Relationship breakdown

Experiencing a relationship breakdown can be overwhelming, but knowing what to expect means you’ll be more able to make plans for your future.

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A guide to relationship breakdown

In this guide on relationship breakdown, we help you explore the emotions you might be experiencing and the practical steps you may need to take if your relationship is in trouble or has broken down. Whether it’s a relationship of a few months or many years, you may need to make important choices now that affect your future.

  • Signs your relationship might be in trouble

    The following are a few signs that indicate your relationship is at risk:

    • Starting to criticise, attack and comment on each other’s personality during petty arguments rather than trying to resolve the issue.
    • Not taking a forgive-and-forget approach to conflict and beginning to feel contempt for one another.
    • Becoming defensive and not willing to hear anything your partner has to say for fear of being hurt or attacked.
    • Avoiding, ignoring or becoming distanced from your partner.
  • The impact of a relationship breakdown

    There's rarely a single reason why a relationship breaks down but when it does you are likely to experience a number of intense feelings as you come to terms with your future. 

    It is generally recognised that splitting with a partner can be like going through a bereavement. You will experience periods of denial, anger, emptiness, depression and finally acceptance and it’s perfectly normal to revisit some of these stages more than once. This is your mind helping you come to terms with the loss of your relationship. 

    When we go through a relationship breakdown we are more likely to experience mental health problems (for example stress and anxiety), and also poor physical health, and reduced productivity at work.

    It is also not unusual to experience low self-esteem during this period. Gradually you will recognise that this and other feelings are symptoms of the break-up and over time they will pass. 

    Your emotions will recover and you'll begin to see new opportunities and chances to make positive changes for your future.

  • Working out your finances

    If you and your partner were living together but not married, neither of you is obliged to support the other financially.

    If you were married, both of you can apply for maintenance from the other by voluntary agreement or through the courts.

    If you have children together, you’re both equally responsible for financially supporting them, whether you were married or not. If you had a civil partnership, this applies both to biological parents and to those who have parental responsibility.

Next steps

If your relationship's in trouble or has broken down, having a set of practical actions will help you figure out your next steps. Take a look at our suggested action plan.