Going through a breakup is one of the most difficult experiences we can have. Heartache, grief, and confusion, mixed with feelings of powerlessness or even betrayal, can bring out the crazies in all of us. It can be hard to focus and function, making daily life overwhelming.
If you are going through a breakup, my heart goes out to you. I’ve been through it and I know how overwhelming it feels.
Here are my five top tips for moving on:
One of the biggest mistakes people make is fooling themselves into believing they can still be friends with their ex—right away. It may be possible down the road, but in order to get over someone, it’s best not to see them, speak to them, or know anything of them for a long time. You can’t simply switch off your romantic feelings toward someone and view them in a platonic or neutral way overnight. Continuing to stay in contact prolongs pain by allowing you to be hopeful. And having hope for reconciliation keeps you stuck in the transition and won’t allow you to get past the pain.
Zero contact means the obvious: no texting, talking, or getting together. But it also includes the covert: voyeurism and cyber-stalking, positioning yourself to “bump into” your ex by hanging out in places they go, communicating with his/her friends, or fabricating reasons to see each other, such as returning a toothbrush.
We tend to bash ourselves after a breakup. We think of everything we believe we did wrong to drive the ex away, reminding ourselves of all our regrettable actions. We inflate our flaws and tell ourselves we aren’t good enough for the ex. This makes us feel unlovable and that we are somehow excluded or disqualified from winning in love.
It may be true that you tend toward a specific behavior that is not so appealing and it could have become the deal-breaker for the relationship—but even if that is the case, your behavior is not you and it is something you can change. YOU are still lovable. And the right person for you will appreciate all that you are.
So often when someone breaks up with us, we tend to focus on all the positive things about the person and the relationship. This makes us pine for them even more, and we long to be with them for all those amazing qualities and times we had together. We relive the happy times and focus so vividly on the wonderful qualities of our ex.
If you allow yourself to step back, you will be able to see the whole picture. There were problems or unhealthy dynamics in the relationship, parts of your ex you didn’t like, and unpleasant feelings you had that you ignored. When you find yourself focusing on the wonderful parts, you will feel distraught, but if you shift your focus to include the unpleasant truths of your ex and the relationship, your emotional state will respond accordingly.
To solidify this, write a list of all the negative qualities of your ex, the parts of the dynamic you didn’t like, and how you often felt in the relationship. This is to help ground you in reality and not remain starry- eyed. You will soon come to understand that your ex did you a huge favor!
When a relationship ends, people tend to get stuck in the idea that they wasted time. This kind of thinking puts us in a victim position, which can feel extremely powerless.
As tough as it can be to look within right now, it will help more than you can imagine if you are able to reflect on yourself in the relationship. If your ex is at fault or to blame for the relationship going wrong or ending, then you have no control in this situation and it will absolutely feel like a waste of time.
Dig in! Really try to take responsibility where you can, without condemning yourself, of course. If you can own up to your contributions that caused the relationship to sour, you will be able to learn the lessons this relationship was meant to teach you. And though it is a hard lesson to come by, it means you didn’t waste time at all. You will be more prepared and whole going into your next relationship, and both of you will benefit from those hard-earned growing pains.
If you take the time to write your findings, you may actually see a pattern emerge. You may come to see that your role in this current relationship looked very similar to previous relationships as well. Allowing yourself to see patterns of behavior means you can finally be clear about how to be healthier in the future.
If taking care of yourself means reaching out to friends or family, then do it now! You may tend to isolate when going through a tough time, so staying connected to your staunch supporters is vital to your recovery. They know you may not be great company right now, and that is OK.
On the other hand, if you tend to avoid your sadness by being social, drinking too much, or working a lot, you may need to provide yourself some downtime. Time alone to fall apart and grieve will help you move through this time quicker.
Make sure you are eating well, getting enough water, sleep, and exercise, and continue engaging in the activities that bring you pleasure. It may be tempting to forego all of that in self-punishment or self-pity, but it will truly only make you feel worse.
The quickest way to the other side of a long, dark, and scary tunnel is straight through. Embrace your reality, feel the feelings (you won’t melt), fall apart, and be a mess. Such a response is natural and congruent to the situation you are in right now. If you didn’t have these feelings, I would say you didn’t much care for the ex or the relationship.
If you feel yourself trying to take the long way around the tunnel to avoid feeling the feelings, please know that it will prolong your pain and you may get stuck. You can’t drink, eat, shop, exercise, or party your way around this pain, and if you try, you may just end up with another problem on your hands.
Article by Hilary Silver, LCSW, therapist in Denver, CO. All Rights Reserved.
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