Have you experienced a breakup not too long ago? Are you having a hard time getting over it? Do you avoid people and places associated with you and your ex? Are you having feelings of anger? Resentment? Betrayal? Confusion? Did you feel you were more invested in the relationship than your ex? Did you feel things were going well only to later realize they weren’t? Did you truly want him or her to be “the one”? Are there times you feel depressed or sad because of the breakup? Are you experiencing anxiousness or stress related to your breakup experiences? Do you feel like you won’t be able to meet or find anyone else or that you’ll be single (or alone) for the rest of your life? Did your self-esteem take a low blow?
You are not alone. We have meet with a many many clients over the years who have experienced these feelings and while learning to cope with the distress of a broken relationship. Feeling lonely, angry, afraid, sad, hurt, or rejected after a breakup are normal feelings…even though they are painful. You don’t have to go through these times alone. At first it may seem too overwhelming to sort out all the things that happened in the relationship however, taking that initial step of seeking help begins the journey toward healing the mental and emotional wounds. We are here to help you figure out what’s going on for you and to sort your feelings and thoughts out to make more sense of things and put the pieces back together. Where to start? How do you get through all this? Let’s take a look at what’s happening and what can be done.
Heartbroken over the loss
Disbelief / Avoidance
When the relationship comes to an end, many couples may not believe it’s over. For the one who decided to end the relationship, he or she may have been “done” for quite some time and had been planning an exit. For those who are getting the news of the relationship being over, it may come as a shock or surprise. “How can this be” you may ask. You may have a bit of disbelief and wonder what you need to do to “win” your girlfriend or boyfriend back.
Whether you have called off the relationship or your ex did, there are things that you may do in order to not deal with the loss. You may find yourself avoiding certain places that he or she may go to. You may not want to be seen with certain friends of his or hers. You may avoid talking with his/her family members. Many attempts may be made to avoid any thing that may be associated with your ex…especially places and people. You may find yourself going out of the way to not be anywhere near these places or people. Disbelief and avoidance may be a way to help soften the blow and the heartache of the broken relationship.
Dating on the rebound is another way of trying to forget about the last painful relationship. Rebounding occurs soon after a breakup for people willing to be with just about anyone in
order to try and feel “normal” again while not wanting to have anything to do with the ex. The harder you try the more and more you may find yourself aching inside, confused, and angry. You may catch yourself (or your date catches you) complaining how much your ex hurt you and how betrayed you feel. Many times, people who have gone through a breakup find themselves trying to find support, understanding, and maybe a bit of sympathy. Rebound dating may be an attempt to fill a void, to boost self-esteem or regain a sense of being wanted. Rebound dating may be an effort to avoid feeling vulnerable or alone. It can also be seen as a short-term solution for much deeper mental and emotional pain.
Then there’s the feeling of anger…with internal thoughts and outward expressions. Many times people who have or are going through a breakup find themselves more often than not in a state of anger. This anger may not necessarily be directly related to the loss of relationship but just anger in general. You may find yourself snapping at your child, or at a co-worker, or at your friends or family. You may find yourself getting irritated for no apparent reason…mad at slow drivers, irritated at people with a shopping cart full at the 10 items or less checkout lane at the store. Whatever the reason, you just have anger seething out of you. You may ask, “Why are people so annoying”? “Why is this taking so long”? “Are people just trying to piss me off?” “What’s the big deal?” Anger is a way of protecting the mental and emotional hurt you feel inside.
You may also take your anger outward in a different way by blaming others. You may just blame others for things in general and not necessarily for anything about the breakup or changes from your relationship. You may blame your ex for how you feel or blame his or her new girlfriend or boyfriend for interfering or taking your ex from you. Also, blaming others who should have told you something bad was going on in your relationship.
Shoulda, coulda, woulda
After some time of avoiding, rebounding, blaming and getting angry, you may find yourself struggling with making sense of the loss. You may reflect on what might have been if only __________ had happened or if __________ didn’t happen. You may say to yourself, “I shoulda said __________ instead of __________”; “I shoulda done ____________”; “I shouldn’t a done __________”; “We coulda been okay if __________”; “If he / she woulda said __________ or wouldn’t a done __________”. So many times this internal dialogue (or even expressed with friends) may run and run through your head as you try to make sense of the events and interactions that had gone on in the relationship. Sometimes you may feel like you are “shoulding” too much and your thoughts and feelings may seem to “spin” leaving you a bit exhausted. You want so much to get out of this spinning and make sense of the whole thing.
Self-introspection (Inside look)
There is a time when you begin to feel the weight of the loss. It may seem like it is staring you right in the face. You realize the breakup is a done deal. You may begin, if you haven’t already, to feel sad, depressed, and discouraged over this breakup. You may also experience loneliness, shame, guilt, fear, anger with yourself, as well as other feelings. You may also blame yourself for various things you may have said or did that lead up to the breakup. Crying spells, difficulty sleeping or eating, difficulty concentrating, maybe some hopelessness or helplessness may be part of this process of self-introspection. While all these questions may or may not be asked, you may find yourself going back and forth from anger, to avoidance, maybe to rebound dating, back to questioning, to blame, and so on. However, through all of this comes the need and process of letting go and moving on.
Letting go, moving on
Reflections on the relationship
As part of the process of letting go, it is important to reflect on the relationship – how it started, what were the circumstances or situation/s that lead up to dating, the decisions you made to go out with your ex, the expectations you had of yourself and your ex while dating, the choices and activities you made together, the compromises you may have made with your values and beliefs, the signals or “red flags” that seemed to indicate that something was not quite right or you had your doubts, and what lead up to the final decision to breakup. Reflection helps to sort out the good, bad and indifferent thoughts, feelings, and times you had together as well as to learn from your experiences as a way to move forward. Letting go allows you to grow from the relationship in such a way that it makes you stronger as a person. It may also take on the aspect of forgiveness (of your ex as well as yourself and possibly others that may have been involved), and reconciliation (though this process may not be realistic, possible or desirable). Moving on is a way of giving yourself (and in a way your ex) permission to continue to live life as free and whole, motivated to at some point to be in a healthy relationship, to be wiser in being in one, and know who, what, when, where, and how to go with your new boyfriend / girlfriend.
Let the ex own himself / herself
Further, in the letting go and moving on process, you allow the ex to own his or her own thoughts, feelings, actions, and attitude. This lets him / her be responsible for himself / herself and better yet allows you to not take on his / her responsibilities. Are you responsible for the decisions your ex makes? Are you responsible for his / her happiness? Are you responsible for how or what he / she thinks or feels? Allowing for self-responsibility is crucial in the letting go process.
Be responsible for you
The same is true for you. Be responsible for your own thoughts, feelings, actions, and attitude. Be in charge of you. Think for yourself. Be yourself. Allow yourself time to heal, time to process, time at your own speed to get clear of the breakup. This can be very freeing as you regain a sense of self giving yourself permission to go, grow and move on with your life.
If you find yourself continuing to hurt over the breakup, or you struggle to make sense over the whole thing, or feel your attempts to cope are not helping, or you find your anguish too difficult to bear, you don’t have to do it alone. There is help available for you. You may want to see one of our counselors who is objective, kind, compassionate, a good listener, and who is ready to help walk you through these paths of change. Feel free to read other articles we have on this site or some of the other blog entries or feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 520-292-9750.
Kerry Kelly, Sandy Green, Anne Sheffer, Barbara Grinnell, Matt Merrick, Thea Thompson, Allison Hanzel, Tammie Milliken, and Joel Ackley are counselors experienced in helping you get through the breakup.