In the immediate aftermath, a break-up of a relationship can turn your whole world upside down and trigger all kinds of painful emotions. Here are six strategies for coping after a relationship breakup.
If you’re in the first week of grieving the loss of a significant relationship, here are some expert tips for trying to deal with the heartache.
Coping after a relationship breakup
1. Don’t avoid the pain
When a break-up is fresh, it can be easy to trick yourself into thinking you’re fine, but experts say that facing the pain head on will make the healing process much quicker.
“People adopt many different strategies following a break-up – sedation via drink/drugs, oblivion via a new lover, or denial that their ex ever meant that much to them. This is all done in the hopes that they will convince themselves that they never really loved their ex-partner anyway,” says pyschotherapist Hilda Burke.
“However, the only way to ‘get over’ a break-up or a betrayal, like any other suffering we experience in life, is to fully go through it. That means letting ourselves feel and express the pain.”
2. Give it time
“It may be a cliché but time does help heal most wounds,” says Burke. “While weeks and months can dull the pain, it also allows us the space and time to grieve.”
She believes that the first step in healing from a broken heart is to engage with the pain, recognise it and acknowledge what we’ve lost. “Only by doing that can we hope to truly and honestly move on,” she adds.
“In failing to do this, we simply carry our heartbreak like excess baggage to our next relationship. This is why many of us feel like we are constantly rehashing the same relationship patterns. The partner changes but the roles remains the same and so the play continues.”
3. Avoid the temptation to view the relationship in retrospect as ‘all bad’
Many people in the aftermath of a separation or divorce feel inclined to bad-mouth their ex and rubbish the entire relationship – but this victim behaviour could set you back even further.
“I think this stems from a reluctance to want to feel their pain and hoping that they can convince themselves that they never really loved their ex anyway,” says Burke. “However, the heart only ‘feels’. It cannot be rewired by the words we try and deceive ourselves with.
“Also, by trying to convince ourselves that our ex and the relationship was awful anyway, we are merely undermining ourselves and our life choices. If we truly believe we were in an ‘all bad’ relationship with an ‘all bad’ partner, what does that say about our ability to make choices that are good for us?”
4. Talk with friends
When a you’re alone again for the first time in years, it can be therapeutic to speak to someone about the emotions you’re feeling.
“If you’re finding yourself locked in to rehashing the relationship, reliving the hurt many months on it might be worth seeing a good therapist,” says Burke “Or, if you know someone who has endured a tough break-up in the past but is now moving on positively with their lives, perhaps you could spend more time with them, being curious about what helped them to move on.”
Being around other people is good for your mental health. When your relationship ends, it’s easy to find yourself with no one to talk to. Reach out to close friends. Distraction can be the first step to feeling better.
5. Visualise a new future
One of the hardest hurdles when coping after a relationship breakup is the uncertainty of where your life will go next.
“It’s important to have a plan,” says life coach Kiran Singh. “Create a vision board where you put up pictures, quotes and goals you want to achieve.
“Do at least three things a day that will make you happy and put a smile on your face. It doesn’t have to be extravagant; it can be as simple as reading a book, learning a new skill or making positive steps to a new future.”
6. Take responsibility
“Taking responsibility is productive,” says Burke. “When I work with people who have just been through a break-up, an important part of the work is looking at where they failed to invest in the relationship.”
This is delicate work, she explains, as often the client can feel let down by their ex. “However, no matter what the circumstances are around a break-up, if we are to grow and learn from the relationship and break-up, we need to look at our own part in it.
“This shouldn’t turn into self blame though. Relationships are tough for most of us, so approach this self-enquiry gently with a desire to learn rather than to self-blame.”
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