Harbinson

To my shame, I have to admit that up until recently I have had little understanding of the pain of broken relationships. Odd that, because it is something I deal with professionally on a frequent basis.

Let me quickly add that people do not seek my counsel for marriage guidance. It’s more often an impassioned plea: ‘What am I going to do? How can I ensure access to my children? Am I going to be made homeless? Who can help me cope?’

Some years ago, I suffered what some might call a breakdown. My GP recognised it as ‘burnout’, because I was bringing all these problems home with me, and it wore me down, I was emotionally drained. My wife would tell me that I spent hours in my sleep talking to my clients as I wrestled with their problems and fears. How silly is that?

However, thanks to my GP I benefitted from a few sessions of cogitative behavioural therapy (CBT). It taught me a number of things. People are often more resourceful than even they think, and so more often than not, when their backs are to the wall, they will come up with a solution.

More importantly, for me to remain able to make a useful contribution to the masses of broken lives and hurting humanity, I must learn to close my office door in the evenings and leave the problems there. And I think I have, but sometimes I think I have gone too far. Maybe I have lost the deep compassion for people that the Master would feel.

My point is that you only really feel the pain when it comes to your own front door. The deep sadness of bereavement I have known, like many of my readers, but that’s different from a failed marriage, if that’s a fair description? Probably not, for it might not be failure in the sense that the participants in the marriage aren’t up to the task. And that’s not necessarily the case: there can be other factors. Sometimes people just grow apart, their former rich, deep intimacy is overwhelmed by pressures of work, financial worries, or in some cases the difficulty that comes with the territory of a blended marriage; you know, a second marriage where each partner has brought ‘their own children’ into the mix. That can be tough.

When I buried my first wife, dealing with the fact that she was no longer there was hard, but it was final. She was gone and, so I moved on. But in the case of a separation, there is often no such closure.

‘The love that was once there might return, she might grow to love me again,’ and the pain lingers, sometimes for years. And what comes with it, or what feeds it can often be the agony of a sense of rejection, or guilt, worthlessness or of unrequited love. One man in his late sixties in this awful situation told me, ‘A light has gone out of my life’ and I can now only begin to imagine how fiercely difficult and lonely that must be.

Is there anything that can be said or done to comfort those is such depths of despair? Probably not a lot, although a listening ear is invaluable, and what comes to mind as I say that is this: treat your brother kindly, for you have no idea what battles might be raging in his breast.

‘Love’ is spelled: T I M E.

Contact me at: