Anyone who has been through a break-up will testify to the feelings that surround it. Let’s face it, no-one likes being left and in reality, also ending a relationship is not easy. Invariably, we all generally get it wrong. Whether you ended the relationship or were on the receiving end, feelings can run high and for a while, it seems the world has stopped.

If it was a bad break-up, that is that one partner was surprised or there was a general lack of communication and respect, then the process can be extremely traumatic for all concerned. How you handle it afterwards will largely depend on you as an individual, your coping mechanisms and your willingness to move forward. However, there are some things that you should and could be doing (and some you maybe should not) to help the process. How you handle this change in your life will determine how long it takes you to get back on track. Hard as it is, these tips may help:

Feel the Pain: It is a huge shock to the system when a relationship ends under any circumstances. When you broke up suddenly and under less than perfect circumstances, things can get fairly traumatic. It is important not to subdue what are in effect natural feelings. Let them out… shout, cry, scream, punch a pillow, write letters (do not send them!), talk to a close friend. If things are still not ok, then consider talking to a professional. Try to avoid constant checking of your ex’s social media, driving past their house, finding lame excuses to call or visit or send them constant mail telling them how terrible they are for what they did to you.

All of this will have the opposite effect… they will distance themselves even more and you will feel worse. You are looking for connection but looking at your ex for this will not bring the desired results and will likely mean you hold onto irrational feelings for longer. Try to find acceptance, block such media as Facebook (if they have not already done that), find other ways to channel your frustration and pain. It is important to look after your basic health needs now, eating properly, regular exercise and sleep.

Do Not Romanticise! One thing we all do when a relationship ends is look at things in an unbalanced way. In our struggle to understand what went wrong, we often center our thoughts on the good times that we had with this person. This is often accompanied with sadness and sometimes self-pity. We question why our ex could do such a thing when you had so many good times together. However, there is an old saying: You know the true character of a person by the way they end a relationship, not the way they start it. If yours ended badly, then maybe what you had was not really what you thought. Center on the ending and you will find many reasons to let go.

Be Realistic and Learn: Whether you ended the relationship or were left, there are plenty of lessons to be had. Often, for one partner, the end is a total surprise but often with the gift of hindsight, can realise that the signs were truly there that the relationship was in trouble and they just did not see it. Ask yourself what you could have done differently and you can be sure that you can take something forward. Did you take your partner for granted, put him or her on a pedestal? Was your communication all it could have been? This might take some time to realise, especially if you are hurt and want to blame your partner. However, Doctor Time is a great healer and even the worst break-ups become a distant memory in time. The lessons learned will help the next relationship. According to my own experience, even bad experiences can be the foundation of a new brighter future with a more compatible partner.

Watch that Rebound! There are those people who seem to jump from one dysfunctional relationship and straight into another. There are differing opinions about rebound relationships and what role they play in recovery. It has been suggested that if the relationship was on a bad footing for a while, then part of the break-up “processing” went on before the break-up. A relationship soon after would then only be a sign that feelings for the ex are non-existent. Sometimes, the relationship started before the break-up, was the main reason but comes to light later. However, the sooner a new relationship starts after a significant break-up with a long-term partner, the more likely it is to be a sticking plaster to avoid the pain and hurt and indeed responsibility for the break-up.

It is then impossible to believe that break-up baggage has been processed sufficiently to enable the new relationship to survive. What better to get over something this awful than to have someone new showing you attention and affection, making you feel desirable again and maybe reassuring you that you did just the right thing breaking up. While it is possible that this type of relationship can move on and succeed, it is more likely to peter out once the initial joyful phase is replaced by reality. The reality means that it was probably instant gratification, a tool to avoid the true work that needed doing. It also leaves one open to being taken advantage of at a very vulnerable time. Proceed with caution. If you look at people who generally do this, you will find it has been a constant pattern in their life fuelled by low self-esteem, the inability to see that they have an identity outside of a relationship and the fear of being alone.

Find YOU! Hideous as a bad break-up can be, it does eventually present an opportunity for growth. After the initial shock, it is important to look at how you want to go forward. I have had clients who have suddenly found the freedom and motivation to do things that they never would have in the relationship. This is mainly because we confuse “love” with the right to independence.

Many couples give up what attracted them in the first place. A good relationship is when two like-minded, independent individuals come together to form something new. Do some personal growth work, an essential process even in the best of relationships. There are some excellent books on the market to help in this direction. Find new hobbies, friends and experiences. Decide what YOU want to do. Try new things. At this stage, it is you that is the most important and why it is foolish to bring someone new into your life before this work has been done.

Accept It Is a Process: Even if you do all of the above effectively (and people generally do not, you will still have some residual feelings that derive from the relationship. Sadness, regret, anger, even guilt and shame could all hang around for some time.” It will eventually come to an end and you will be able to move on, maybe with someone else who is more appropriate and compatible as a partner. It is a process, a process of mourning for the loss that you feel, the trauma of what is turning into what was.

However, in time, you will see that break-ups do not happen without a reason and come to acceptance. An important part of this process is the ritual of letting finally go. You will know when this point has arrived due to your healthier thought patterns but many like to perform a formal ritual… burning of letters and photos, deleting things from computers, changing the house around. These things can bring closure and symbolically help, but will only happen when you are fully ready to move on from the old to the possible new.

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  1. Elizabeth Keating

    Thank you.