Breakups can be hard, and they can be amicable; no matter what, no one really wants to go through them. The loss of your relationship can bring on intense heartache and stress. But if you’re looking for some help getting through it and want some suggestions about how to make it a little easier, read on…
Think through everything thoroughly, but not obsessively. Go ahead and mull it over, as many times as necessary, within reason. Consider all the reasons for the break up. Even if it sometimes seems as if there wasn’t a good reason, there certainly was one – and probably more than one. Understand that you enjoyed being together for a while, but if the relationship was not what both you and your partner wanted for life, it would have ended eventually, no matter what. In this case, better sooner than later. Thinking about the reasons why it ended can make it much clearer to you that it takes two people to start a relationship, but just one discordant person is enough to end it. It may also help you avoid many missteps in the future if you can identify areas where you contributed to the demise of the relationship.
Don’t rethink your decision. If the breakup was your decision, keep in mind that only thinking about all the good times you had with your partner may cause you to forget the reasons why you broke it off. By the same token, try not to second-guess the situation if the decision to end things was not yours. It’s very common to romanticize the good parts of the relationship, convincing yourself that maybe the bad parts weren’t so bad after all, that maybe you could just live with them. Or that maybe if your ex would know just how you feel, he/she wouldn’t want to break up after all. Don’t play this game with yourself. Accept the situation and work on moving forward.
Keep your space. Even if you and your ex have decided to stay friends, break away completely from each other right after the breakup. This means not seeing each other, not being around his/her family members, no phone calls, no e-mails, no text messages, no Facebook, and no IMs – not necessarily as a permanent measure, but until you feel that you can converse with him/her on a purely platonic level, without an ulterior motive (and yes, wanting to get back together counts as an ulterior motive). If he/she tries to convince you to see him/her, ask yourself honestly what the point would be. If you’re re-living the past by seeing him/her, it’s not hard to get caught up in the moment and it will be harder to let go again. You may have to have some contact in order to deal with the practical aspects of things like moving out, signing papers, etc., but try to limit this to what’s absolutely necessary, and then keep such calls/meetings short and civil.
Cope with the pain appropriately. It’s okay to feel like you have messed up – accepting responsibility for your mistakes or shortcomings is healthy. On the other hand, you must also accept that you are a good person, and that you did your best and you’re not the only one who made mistakes. Of course, a stage of denial is completely natural, but acceptance is the key to being able to start moving on.
Deal with the hate phase. This is when you want to just scream because your rage feels boundless. The amount of anger you feel depends on how antagonistic the split was, the circumstances, and how long it took to make the final break. You may resent your ex for wasting your time. You may realize that the breakup was inevitable (hindsight will reveal clues you failed to notice at the time). You may even feel a lot of anger towards yourself, but let go of that feeling fast! It’s a waste of time and energy to rip yourself apart over something you no longer have the power to change. There are so many positive things you can do with your emotions and energy. Although it may feel good to replace your feelings of love towards your ex with hate, this can still lead to complications and mixed emotions of love and hate which are never a good thing.
Talk to your friends. You want people around you who love you and who will help you feel good about yourself. Surrounding yourself with compassionate, supportive friends and family will help you see yourself as a worthwhile person, and you’ll find it easier to get steady on your feet again with your loved ones around you in a comforting net.
Remove memory triggers. There are all kinds of things that remind you of your ex––a song, a smell, a sound, a place. Once the grieving period has had some time to process, don’t dwell on painful feelings or memories. There are probably things that are pushing your buttons without your conscious recognition. Try walking around each room in your house with a box and removing things that make your heart ache or your stomach turn. Really focus and look carefully. You may realize that the little blue bird-shaped box sitting on the mantel has become pretty invisible for the last couple years, but when you take a conscious look at it, you notice that every time you turn towards that corner of the room and it catches your eye, you feel a sharp little pain in your solar plexus. It can work wonders to clear your space of all these triggers. If you have a keepsake, such as a watch or piece of jewelry that was given to you by your ex, and it’s a reminder of the good aspects of your relationship, there’s nothing wrong with keeping such a thing, but for the time being, try putting it away for later, when you’ve given yourself some time and space. Put these reminders far away from you, such as in a box in a place you’ll never go. Out of sight, out of mind.
Out with the old, in with the new. A breakup can signify a new beginning. Therefore, cleaning and organizing your personal space will leave you feeling refreshed and prepared for the new things to come. A mess can be overwhelming and depressing, and will just add to your stress level. The added bonus is that keeping busy with tidying your space doesn’t require a lot of brain power, but does require just enough focus to keep you from recycling pain. Occupying yourself with such tasks designed to make your life better and easier will also occupy your mind enough to help you through the residual pain. Clean your room, get some new posters, clean up the icons on your PC desktop. As insignificant as cleaning up sounds, it’ll make you feel better.
Find happiness in other areas of your life. Whether that means spending time with your friends and family, signing up for that class you’ve always wanted to take, or reading every book on the New York Times bestseller list, remind yourself that a relationship is one part of life, but even when you are in one, there are personal pleasures that you can always enjoy on your own. Indulge in those things now. As they say, the best revenge is living well.
Stay active. Exercise improves your mood and alleviates depression, and the distraction will help keep your mind off your situation. Go running outside, visit (or join) the gym, or just go for a walk, maybe with a friend, and think of releasing the anger or sadness with every step.
Stop telling “the story.” How many times this week did you tell “the story” about how badly you were hurt and how horribly you were wronged? Remember that your ex may be trying to get over you, as well. Be sensitive to that, and keep your distance. If you’ve decided to stop seeing one another, do just that: stop. Keep your dignity. Many times, it’s our own ego that causes the pain; we feel rejected and deceived, embarrassed. We doubt our self-worth and adequacy. A breakup, especially one in which your partner has cheated on you, can really undermine your self-confidence and shake your self-esteem to the core. Help rebuild your inner stability by impressing yourself with accomplishment – volunteer, take a class, do things that remind you of your value as a person.
This is an opportunity to make some positive changes in your life – take it!
10 Steps of Break-Up Rehab
By Khrystyana Kirton
Edited by Stephanie Dawson