The end of a relationship is one of life’s toughest experiences. It can damage your sense of self-worth and up-end everything from how you live your daily life to where you live. It can also destroy friendships and break up families.
Coping with feelings of rejection or failure and adjusting to a new daily routine can create physical and emotional symptoms similar to grief.
It might not feel like it, but it’s important to remember that life goes on.
Strategies for coping after a break-up
Author and psychologist Deborah Davis, writing in Psychology Today, offers strategies to help you cope with the emotional distress of a break-up.
Moving on is not easy. According to research published in The Journal of Positive Psychology, it takes an average of 11 weeks before you can expect to feel better after the end of a relationship.
A separate study found that healing after a marriage – reaching a point where life seems normal again – takes an average of 18 months.
Here are some practical steps to help you move forward.
Face your feelings
Feelings of anger, fear, emptiness and shock are a normal reaction to loss. A breakup is a loss on so many levels. Don’t avoid the pain and grief you feel. It’s part of the process of healing.
Some emotions will feel physical. That’s normal. Focus on the physiological aspects of those feelings and allow them to move away from your head and heart. You’ll feel like you’re on a ship in rough seas, but you’ll eventually reach calmer waters and the sickness will pass.
Open up and talk it out
You may feel like no-one understands what you’re going through, but opening up about it, giving yourself the chance to say what you want, will help. The secret is to find a trusted confidant.
If you think a parent, relative or friend expects you to simply “snap out of it”, get in touch with a relationship counsellor.
He or she won’t know you or your ex and he or she won’t judge you. It will give you the opportunity to address unfinished issues, to unpack your fears and worries, and to let go of them. Look here to find a relationship counsellor near you.
Say farewell to anger
It doesn’t matter who finished it or how a relationship ended, it’s natural to feel anger, especially when a family is breaking up. It’s easy to play the blame game and feel bitter.
Ultimately, it’s not about who was right or wrong. The relationship didn’t work, for one or both partners. Try to understand the part you played in what happened. And, upsetting as it may be, let go of the past.
Reset your momentum
We all replay and relive broken relationships. We go over and over what happened... what didn’t happen… what should’ve happened.... It’s time to stop living Groundhog Day.
There comes a point when you have to make a conscious decision to change gear, up your momentum and move forward.
The alternative is to stay stuck in a holding pattern above some metaphorical airport. It’s time to plan your approach and land.
Try this: imagine being on a beach and literally drawing a line in the sand. One side – the area you’re standing in – is the past. The other side of the line is the future. Step over the line and into the future. A broken relationship pulls at us for a long time. Place it in the past and you in the future.
Embrace your freedom
It can take a long time to get over a breakup but you do have to keep living. Accept social invitations and create opportunities to get out and about with friends and family.
Getting out can bring you out of your head and help create new perspectives.
Look for other ways to feel enriched, sources of meaning and experience personal happiness.
Consider a new pastime or community work. Be courageous, think positively and use free time to find new fulfillment.
Reconnect with yourself
Life is lived at a fast past and few of us have the time we’d like to spend on ourselves.
Most of us wonder what happened to the person we used to be. Use free time to focus on yourself and to bring about an awareness you may have lost.
Rebuild your emotional and physical relationship with yourself. Rather than rushing into a new relationship, focus on loving yourself and finding out what you really want and need from life.
Disconnect socially with your ex
Don’t “stalk” your ex. Don’t follow him or her in real life (no driving past the house to see if he or she’s at home) or on social media.
Now’s the time to focus on making new connections.
Remove physical reminders
Rereading love letters, constantly looking at photographs or wearing clothes an ex bought you won’t help you let go and move on. It will only make you romanticise the relationship.
You don’t need to throw those possessions away. Lock them in a box and move them out of sight. When you’re ready, you might find they spark positive memories you want to keep.
Moving on and moving out
Recovering from the breakup of a live-in relationship or marriage involves not just moving on but moving out too.
Dividing the contents of a home can be both traumatic and stressful.
These tips can help make it less messy:
- agree to each person keeping the items they brought into the home
- make a list of shared belongings
- divide them based on who uses them/wants them the most
- sell valuable items you can’t agree on
- store items you can’t use or house now but don’t want to part with.
Self-storage is a useful option for storing items you’re not yet ready to house, sell or dispose of.
For example, store photos, letters and other sentimental items with our sister company, SpaceBox, which lets you store items by the box. They fetch and deliver, too.
For other items, from furniture to appliances, kitchenware, books, documents, sports gear and more, consider a storage unit with XtraSpace. We offer clean, secure units in a wide range of sizes. Contact us for more information or browse to find a branch near you.