How To Deal With A Breakup
I have been privy to hundreds of couples splitting up over the years. They’ve included the good, the bad and the downright ugly. And of course, I have been there and got the T-shirt myself.
You’re not alone
Getting over the breakup of a long-term relationship can be difficult. Especially if there is someone else involved; that can be a double whammy! For some, it might come as a relief or even be part of an amicable split, but for most, the pain and distress that comes from the rejection can be hard to bear.
The truth is that we all cope with a break-up in different ways. There are no hard and fast rules for coping. Don’t assume that your break-up has to end with hostility even though it can be so easy to get caught up as seeing yourself as the good guy and your ex as the bad guy. You may be hurt and have valid reasons for your anger but your ex may have theirs too. They might be finding it just as difficult as you to cope with the breakup of the relationship.
As well as the emotional pain of anger, shame, grief, loss or even depression, there are the physical responses. These can include crying, feeling sick, lack of concentration and appetite, or overeating.
It is also normal to fixate on your past relationship and go through periods of missing your ex, feeling lonely or, for some, even trying to get back together. These feelings may last a few weeks, months or a little longer. They vary in intensity, but eventually you would expect them to subside. There is no set period in which someone should get over a break-up so don’t be surprised if strong feelings flare up once in a while. The secret is to know how to manage them.
You know the old cliché, ‘Time is a great healer’. But there are a number of factors that may affect your recovery. These include how long the relationship lasted, how much you had invested, if you had a sense of what went wrong with the relationship, how the relationship ended and whether or not you have dependants and other additional connections like a home or business etc.
The one left behind can feel broken-hearted, filled with fear for the future as well as doubts around adapting to being single again. Dealing with in-laws, mutual friends and, if you have dependants, dealing with your ex and their new partner being involved in your child/children’s life can be a really tough one. All of this combined can certainly take its toll on you. It’s no wonder if you feel your emotions are all over the place.
Then there is the added fear of sorting everything out on your own. This can be overwhelming, from financial worries to the possibility of finding a new home or even getting on the career ladder again. The thought of meeting or sharing your life with someone else can be scary; never mind the actual first date! If you’re struggling with grief, confidence and other worrying factors, you might feel that you don’t want to date again.
There is hope
Well, I am here to tell you there is hope, that life does go on and you really don’t know what the future holds. There is a whole new world out there. You may even look back at this time and think, ‘It was the best thing that could have happened to me’. And who knows? You may meet someone, fall in love and find this person is the perfect match. Or you may even be happy being single.
Of course life will never be the same again. There may be hurdles and milestones to get over. But you can, if you really want to, make a life for yourself without that significant other.
When you are mourning the loss of any relationship, you not only grieve your loss but also for the future that you thought could have been. However, no matter what, change is going to happen in your life. Rather than fighting it, you can learn how to embrace it, turning something that you didn’t want into something even better.
This is a short guide filled with tips, ideas and techniques I have used myself and with others to ease the way through heartache. I hope it helps alleviate your pain and wish you a happy and bright future.
So, ‘How do I get over this and move forward?’ you may ask. Well, let’s get started.
The Road To Healing
Look after yourself. Even if it feels selfish, look after yourself. Feel what your feeling and don’t deny whatever that is. However, don’t act on those feelings. Of course you’re hurting, you feel sad, you feel angry – speak it out but don’t let those emotions continue to feed your thoughts. The more you feed those negative thoughts, the more negative emotions you will feel. The temptation to react to those feelings just might create more problems for you than is really necessary. Don’t repress what you’re feeling either, that can be just as damaging to yourself as reacting to those emotions and behaving irrationally.
Write and keep writing. And when you have finished, rip it up or if you need a journal, keep writing in that journal but know that it is for your eyes only. If you’re dealing with a difficult ex, it is good to keep a journal so you can refer back if you need to go back to court. Venting your emotions in a safe environment is healthy and once you have got the emotions out the way, you may feel that there may be some action to be taken or not. Writing gives you time to reflect and once you have got yourself in to a calmer state it is much easier to take any necessary actions without the fear of regretting it later. You will get to the point where you accept that the relationship is over. You can start getting on with your life, raising your children if you have them, being productive, focusing on your own happiness and making your life meaningful.
