Why hadn’t I seen it coming? How could I be such a poor judge of character? What is wrong with me?
Have you had that awful sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach as the person you most love in the world is telling you it is over? Relationship break ups are incredibly painful. The shock and then the rollercoaster ride of disbelief, hurt, anger, self-loathing and even fear begin. Unfortunately, when you most need those around you to be really understanding, studies have found friends are likely to consistently underestimate your emotional pain. Most people are happy to listen to you vent in the beginning, but they quickly tire of repeated conversations about what went wrong and feel burdened by your needs to download about your ex. So given it can be a lonely and difficult time, here are the best ways to put the pain behind you:
Understand what went wrong in the relationship
“I can’t understand it… we were so good together”
The shock that someone is no longer in love with you can be incredibly confusing. If you are the rejected party, then it is time to really feel through what might have been going wrong. It takes courage to face up to your side of things, but peace of mind can come from understanding what caused the breakdown of the relationship. This involves reflection, being truly honest with yourself, talking with a few trusted friends or seeking help. Some people can make sense of this predicament alone, others require kind and caring people to help them come to grips with what has changed.
Allow yourself to fully grieve
It is challenging to allow yourself to go through the painful feelings of anger, sadness, and loss. Yet if you are to truly heal from the break-up, you need to be able to express the range of powerful feelings that go with it.
A practical suggestion can be to let yourself sit in a comfy safe room, ideally you may have someone there for support. If the feelings are really big and truly too much my best tip is not to go into them alone. So don’t do this exercise in this case.
Yet we don’t always have the luxury of the perfect support companion on call. So if it is not going to completely swamp you then…grab a comfy cushion. You hug it and then allow yourself to picture your ex-partner. Next you attempt to feel what ever strong feelings are coming up as you remember. Use whatever it takes to get back in touch with those feelings you had for that person. Maybe an image of the two of you together, a certain smell of aftershave or perfume or a song you can play. What ever the prompter, just breath into the feelings whether they result in tears or rage. Let them fully wash over you. Feelings cannot kill you but they can sure feel intense! Remember generally the feelings are much better out than in. Tears in particular release hormones that provide relief from tension and the pent up pain inside. Do not underestimate how important it can be to let yourself feel, rather than just stay super busy and distract yourself and push the feelings down.
However, having encouraged you to let it all hangout, I don’t want to let you get stuck in a pit of despair! So the trick is to pace yourself and when it feels manageable try for some space to work through the big feelings. And remember, if you find it really hard to be with your grief and let it move through you, then a skilled professional can help you work out what is getting in the way of you being able to feel, make sense of what happened and then move on.
Invest in a support system
Brene Brown describes how important it is to choose carefully who has earned the right to be your trusted confidant. These are people who can really get what you are going through and can be trusted to keep your private pain in the vault. Be deliberate and selective about whom you share with. What you need is one of those rare gems who can handle you being in a distressed state, who have experienced what you are going through themselves, are very good listeners and are non-judgemental. A good support system is essential to prevent your break up causing lingering harm to your self-esteem and to avoid damaging your sense of belonging.
Put your focus elsewhere
You cannot mope around for days on end feeling morose. This is where you need to strike a balance between feeling things and finding meaningful productive distractions. For some throwing yourself into work is a useful way to feel like you are coping. For others, a new sport or absorbing interest is a better way to start slowly getting out and about again. Even the movies can be helpful to give yourself respite for a few hours from your reality. Once you are on the mend and have a little more energy to spare, focusing on helping others in some way can be a really good confidence booster. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, but just getting out of yourself to focus on what someone else needs can make them feel special and you feel better. It requires effort, will power and a healthy dose of faking it until you make it!
Argue with self-criticism
One of the hardest parts of a break up is feeling rejected. It is natural to think what have I done? Why was I not good enough for my partner? The internal voice inside ourselves that is critical can run riot with reasons why this has happened to you. Letting go of these thoughts and feelings is not easy but it can be done with self-awareness, patience and the support of others.
So you need to be aware and keep on refuting the bad stories you keep damaging yourself with on the inside. Remember people reject others for many different reasons. Often these reasons are nothing to do with your shortcomings but much more to do with their own. Some people struggle to be intimate, others only like a certain type and you don’t match their image of that type. For them the chemistry doesn’t work for seemingly superficial reasons like you are too tall, too short, too blonde, too clever. Or perhaps their ex-partner has arrived back on the scene.
It is tempting not to remember that a relationship is something created by two people and both have their part to play in it. You cannot be the bad guy and they cannot be perfect. So when people use the line it is not you it’s me, in a sense you have to believe that this is actually true. You have to be prepared to mount a strong argument to your inner critic. It’s important to catch yourself saying blaming and judgmental remarks inside and replace these with kind rebuttals that refute your own negativity.
Create a list of what you are looking for
Finally create a list of what you are really looking for in a relationship. If you have been in the wrong relationship, this is now the time to learn and set your intention to attract the right type of person to you. Maybe travel is important to you, or exercise, perhaps a sense of humour or intellect really matter. What is on the list is what you value. This is you taking action to try and learn from the breakup and make up your mind to avoid making the same mistakes with the next one. In 7 Surefire Behaviours that can Destroy your Relationship Clinton Power says:
I’m sometimes staggered by the couples I work with when I hear they have no shared plans, dreams or vision for the future.Developing a shared vision is important so you feel you’re on the same page in your life together.If you’re making major life decisions without including your partner, you’re sabotaging your sense of connectedness and the security and safety of the relationship.You can still have individual hopes, dreams and aspirations, but you do need some shared goals that give meaning to your relationship.”
So work out what you want, and take heart in knowing that we are able to be resilient and overcome the intensity of relationship pain. Time does heal and you can help yourself through it by using the 7 tips outlined above. However if you are struggling with a breakup and need help, call me on 0412 533590 for an appointment to start to put the pain behind you today.