by: E.B. Johnson
Has your relationship recently ended? If you and your partner have separated ways, then you are probably facing several complicated emotions that are both uncomfortable and unpleasant. We all struggle with a lot of nuanced thoughts and changes in the wake of a relationship breakdown. By facing the experience honestly and openly, we can move toward healing and get ourselves back on track to happiness, love, and acceptance.
The post-breakup struggles everyone faces.
Believe it or not, we all face similar struggles in the wake up a relationship breakup. From shock to pain and everything in-between, moving on first requires that we look at our suffering honestly and without guilt. To get through a breakup, we have to face it honestly so that we can take action to move on positively.
Initially, most of us experience some level of shock at the failure of our relationships. The longer you’ve been in the relationship, the stronger this shock can be. You may not really realize that there’s no commitment any more, or you may be so rattled that you can’t even process what’s going on at all.
Once the shock wears off, we all experience some degree of debilitating pain after a breakup. This is the stage in which we might feel overwhelmed by grief. Losing a serious relationship can feel a lot like a death, and our brains process it in similar ways. While we’d like to shut off from the pain, that’s not how we find our way back to happy partnerships.
Pain is not a great place to be, and a lot of us will do anything that we can to escape it. For most, that takes the shape of denial. Maybe you shut down and refuse to acknowledge the breakup. When your friends ask about it, you change the subject or play things down as a “hiccup” or a “blip”. Denial doesn’t work if healing is our goal. We have to live in reality even when it hurts.
Moving through the stages of post-breakup grief, we can also find ourselves dealing with a lot of confusion. We don’t always have our feet planted in the real world when it comes to our intimate partners. Maybe you didn’t see the problems that led to the split. So as the dust settles, you become confused about why your other half decided to walk away.
At some point, we all come to a place of reflection in our relationship failures. Fear and grief grip us, and we ruminate over the past and every little decision that was made in our partnership. This kind of reflection is needed, but it’s also important to do it consciously, mindfully, and with set intentions that allow you to move forward when it’s appropriate.
Our emotions become volatile when we’re coming back from a breakup. One minute we can feel totally fine about things, and the next minute we can buzz with upset and injured feelings. When this happens, we can find ourselves tempted by petty behaviors and a chance at revenge. Revenge doesn’t work if you’re looking to heal from a breakup, though, and it never works.
Have you felt extreme anger at your partner (or yourself) after a connection collapse? It’s normal to feel angry when something we invested in doesn’t work out. Our intimate relationships form a big part of our core lives, and they have a lot to do with how we see ourselves in the modern world. When they get snatched away from us, we become angry and can even struggle with feelings of injustice.
A lot of us can’t handle the emotional pain of a breakup, so we look to our coping and defence mechanisms to protect us. High on this list is numbness, or a total shutdown of feeling and emotional thought. Have you drifted into a place of numbness? Have you turned off your feelings so you don’t have to deal with the reality of what you’re going through? This won’t work forever, and always leads to greater hardship in the long-term.
There’s no escaping the breakup healing process without feeling the creeping loneliness of losing someone you love. This is especially true if you were in a long-term relationship, or shared a space like a home together. You miss your partner. You miss the physical space they took up (even if it wasn’t always pleasant). Our relationships can become a security blanket that we long for on a lot of different levels.
Not every stage of the post-breakup process is negative. In the long-run, when you allow yourself to heal, you come to the last hurdle: acceptance. When we reach this stage, we can accept the failure of our relationships. More than that, we are able to see, respect, and accept the role we (and our partners) played in the separation and downfall. With this knowledge at hand, we can move forward better equipped to thrive.
How to heal after a breakup.
Even though a relationship breakup will rip our lives apart, we can put ourselves back on the path to happiness. First, we have to allow ourselves to process the complicated emotions creating turmoil in our lives. Then we can surround ourselves with support, become the partner we wanted, and take off the rose-tinted glasses once and for all.