Are you ready to get over your ex? Do you want to start psychologically letting go? Write a brief description about the relationship, put it in an envelope and seal it. Then either reach for the matches or rip it up and put it in the bin. Kiss that relationship goodbye. Research on this act found that those who wrote about their experience put it in a sealed envelope felt much better about it, ready to move on with a sense of closure.
Avoid using alcohol, drugs, or food to cope. When you’re in the middle of a breakup, you may be tempted to do anything to relieve your feelings of pain and loneliness. But using alcohol, drugs, or food as an escape is unhealthy and destructive in the long run. It’s essential to find healthier ways of coping with painful feelings.
Eat well. If you’re eating too much or not eating enough, aim to eat a healthier diet. Something is better than nothing. Nibble on fruit and other healthy snacks if you’re an emotional eater or try something like EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). Use a smaller plate, keep a food diary or even put a mirror in the kitchen, apparently it helps you become more conscious of the food decisions you make.
Exercise anyway you can. If you have kids, take them to the park, kick a ball, ride a bike. Join a walking club. My kids and I danced our way to happiness. Music is one of the greatest therapies for me.
Sleep well and learn to relax. This may be through prayer or meditation. Discover your own journey and trust that you know what is right for you. Practice mindfulness - this is a mind-body approach to well-being that can help you change the way you think about experiences and reduce stress and anxiety. There is so much on the subject in books and the internet, experiment and find the tools and techniques that work for you.
Create a good network of friends. I know you might want to hide away from the world because you may feel embarrassed that your relationship has come to an end, but I can assure you, you are not on your own. It does get easier. Once you open up, you may be surprised at how many people really do understand and want to support you.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If a friend offers you help, accept it, whether that is looking after the kids, talking over your hurt or just distracting you. If your friends are mainly couples and it feels a bit uncomfortable, there are lots of friendship network groups you can now access on-line. Not all of them are dating sites. Some are based on social and various interests and activities, from spiritual enlightenment to going for walks, to the cinema or dining out.
It is what it is. You can’t change the past but you most certainly can change your future. Stop that negative self-talk and learn to reframe things. The truth is, your life isn’t over. There are a lot of opportunities out there.
What is reframing? This NLP technique works great when you are in a situation which makes you feel powerless, angry or when something negative happens to you. It changes the meaning of the situation, making you think about things in a different, more empowering way. In other words, it allows you to put the content of the situation in a different frame.
For example, you might be saying to yourself, ‘Who would employ me? What have I got to offer, I’m ugly’ could become, ‘Now it’s my turn to do what I want. I could go to college, I could volunteer for something I feel passionate about’ (volunteering has numerous benefits. It makes you happier and it opens so many opportunities for personal development and career opportunities). ‘I’m not the ugliest person on the planet! So and so isn’t the prettiest or most handsome and look at the wonderful relationships they have or have attracted.’
This way of reframing your thoughts lets you see the situation in a completely new light. This makes it easier to make better decisions because the focus is on positive aspects of the situation rather than negativity and fear.
Change your limiting beliefs
What is a limiting belief? It’s a thought that you keep thinking. There are three types of limiting beliefs: cause, meaning and identity.
They all affect how you view the world and filter out the bits of reality that don’t fit into your belief system. Your beliefs allow you to become aware of the parts of reality that are in synchronisation with them. Beliefs are very powerful because they control the experiences you will have in life.
Beliefs form because of the evidence that you encounter relating to some experience. If you’ve had some negative experience and you dwelled on it, you might then start attracting more similar experiences that would reaffirm your rightness about the situation or limiting belief. For example, if you’ve been in a bad relationship, you may start thinking that all men/women are B’s. What you then do is focus all your attention on evidence that will corroborate that belief, totally disregarding any evidence that supports the opposite.
