By Raymond F. Angelini, Ph.D.
In my last column, I wrote about the central role that relationships play in our lives. We all want deeply meaningful and mutually satisfying relationships, but the reality is that all relationships ultimately will end, either through breakup, divorce, death, or other circumstances. All of us will ultimately face the ending of a relationship, and for most of us, we will experience this multiple times throughout our lifetime.
Whether we were only in a relationship for a few months, or married for 50 years, breaking up is indeed hard to do. However, the good news is that you can successfully recover from a relationship breakup. What follows are seven tips that I have used with my clients over the years to help them survive a breakup.
1. Express your feelings completely
When relationships end, we are often bombarded by a myriad of intense and conflicting emotions. Sadness, fear, pain, depression, and relief are just some of the more common feelings experienced. We are often reluctant to embrace our darker emotions such as sadness and anger, fearing they will overwhelm us. This is the farthest thing from the truth. The only way out of the painful emotions is to go directly through them. The detours we attempt to take around our painful emotions only serve to prolong them. So, allow yourself to completely embrace these darker emotions because once you do, you will begin to feel better.
2. Stay focused on the present
One of the greatest challenges when dealing with breakups is to either lament the past or dread the future. Take one day at a time, and sometimes, one minute at a time. Staying focused on the present is critical to working through loss more quickly.
3. Stay positive
It is so easy to get absorbed in negativity when a relationship ends. Strive to stay positive and focus on what is good in your life, rather than what is bad.
4. Be forgiving
It is very easy to hold onto anger and resentment in the wake of a relationship breakup. When a relationship ends, strive to be “better” not “bitter”. Forgive both yourself and your ex-partner, for that is the quickest and best way to start the next phase of your life. Remember, forgiveness benefits the forgivee more than it does the one being forgiven.
5. Try to understand what went wrong
We all enter relationships with the best intentions, but often we go in with many unconscious motivations. Things like fear of being alone, a need to be wanted, or material security are some of the more common unhealthy reasons for choosing a partner. Speaking to a therapist about these issues is often helpful. Remember, if you ignore history, you are doomed to relive it!
6. Surround yourself with supportive people
When a relationship ends, we need the support of family and friends. Having a supportive network can speed your recovery from a breakup and restore your faith in humanity.
7. Practice radical self-care
Anytime we go through difficult times in our lives, we need to take especially good care of ourselves. In addition to eating well, exercising, and getting sufficient rest, try to add in some extras that make you feel nurtured, such as yoga, massage, meditation, and other activities designed to calm and nurture. Remember, pain is necessary; suffering is optional. If you follow these steps, you will likely work through the pain of a breakup quicker and greatly minimize the suffering.
Dr. Raymond Angelini of New Horizons Coaching has been in private practice as a clinical psychologist and business & personal coach for over 15 years specializing in helping people have more fulfilling careers and relationships. For more information visit www.newhorizonscoaching.com or email him at email@example.com.