Breakups When You’ve Been Together For 10 Years Or More Affect You Differently — Here’s How

It’s tough to part ways with a partner at any stage of a relationship, even in the early days. But if you go through a breakup after ten years together, it can come with a new set of difficulties. First of all, “a breakup after having been together for around a decade is a substantial change,” Lauren Cook, MMFT, a clinician practicing emotionally-focused therapy, tells us. “Not only is it a loss of a romantic relationship, but a friendship, partnership, and general sense of comfortability.”

By the ten-year mark, you’re way past the honeymoon stage, which Cook says can last for up to two years, and well into the committed, companionship stage. You aren’t just dating anymore, but have truly become a solid part of each other’s lives — with a shared routine and shared goals for the future — making it more difficult to adjust to a new life.

There’s also the fact that the longer you’re in a relationship, the closer and more interconnected you become as partners, Dr. Carla Marie Manly, clinical psychologist, and relationship expert, tells us. “On an emotional level, one key factor is that couples who are together longer are more likely to have experienced significant life events together — whether it be job changes, moving, illnesses, family issues, etc.”

Going through these things together forms bonds that become key elements within your psyches and the relationship itself, Manly says. You don’t just know each other, you really know each other, so the idea of no longer having that connection can be incredibly painful and disorienting.

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To add to this, there’s all the growing you did as individuals, as well as a couple during this time. You’ve not only gone through a lot together but are entirely different people from who you were when you first met. “Even more so than five years, a decade is a transformative period of time,” Cook says. “Chances are, your life looks considerably different than it did 10 years ago and if you have a partner who has seen you through all of those seasons, it is a tremendous change.”

Maybe you grew up together, and went through a lot of firsts, like new jobs and big moves. Or maybe you helped each other overcome obstacles, in order to learn more about yourselves. While all of that is still true, and it still happened, it can be tough to look back on the time spent together. In many ways, when a breakup occurs, it might even feel like you’re losing all your memories, Manly says, and all that history.

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To untangle your lives at this point can also be tough logistically. “Often, your finances have become merged, you may have shared a living situation, and your other relationships with friends and family are intermingled even more so than in a shorter-term relationship,” Cook says. “Rewiring all of this takes time and processing.” It may be a while before you settle into a groove again, or figure out how to move through life without each other.

Of course, it’s always possible to amicably part ways and feels ready to move on, no matter how long you’ve been together. But many times, “recovering from a breakup of a long-term relationship can take quite a lot of time, particularly if the breakup was sudden,” Manly says. “If one or both partners are resistant to the breakup or shocked by a toxic issue (e.g., infidelity), the adjustment and healing time may be significant.”

Whatever the case may be, if your relationship is ending after ten years, it’s possible to make it easier on yourself, usually by quite literally taking it easy. “Part of the recovery process includes adjusting to a new normal, which means knowing that things will not feel normal for quite some time,” Cook says. “The important thing is to engage in self-care strategies, including spending time with family and friends, picking up a hobby, and getting enough sleep, exercise, and proper nutrition.”

It may even help to chat with a therapist, as they can be “incredibly helpful in addressing underlying issues such as anger, sadness, and grief,” Manly says. You can also talk with friends and mentors about your emotions and progress, she says, and any sense of “stuckness” you may be feeling.

Breaking up after only a few years together can be extremely difficult, but make it to that ten-year mark and you may find that it’s even trickier to part ways, and find your footing again. Since the process will likely be different, be sure to take your time, talk about it, process your feelings, and you will eventually be able to adjust.

 

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5 Signs You Need Couples’ Therapy, According To Experts

Inevitably, all relationships have their ups and downs — and most of the lows are things that that the two of you can work through, so long as you are a united front, and if you are both willing to put in the effort to make the relationship work. Even the happiest and most loving couples have moments of tension and friction that, if left unresolved, can quickly grow into more serious issues and turn into toxic patterns that will doom the romance. Fortunately, before that happens, you might be able to spot the signs you need couples therapy so that you can fix the situation.

