Ending Relationships: Separation and Divorce

So many people with disabilities dream of getting married, but how do you know you’re with the right person? What do you do when you know that you’re with the wrong person? What are your options? What changes can you make in your situation?

Where do I Look for Information and Help?

An easy to use website, called The Modern Woman’s Divorce Guide, lists the following information for each state:

  • State Laws on Divorce
  • Child Support Guidelines and Enforcement
  • Divorce Forms
  • Domestic Violence Resources
  • Free or Low Cost Legal Services Programs
  • Mediation Centers and Services
  • Lawyer Referral Service Links

Tips for Ending a Relationship

Ending a relationship can be painful for both people involved. Here are some tips on how to end a relationship with someone and how to deal with pain and anger written by Katherine McLaughlin and Green Mountain Self-Advocates.

Ways to end a relationship…

  1. Make a clear decision about whether to end a relationship or not. Talk to friends and family about your decision. Be sure that you either don’t want to work things out or you can’t work things out.
  2. Know that you will probably be hurting someone else, but you would hurt them more by staying in a relationship that you don’t want to be in. You may also feel some sadness as well.
  3. Once you’ve made the decision, stick to it. Your partner may try to talk you into staying together. You may be feeling sad and this may make you feel weak and scared. Getting back together may take away this sadness, but the reasons for ending the relationship will not go away.
  4. It is important to be truthful, but kind, about why you are ending the relationship. Think about how you would want to be treated if someone was breaking up with you.
  5. Pick a good time and place. You should also do it somewhere safe in case the situation gets uncomfortable and you want to leave.
  6. Try not to blame yourself or your partner for the break up. It’s easy to want to blame someone, but relationships end for many reasons. You and your partner aren’t “bad.” It is normal for interests and needs to change.

When you are ending an abusive relationship…

If you are in an abusive relationship, it is important to remember that you do not deserve to be abused. There are many people who have ended abusive relationships, and though this might feel scary, it is probably safer than being in an abusive relationship.

The ideas above can be used in any relationship whether it is abusive or not, but in ending an abusive relationship here are some more tips to help keep you safe from your abuser.

  1. Tell someone that you can trust about the abuse and your plans to end the relationship. This person can be helpful, supportive, and have ideas about how to keep you safe.
  2. Call your local domestic violence and sexual assault group. Trained counselors can give you information and support and are also prepared to deal with emergency situations.
  3. Choose a safe place to end the relationship. It’s hard to know how your partner will react to the news, so expect the worst and make a plan. Pick a public place and consider having your friends and family close by.
  4. Use the legal system. If you are afraid of the violence, you may want to get a restraining order from a judge. A restraining order helps to keep your partner away from you. Your local domestic violence agency can help you decide whether you need a restraining order and how to get one. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE or 1-800-799-7233 or Text TELLNOW to 85944.
  5. Find a counselor that you can talk with. After being in and ending an abusive relationship, you will probably need to talk about your experience and your feelings.

What are Healthy Ways to Deal with Pain and Anger?

Pain and anger are normal and natural feelings to have when a relationship ends. While the feelings may be strong, they will decrease over time if you deal with them in a healthy way.

  • Let your feelings out—have a good cry or two. It’s okay to yell and scream when you are alone to let your anger out. Some people try to do something physical like working out, playing a sport, or going for a long walk.
  • Take care of yourself. Exercise, eat well, get plenty of rest and do something special just for yourself.
  • Keep your usual routine and stay busy on weekends. Filling up your day keeps your mind off what you have lost.
  • Talk to people who will listen.
  • You may want to get rid of pictures, letters, or other reminders of the relationship you lost.
  • Think carefully before getting involved again right away. Sometimes after a break up, people start another relationship before they have dealt with the loss of the last one.

What are the “Don’ts” in Dealing with Pain and Anger?

  • Don’t blame yourself. Relationships end because people change or their needs are not being met. You did not fail.
  • Don’t make big decisions right away. Your thinking is not clear during this time and you need a clear head to make a good decision.
  • Don’t drink or do other drugs to numb the pain. This may work for awhile, but the pain won’t go away unless you deal with it.
  • Don’t hurt yourself. Call your local suicide hotline or 1-800-273-TALK if you are having thoughts about ending your life.
  • Don’t hurt others. It’s okay to feel angry, but it’s not okay to hurt someone because of it.

What are Some Other Resources?

  • Couple Therapy and Support: A Positive Model for People with Intellectual Disabilitiesby J. Dale Munro, MSW, RSW, FAAIDD. 2007 NADD Bulletin Volume X Number 5 Article 1.In 2007, J. Dale Munro had completed 36 years of work as a couple and family therapist working with couples with intellectual disabilities. “The purpose of this paper is to review literature on the topic of marriage for people with intellectual disabilities and present an effective couple intervention model. In this article, “a couple” is defined as two people closely associated, bonded or paired with each other, at least one of whom functions in the mild or moderate range of intellectual disability. A couple can be a man and a woman—or a same-sex relationship – engaged, married, living together or in a committed love relationship.” The sections of the article include:
    • Reviewing Marital Research
    • The “Positive Support-Couple Therapy” Model
    • Therapeutic Stance: Being Unconditionally Positive
    • Four Alternative Roles for the Couple Therapist
    • Assessing the Couple, the Extended family and the Service System
    • Intervening with Couples, Extended Family and Service Systems
    • To Parent or Not to Parent? That is the Question!
    • Private Sessions: What Couple Therapists Need to Know!
    • Case Illustration of the Intervention Model
    • Conclusions
    • References
  • Asperger & Marriage: Therapy Recommendations for Marriages Impacted by Asperger Syndrome by Kathy Marchack, Ph.D. and Divorce and Asperger Syndrome by Kathy Marchack, Ph.D.This book specifically addresses the touchy issues of sex, rage, divorce and shame and gives a glimpse of the “inner workings” of these relationships. It offers new ways to look at the situations presented, as well as tips on how to handle similar situations in one’s own life.
  • Connecting with Your Asperger Partner: Negotiating the Maze of Intimacy by Louise WestonDrawing on her own experience of being married to a man with AS, Louise Weston shows that the road to intimacy begins with letting go of expectations and looking after your own physical and emotional needs. She provides tried-and-tested strategies for relating to and connecting with your AS partner, as well as useful tips for coping with hurtful words and meltdowns, helping your partner to interpret emotions, and finding further sources of help and support.
  • Love, Sex and Long-Term Relationships: What People with Asperger Syndrome Really Really Want by Sarah Hendrickx.Many people on the autism spectrum have limited knowledge of how to establish or conduct sexual relationships: drawing on extensive research with people on the autism spectrum, the book openly explores the desires, needs and preferences of people with AS in their own words. Attitudes to issues such as gender, sexual identity and infidelity are included, as well as positive advice for developing relationships and exploring options and choices for sexual pleasure. This accessible book is an invaluable source of information and support for those with Asperger Syndrome and couples in which one or both partners has Asperger Syndrome, as well as counselors and health and social care professionals.

Date posted: March 29, 2011. Content created by Self Advocates Becoming Empowered. Last updated: June 27, 2013.

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