1. Allow yourself to feel things
There are few times we become more emotionally volatile than after a breakup. Beyond the general sadness, we have to confront complicated feelings of loneliness and fear. We fear we may be alone forever. We fear we are flawed in some damnable way. The only way to shift all this negativity and all this pain is by allowing ourselves to feel the emotions and work through them. Then, we can face a new future boldly and with renewed hope.
Allow yourself to feel all the emotions that are boiling inside you — the good and the bad, the comforting and the uncomfortable. Your mind is going to be working through a lot of memories, and those memories are going to be tied to a lot of feelings. The only way to get the negative feelings out is by allowing yourself to feel them.
There are so many ways that you can do this. Let yourself cry, let yourself scream into a pillow. Book a kickboxing class and take out all that anger that’s strangling you. Get out your journal and write out every single feeling that’s tearing you up inside. Write out every good and bad thought you’re having. Once we get our feelings out, we’re able to dig a little deeper and see our actual issues for what they are. Then we can make positive changes which allow us to move forward in good faith and with better alignment.
2. Create a barrier of love
We often hold this belief that our breakups and our pain is something which must be dealt with in silence, and on our own. A part of this comes from shame, but a lot of it comes from our upbringings and the relationship examples that have been set for us in life. This lie leaves us miserable, however. There is nothing to be ashamed of in partnership collapse. Instead of suffering alone, we have to reach out to those we trust for support.
Surround yourself with the love and support of friends and family. Our loved ones are there to bolster us and hold our hands through times of pain and hardship. They are meant to be our stabilizers when we struggle to stand on our own.
Don’t be afraid to open up to the loved ones you trust. Share your experience and the emotions you’re dealing with. Listen to the advice that they give you and allow them to build you up and give you the confidence that’s waned. Sometimes, our loved ones can see us in ways we aren’t able to see ourselves (especially after a breakup). Embrace that and allow yourself to take comfort in it. If the support of your loved ones is not enough, look instead for a professional who can help you make more sense of things.
3. Become your own ideal partner
Many of us get devastated by relationship breakdowns because we make those relationships the center of our lives. When they’re taken away, we find ourselves lost and looking for help. The best way to counteract this failure is by falling in love with ourselves. Instead of looking for someone in the outside world to love us and acknowledge us — we have to instead provide all that love and validation to ourselves.
Be the partner you wanted your ex to be. Treat yourself and fall in love with yourself. Take yourself on dates. Celebrate your body. Comfort and soothe yourself when life gets hard and things take a wrong turn.
You don’t need someone else to provide you with validation or passionate love. A romantic relationship should never be the basis of your happiness — it should be a part of it. Instead of focusing all your energy and efforts on what has been lost, look to what you have gained: A one-on-one relationship with yourself; the one person who will never desert you or fail you. Become someone you could fall in love with, then actively fall in love with yourself.
Putting it all together...
Are you reeling in the wake of a painful relationship breakdown? You have to let yourself move on if you want to get yourself back on track to love and happiness. Doing that takes courage, though, and understanding that the breakup journey is a nuanced process. We all process the grief of a breakup differently, but we all move on by falling in love with ourselves and finding the silver lining.
Allow yourself to feel the highs and lows of your emotions in the wake of your breakup. The only way to heal your emotions is by going through the process. Embrace your emotions. Then surround yourself with loving and supportive people that want to see you get back on the path to aligned happiness. Instead of looking back at someone who wasn’t meant to be in your life, become the partner you wanted them to be. Treat yourself. Fall in love with yourself. Fill your life with so many positive distractions that you have no choice but to look forward to a future filled with light and love. Once you’re ready to see the truth, take off your rose-tinted glasses and understand that your past relationship wasn’t meant to be. The right love is still out there waiting to be found by you, but you have to make room for it by moving on.
- Kansky, J., & Allen, J. (2017). Making Sense and Moving On. Emerging Adulthood, 6(3), 172–190. doi: 10.1177/2167696817711766
- Rhoades, G., Kamp Dush, C., Atkins, D., Stanley, S., & Markman, H. (2011). Breaking up is hard to do: The impact of unmarried relationship dissolution on mental health and life satisfaction. Journal Of Family Psychology, 25(3), 366–374. doi: 10.1037/a0023627