The question is: How do you know it’s time to stop trying to work through all your problems on your own and set up an appointment with a therapist? There is no “wrong” time to do so, because there is nothing wrong with getting a professional helping hand, particularly when the future of your relationship is at stake. It’s all about what feels right for you.

However, there are some situations where introducing a neutral party can be make or break for a couple, and so it’s important to recognize if your relationship is headed down a bad path, before it’s too late and you’re past the point of no return. To help spot those signs, I reached out to the experts. Here is what they say are clear signs you need put a couples therapist on speed dial.

1. You have the same arguments over and over.

Do all your fights come with an intense feeling of déjà vu because it’s the same one over and over and over? If that’s the case, Anita Chlipala, licensed marriage and family therapist and author of First Comes Us: The Busy Couple’s Guide to Lasting Love, tells Elite Daily it’s time to get some professional help to assist in breaking the cycle. “You have the same arguments over and over again and a couples therapist can teach you to identify which issues are situational and perpetual,” says Chlipala. “For the latter, those are the arguments that are recurring and need to be managed, not solved. We have tools for that!”

2. One of you is considering having an affair.

If you or your partner is seriously considering cheating, it’s time to call in a professional. It’s possible that this is a passing phase, but Chlipala says “if you are noticing that other people or one person in particular is grabbing your interest, go to therapy.” Chances are there are underlying reasons why your eye is wandering and “a couples therapist can also point out the vulnerabilities in your relationship that can lead one to cheat,” explains Chlipala.

A therapist can also help strengthen your relationship moving forward, she says, by teaching you “how to affair-proof your relationship, too.” In other words, if you’re thinking about cheat, run, don’t walk, to the couples’ counseling couch.

3. You can’t stand conflict.

Conflict and arguing are not a ton of fun, but for some people it’s so uncomfortable they will do anything to avoid it. Not arguing may sound good in theory, but in relationships, Chlipala explains, “Conflict is healthy and necessary for a relationship to grow. If you avoid conflict, you risk things such as unhappiness, resentment, and seeing your partner negatively and unfairly.” So, for the sake of your relationship, it’s essential to learn how to tolerate conflict and “a couples’ therapist can teach you skills on how to manage conflict effectively.”

4. You blame each other for everything.

Once resentful patterns have taken root in the relationship, and issues have gone unresolved, it can get increasingly easy to just start blaming the other person for all the things that have gone wrong. This is why couples’ therapy is so important.

As Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills, family and relationship psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent tells Elite Daily, it helps both partners to become more accountable again. “The first and most important thing a person learns by talking to a stranger, counselor, therapist, or clergyman is self-awareness and accountability,” says Dr. Walfish. However, she adds, “hearing your own voice verbalize problems and issues forces one to acknowledge their own shortcomings much better than hearing it from someone else.” Pointing the finger exclusively at your partner, she says, is “playing with fire!”

5. You’ve tried everything else to fix your relationship.

There may come a time in your relationship where you feel like you’ve done everything you can to resolve your issues and you just want to give up. If that happens, dating coach and relationship expert Susan Winter says you shouldn’t give up quite yet. “If you and your partner have unsuccessfully tried every avenue possible to correct the issues disturbing your relationship, it’s time to enlist the help of a professional,” she tells Elite Daily. In order to salvage the relationship, it’s going to take a lot of good healthy communication, and a couples’ therapist can help be that conduit, says Winter, adding, “if resentments fester and there’s no resolution in sight, seek professional advice.”

If some or all of these signs are hitting home, it’s time to seriously consider making an appointment for you and your partner. Winter offers some advice on how to choose the right therapist for you. She says to “look for one that will listen to both of your points of view. It should not be your personal therapist, or your partner’s personal therapist. Their understanding of your joint situation would be skewed by pre-existing information. Rather, choose someone new to both of you.”

Taking this step may feel daunting or like your admitting your relationship is more troubled that you would like to admit, which can be scary. However, if it’s in a place where you do need help to get through a rough patch, it’s better to take the plunge and get counseling than to continue down the path your on and likely lose the relationship, right? Don’t be ashamed to ask for help and to do it as a united front. That’s the first step to getting back to being the team you once were, and could be again.

 

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