Limiting beliefs can seriously hold us back in life. For example, if you have the belief that rejection is a bad thing, you’ll avoid approaching new people, and you’ll miss out on many wonderful social connections. To change limiting beliefs, it’s necessary to gather more positive details about the situation than negative ones.
The simplest technique for changing limiting beliefs is to make a list of all your negative thoughts/beliefs in one column, and create a countering positive thought/belief in the second. Using this second list, you can write affirmations that you can read every morning.
Mentally rehearsing new thoughts and beliefs regularly will help you to create new neural pathways in your brain, over-riding the past limiting ones. Over time, you will begin to notice more and more evidence to back up your new, self-affirming beliefs.
However, it can be too much of a leap to go from believing the worst, to believing the best. If you don’t believe and feel that your new thought is true, it won’t stick. In this case, you can use a step-by-step approach to gradually change your beliefs, see technique below.
- Visualize a ladder (or staircase), with your original limiting thought or belief on the bottom rung/step e.g. All men/women are……. No one will fancy me.
- Find a new belief that feels slightly better than the last one (that you can believe) and put it on the next rung/step e.g. So and so isn’t a ……. I’ve noticed so and so looking at me or flirting with me’
- Focus on this new belief and think about why it is true, gathering evidence from your past, present, and future, until you feel good about it (with no feelings of resistance).e.g. Actually it isn’t true I know lots of lovely men and women. I have attracted men/women who fancy me in the past. So and So divorced at 60 and found a new partner quite quickly.
- Repeat the process until, step by step, you have climbed the ladder/staircase up to the belief you really want to have, one that makes you feel happy and empowered.
Should you cut off contact with your ex?
A lot of books and dating experts say to cut all ties with your ex. No phone calls, text, emails, meeting up for coffee, or sex. In theory it is a good idea, and if you have only been dating someone for a while and haven’t got any dependants, it is so much easier to do (I didn’t say it was easy). If you have dependants, the reality is that you have to co-parent your children with your ex. This means building up a new and different relationship.
If you can, it is good for you to keep the contact with your ex to a minimum. Keep it factual and with a clear focus on what is best for the children. If you find that the two of you have a hard time discussing important issues regarding the children, seek help from a third party. Don’t be afraid to consult a therapist or a friend you both have a trusting relationship with.
Becoming fixated on your ex is common when a relationship ends. If this moves into consistent, repeated, unwanted contact with your ex, their family, friends or workmates then this is stalking and you really do need to seek some professional help to help you deal with your attachment to your ex.
I would also recommend that you see a therapist if :
- Your ex continues to hint that there is a possibility of you getting back together, but continually moves the goal posts.
- The relationship is considered over yet you continue to have sex with your ex or see each other for ‘dates’ while you really want to be with them.
- The relationship ended due to an affair or some other breach of trust.
- The relationship featured or ended with emotional or physical violence (see the National Domestic Violence Helpline, Men’s Advice Line or Broken Rainbow (providing support for victims and survivors of LGBT domestic abuse).
- You have no clear idea why the relationship ended and your ex won’t discuss it with you.
Just can’t get him/her out of your head? Some simple techniques:
If you know that that the breakup of this relationship is permanent, here are some techniques I have used on myself and clients. They helped to diminish the emotions. Please be warned that if you have suffered from any form of domestic violence, I wouldn’t consider doing these techniques on yourself. Go to a reputable therapist, or NLP practitioner that has worked with and understands the impact of domestic abuse.
This is a simple NLP technique: Find yourself a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed …think of a time when the person you are breaking up with did something that you were unhappy with…that brings up a very negative emotion about them…and then think of another time…and another…and make those pictures bigger and brighter…and see all the things that you saw…and feel what you felt…and hear what you heard…and then, string those pictures together and make them rush quickly across that mind of yours…and do it over and over again…until you no longer feel any reason to be with that person…ever again…
This is a simple but powerful technique. You might need to do it more than once. Some people find it easy to go over that threshold and others don’t. Those who don’t tend to have very strong images and feelings about good times. So for them, they need to imagine a picture of a very happy time with that person…then imagine all of those negative times, then add the picture of the happy time…that should do it. This strategy weakens and breaks the bonds that keep you attached to that person. By doing so, the pain goes away. If you are just contemplating a breakup and are having a hard time making the breakup stick (you keep going back even though you shouldn’t), this will make it easier to free yourself of attachment to the old relationship.
EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique)
A quick and effective way to learn the technique is to go on YouTube – type in EFT for a breakup, there are lots of good demonstrations on there – Brad Yates is pretty good, and I think it works better when you’re practising alongside someone else.
EFT is often referred to as ‘psychological acupressure’ it works by releasing blockages within the energy system which are the source of emotional intensity and discomfort. These blockages in our energy system, in addition to challenging us emotionally, often lead to limiting beliefs and behaviours and an inability to live life harmoniously. Resulting symptoms are either emotional and/ or physical. They include a lack of confidence and self-esteem, feeling stuck, anxious or depressed.
EFT treatment involves the use of fingertips rather than needles to tap on the end points of energy meridians that are situated just beneath the surface of the skin. The treatment is non-invasive and works on the ethos of making change as simple and as pain free as possible.
To learn the sequence, please go to see our other blog as a great example to teach yourself in 5 easy steps. I find tapping a good way for relieving any stress and anxiety, however you will find some technique more effect than others, just explore and go with what is right for you.
Positive Psychology Act ‘as if’
In NLP, we call this technique, modelling. NLP Modelling is about learning anything you desire to learn that you believe someone else can do and wish to have similar competency in.
Psychology professor and author Richard Wiseman points out that positive action is far more effective than visualization or positive affirmations (though I feel that these techniques have their uses in the right context).
The idea that you can ‘fake it to make it’ certainly isn't new, but as Wiseman points out, doing so is more effective than just thinking about it. For example, if you want to increase your self-esteem and confidence, adopt a PowerPose if you are sitting down, lean back, look up and interlock your hands behind your head. If you are standing up, place your feet flat on the floor, push your shoulders back and your chest forward.
To overcome procrastination, act as if you are interested in what it is that you have to do. Spend just a few minutes carrying out the first part of whatever it is you are avoiding, and suddenly you will feel a strong need to complete the task.
Feeling guilty? Wash that sin away by washing your hands or taking a shower. Chen-Bo Zhong from the University of Toronto discovered that people who carried out an immoral act and then cleaned their hands with an antiseptic wipe felt significantly less guilty than others.
Wiseman has loads of examples like this. None of them are new but he does back everything with research to find the most effective ways to change behaviour and manage emotions. His books, 59 Seconds and Rip It Up, are good reads and I highly recommend them.
Grow and learn
‘In times of emotional crisis, there is an opportunity to grow and learn. Just because you are feeling emptiness in your life right now, doesn’t mean that nothing is happening or that things will never change. Consider this period a time-out, a time for sowing the seeds for new growth. You can emerge from this experience knowing yourself better and feeling stronger.
In order to fully accept a breakup and move on, you need to understand what happened and acknowledging the part you played. It’s important to understand how the choices you made affected the relationship. Learning from your mistakes is the key to not repeating them.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- Step back and look at the big picture. How did you contribute to the problems of the relationship?
- Do you tend to repeat the same mistakes or choose the wrong person in relationship after relationship?
- Think about how you react to stress and deal with conflict and insecurities. Could you act in a more constructive way?
- Consider whether or not you accept other people the way they are, not the way they could or “should” be.
- Examine your negative feelings as a starting point for change. Are you in control of your feelings, or are they in control of you?
You’ll need to be honest with yourself during this part of the healing process. Try not to dwell on who is to blame or beat yourself up over your mistakes. As you look back on the relationship, you have an opportunity to learn more about yourself, how you relate to others, and the problems you need to work on. If you are able to objectively examine your own choices and behaviour, including the reasons why you chose your former partner, you’ll be able to see where you went wrong and make better choices next time.’