When you have been so entangled with another person that you lose a significant portion of your identity, it might be difficult to envisage living without that person. Even if the person is clearly not compatible with you, letting go might be difficult. So it is with a lot of my clients who are all currently dealing with the emotional consequences of having the bravery to eliminate toxic people from their lives. Much of this aftermath comprises excessive emphasis on the ex-partner and a substantial amount of self-doubt regarding whether they made the right decision or what the future holds. Some of this is a natural part of the healing process, but if it persists for too long, it can lead to poor decision making and despair.
As previously said, recovering from a breakup and/or narcissist abuse is a frightening process with a beginning, middle, and end. It is crucial to recognize that the duration of the process will depend heavily on the individual and how quickly they are willing to begin it. Prior to this, the likelihood of the relationship reviving or a new codependent “object” being discovered is highly high. I rarely use the word revitalize in a positive context. Many codependents will return to narcissist or abusive spouses to evade the recovery process.
Several of my clients are going through difficult situations at the moment. As a therapist, I am assisting them in recognizing that the aforementioned process is productive and necessary for recovery. Some of them find it difficult to envision ever being prepared for this. Let’s examine what a hypothetical healing process may include. This phase has been referred to as a “love hangover,” which is not far from the truth. Similarly to how you would abstain from alcohol following a binge, it is appropriate to do the same here. That means the first step is to cease any communication with the ex (unless children are involved, then a different framework is needed). This is vital to prevent being mistreated or used as a source of supply, especially if there has been abuse or the ex-partner exhibited narcissistic traits. However, the majority of what occurs during this period has less to do with external circumstances and more to do with an internal state of mind. Once this is achieved, the following will ensure that things will improve over time:
Start Thinking Rather Than Feeling:
At the beginning of the process, feeling and emotion are predominant. We are paralyzed by self-doubt and self-pity, and we romanticize our ex-partner. It is vital to feel and acknowledge that these emotions are part of the process, but excessive listening will prevent us from going on. I have encountered individuals who become overwhelmed at this stage, making even the simplest tasks challenging. They identify themselves in this manner rather than comprehending why they are in this position. As difficult as it is (and this is typically the most difficult step), it is necessary to reach a point where logic and reasonable thought dominate. Thinking logically and rationally entails asking yourself why this thinking is in existence, what it is protecting you from, and how you might overcome it. It also involves having a realistic assessment of the ex and the relationship, as well as understanding why it was so difficult to establish boundaries. This may take time and require professional assistance.
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.
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.
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.
Respond to the Crucial Questions:
Once you are able to think sensibly, you can begin to ask yourself important questions that will assist you in moving on and learning from the experience. These might resemble:
Why did I let this relationship to continue for so long?
What expectations did I bring to the relationship?
Why did I not request that my needs be met?
Why did I place this individual on a pedestal?
What precipitated the breakup?
What are the actual benefits of my leaving the relationship?
What can I take away from this to help me progress?
What do I desire for myself now?
What am I going to need to arrive?
What prevents me from getting there?
These ten questions, in my opinion, provide a highly effective basis for evaluating a poor relationship and help to ensure that the same pattern does not reoccur. Regarding codependency, issue 2 is very pertinent. Many men enter relationships with the expectation of finding a mother figure who will take care of them and make their lives easier. Numerous women attempt to “fix” their man in order to give excitement, financial and emotional security, and alleviate the stress of finding a spouse.
Replace And Restore:
In our thoughts, ending a relationship of such emotional complexity might feel like a devastating loss. Even if we know cognitively that the ex was not right for us, there is frequently still an emotional bond because they were a part of our lives. Recognizing this loss is only valid in terms of recovering and replacing the lost relationship’s components. This could include practical problems such as assuming financial responsibilities or finding someone to perform household chores (this might sound basic but it is surprising how many people cannot cope with this and it eventually overwhelms them). In addition, it necessitates increased social activities, friend contact, self-care, etc. This replacement process must occur as rapidly as possible. Restoration requires more time since it addresses the emotional factors that prevailed and increased the likelihood of encountering an abusive relationship. This requires investigation into the roots of codependency. This should be done with a professional who understands codependency and, ideally, has undergone the recovery process themselves.
Restoration. To ease the burden of dealing with the pragmatic changes the break-up will bring, start by making a list of what needs to be done to rework your daily life. Depending on how life was with the ex, it may be the case that you that you need to take on more responsibility for such things as household maintenance, bill-paying, childcare, etc. This can seem a massive extra burden to some while they are coping with loss but can also be seen as an opportunity if positively reframed. Many clients have said to me what an empowering experience it was to deal with new things and take responsibility. Though for some, it will always be hard.
Loss. The loss function means that you psychologically come to terms with the relationship’s ending. Of the two processes, this is definitely the tougher one. Adjusting to the absence of a person who was so much a part of your life will not happen easily, but the burden may be reduced somewhat when you realise that you do not have to rid yourself of all of the relationship’s remnants. It is important to avoid the temptation to label everything about your ex as “bad”, or, in fact all “good” even though when the wounds are freshest, you will find it hard to acknowledge any of his or her redeeming qualities. In time, you will see that the experience of being together also brought valuable experiences that can be taken forward in a functional way. After that immediate pain subsides, you can start to look back and find positive meaning from both your ex and that part of your own identity that was wrapped up in his or hers.
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Dr. Nicholas Jenner, a therapist, coach, and speaker, has over 20 years of experience in the field of therapy and coaching. His specialty lies in treating codependency, a condition that is often characterized by a compulsive dependence on a partner, friend, or family member for emotional or psychological sustenance. Dr. Jenner’s approach to treating codependency involves using Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy, a treatment method that has gained widespread popularity in recent years. He identifies the underlying causes of codependent behavior by exploring his patients’ internal “parts,” or their different emotional states, to develop strategies to break free from it. Dr. Jenner has authored numerous works on the topic and offers online therapy services to assist individuals in developing healthy relationships and achieving emotional independence.