Effie Papadopoulou - Psychologist

Dealing with a breakup

Breakups are hard. Whether you are ending a marriage or a long-term relationship, the impact is the same even if you are the one who initiated it. It’s a painful time, and difficult to deal with. Even if you have lost interest in your partner or feel like you are not ‘in love’ anymore, he/she was still an integral part of your life and the end of that relationship will bring many changes in your life. No one really wants to go through a separation especially if you are the one at the receiving end of it.

On top of all the emotional rollercoaster of a huge life change, you will maybe have to deal with having to watch your ex moving on to new romantic adventures and/or falling out with mutual friends. No wonder then, that breakups can be very traumatic and are rigorously avoided.

Negativity and confrontation, or even worse, are almost unavoidable experiences through a breakup in most cases. In some others, especially when children are involved, things could be even harder and could turn your whole world upside down. Ensuring the children do not have to deal with the negative effects of a divorce is a priority although this can, too, be overwhelming considering your own emotional and psychological fragile state.

Healing from a break-up

Who said this would be easy? Breakups hurt so much even when the relationship is no longer good. They represent the loss of not just the relationship itself. You had shared dreams and hopes for the future. During happier times, you planned many things together. You talked about your individual ambitions, what you would like to achieve, and do together, the places you would like to visit. You spend many nights together dreaming with your eyes open, agreeing to shared commitments, and creating beautiful scenarios of what was to come next.

You experienced some pretty good times together; alongside some not so happy ones which made your bond even stronger. You know each other’s family and probably you have developed very good relationships with them too. You also have common close friends that you loved spending time with. This, too, will be negatively affected and some of those close relationships will cease to exist. Losing your friends will add to your feelings of confusion, social seclusion, loss, and loneliness.

When a relationship ends, everything is disrupted: your daily routine, your home, your schedule, sometimes your work, and even your identity. You find yourself into unknown territory and that could be quite a scary experience which is accompanied by disappointment, grief, anxiety, and stress.

Will you find someone else? Will you be able to love again and in the same way? What will life be like now without your partner? Will you end up alone? These, and many more, unknown and frightening questions might, at first, seem much worse than an unhappy relationship. You will go through a mixture of emotions and feelings and its important to understand that most of them are normal parts of the procedure and you should learn to recognize and accept them.

Common Reactions you might Experience as a Relationship Ends

Denial – It can be hard to believe that the relationship is over. Deep down you might still have hopes of getting back together, thinking that this is only temporary.

Anger –  This is almost a primary feeling after a relationship ends. You are angry with your partner for turning your world upside down and ruining what you thought would last for ever or certainly longer.

Fear – You  are frightened by the intensity and frequency of your feelings. You are frightened that you might never be able to love or be loved again. The future seems like an uncertain and lonely place.

Self-blame – This is very common and you might find yourself in the self-blame territory very often and particularly in the first few months after separation. You blame yourself for what went wrong, probably overthinking the situation and replaying your relationship over and over inside your head. ‘What if’s’ and ‘if only’s’ will become your ‘favorite’ thought triggers.

Sadness – Unfortunately, sadness is a vital part after the end of a relationship. Many people go through the same feelings associated with a loss alongside its mourning process. You will feel sad about many things, often wondering why it ended and how could that have been prevented.

Guilt – If you are the one ending the relationship, you might feel guilty. Even when you want it to end, you still have feelings for your long-term partner and you don’t want to hurt him/her. If children are involved, the feeling of guilt for breaking up the family might be intensified. Always remember, though, where children are concerned, it is better to be single than unhappy.

Confusion – You  may have some uncertainty about yourself and your future; everything feels a bit too much right now and you might not be sure of what you should do next or how to deal with this new situation.

Hope – Initially we may fantasize that there will be a reconciliation, that the parting is only temporary, and that our partner will come back to us. As we heal and accept the reality of the ending, we may hope for a better world for ourselves.

Relief – Especially if the relationship was bad, abusive, or was not making you happy, you will feel relieved it ended. There will be no more fighting, torment, emotional or physical abuse, pain, and feelings of low self-esteem and self-worth.

Grieving after a breakup

Through this difficult time in your life, one thing is certain. That you will eventually get over it, you will move on and you will feel happy again.

Grief is a natural reaction to loss, and the breakup or divorce of a love relationship involves multiple losses:

  • Loss of companionship and shared experiences (which may or may not have been consistently pleasurable)
  • Loss of support, be it financial, intellectual, social, or emotional
  • Loss of hopes, plans, and dreams (can be even more painful than practical losses) (Helpguide.org)

It will take a while and some time of self reflection and closure. There are plenty of things you can do to deal with this, learn from it and grow stronger.

Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Self-pity, although very tempting, should be avoided at all costs. It sounds easier said than done but do you really want to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with you? Make a list of all the reasons why you deserve to be happy. ‘Being wrapped up in self-pity completely spoils any chance of being able to see new possibilities as they appear.’

Give yourself time. Be kind and patient with yourself after the breakup. When you feel low and down, give yourself some time to process that. Acknowledge your feelings, accept your temporary state of being, and give yourself permission to feel that way. Being cruel to yourself or demanding too much from you, will only make things worse and create feelings of low self-worth.

Engage in ‘therapeutic’ writing. Creating a journal of your feelings, emotions, and thoughts is a good way to express yourself. Try to be absolutely honest and don’t feel ashamed about anything you feel. Writing everything down might help you have a clearer view of what triggers your emotions, understand valuable things about you, and even about life.

Out with the old, in with the new. Clean and organise your personal space to make way for new things to come. A breakup can signify a new beginning. Some people decide to get rid of everything that reminds them of their ex. They could act as memory triggers and you wouldn’t want something like that. Once you have had some time to process what happened, don’t dwell on painful feelings any more.

Take a careful look around your house and remind every single object that could bring about sad emotions and memories. You can always keep presents that your ex partner has given you that remind you of the good times you had together or signify an important period of your life.

Surround yourself with people who value and love you. As you consider to reach out, choose carefully and wisely. spend time with people who support you and want to listen to you. Be around positive people who try to understand you without making you feel judged or criticised.

Avoid using alcohol, drugs, or food to cope. Being tempted towards self-destructive behaviors such as using drugs, food, and alcohol in order to cope is the easy way out. It is essential to find healthier ways of dealing with painful feelings and not ones that could damage your mind and general health. Coping with separation and divorce.

Recognize that it’s OK to have different feelings. It’s normal to feel sad, angry, exhausted, frustrated, and confused—and these feelings can be intense. You also may feel anxious about the future. Accept that reactions like these will lessen over time. Even if the marriage was unhealthy, venturing into the unknown is frightening.

Give yourself a break. Give yourself permission to feel and to function at a less than optimal level for a period of time. You may not be able to be quite as productive on the job or care for others in exactly the way you’re accustomed to for a little while. No one is superman or superwoman; take time to heal, regroup, and re-energize.Don’t go through this alone. Sharing your feelings with friends and family can help you get through this period. Consider joining a support group where you can talk to others in similar situations. Isolating yourself can raise your stress levels, reduce your concentration, and get in the way of your work, relationships, and overall health. Don’t be afraid to get outside help if you need it. (Source: Mental Health America)

Always remember: almost no relationship is ever a failure if you manage to learn something about yourself. The fact that it didn’t work out does not make it pointless. It just means that it wasn’t a necessary part of your journey to becoming who you’re meant to be.

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