Few experiences are so painful as the breakdown of a relationship. In many respects, the pain is similar to bereavement. As with bereavement, someone you loved, trusted, and knew intimately has been torn from your life. But you are not the first to endure this pain. Most people have been there at some point, struggling to deal with the shame, the heartbreak, and the fear that they are destined to be alone forever.
If you are coping with the breakdown of a relationship, try the following:
1) Take care of your physical health. When confronted by a major upheaval or trauma, people tend to neglect their body. They are so consumed by their thoughts and emotions that they forget to exercise, eat well, and get plenty of sleep. Make your physical health a priority. Physical health is the foundation upon which your recovery will be built. First, get moving. Do not neglect your normal exercise routine, no matter how much you wish to. You should also be careful to eat healthily. In the early stages of a breakup, people tend to live on junk food. Though that burger and fries may comfort you now, in the longer term such a diet will drag your mood down even further.
2) Be careful not to idealize other people’s relationships. Those in the process of divorce or separation often turn into self-torturers. They look at other couples and think “oh, where am I going wrong? They all seem so happy.” Worst of all, they begin browsing social media and staring bitterly at the smiling faces of friends and work colleagues, photographed with their husband or partner during some sunny vacation. But no relationship is perfect. Even the happiest couples struggle at times. And never forget that many people, even some you believe are happy, only remain together for the sake of money or their children.
3) Try not to blame yourself. Of course, sometimes a little self-awareness and self-criticism can be healthy. Consider your faults. Maybe you did neglect your partner. Maybe you were difficult to live with. Write down the mistakes you made and consider what you could do differently next time. But stop there. Do not blame yourself entirely. A relationship consists of two people - an obvious point, but one that needs stressing. A balanced view is essential. Sometimes personalities clash and the chemistry is all wrong, no matter how hard the couple tries.
4) Make a list of your partner’s faults. Just as you must be careful not to idealize other people’s relationships, you must be careful not to idealize your own. As with bereavement, people often forget the person’s faults, remembering only the high points of the relationship. Take three sheets of paper. On the first, write down all his major failings, from ignorance to jealousy. On the second sheet, write down his petty failings: the way he would hog the remote control or sit around all day drinking beer. On the final sheet, write down forgotten incidents, from the time he refused to pick you up during a snowstorm to the time he insulted your father. Now is the time to unleash your repressed feelings!
5) Embrace change. Your life has changed. If you lived with your partner for many years, adjusting to single life can be very hard. But nothing guarantees unhappiness more than a refusal to embrace change. Acknowledge your sadness and pain. Scream and cry if you feel the need. But at some point you will have to accept things. Try and look upon this new life as an exciting adventure rather than a frightening struggle. Throw yourself into things. Accept every invitation and take up as many new hobbies as you can squeeze in.
6) Reach out to others. As you begin to emerge from your sadness and pain, you must try to reconnect with others. Why not volunteer to work with the elderly? Or how about volunteering at the local hospital? A deep, emotional bond has been severed and you need to replace it with new ones. Too many people try and fill the void by jumping into a new, often disastrous, romantic relationship. Instead, revive neglected friendships, reconnect with your college roommate, and do some good for others.
Never underestimate the pain and difficulty involved in the breakdown of a serious relationship. Your heart has been broken, and you are trying to adjust to a new life. The tips set out above will help, but the most important healer of all is time itself.