Ending a relationship
Whether you are the dumper or the person being dumped, ending a relationship is a painful process – and that’s an understatement.
In a 2019 study published in PLoS One, Dutch researchers found that 26 percent of men and women who broke up with their partners developed depression-like symptoms, even if the breakup happened six months before they were surveyed about the emotional fallout. That’s not surprising to experts, though.
“You are dismantling normality. Your life has been built around this person who is your person. They are your plus one. They’re your emergency contact. They’re the person that you tell when you’ve had a raise, or you’re mad at Mindy at work,” says Susan Winter, a relationship expert, coach and author of The Breakup Triage: The Cure for Heartache. “Now in their absence, the entire foundation of what you had as your working model of day-to-day functionality has been disrupted.”
This is true even if you’re feeling relieved or at least neutral about the breakup. (This is how to know when to break-up with your partner.)
“It’s almost impossible to escape a breakup unscathed. You’re always going to have some degree of hurt feelings,” says Gary W. Lewandowski Jr., a professor of psychology.
“So people report feelings of lost identity, not knowing who they are anymore. And that’s all on top of the negative emotional experiences of hurt, grief, loneliness, and depressive symptomology. All of those are typical,” says Lewandowski, who’s also author of the forthcoming Stronger Than You Think: The 10 Blind Spots That Undermine Your Relationship…and How to See Past Them.
It’s what you do with these raw emotions that can turn a failed relationship into a learning experience – and give you the insight you need to get to a happier place.
To reach a happier place, our panel of experts share their tips on how to move on from a relationship and feel better about it.
Allow yourself to feel sad
You’re heartbroken, so give yourself permission to stay in bed listening to your go-to breakup song on repeat.
“Give yourself a week or two nights or whatever you need to watch sad movies and cry, but then make a specific date and say, ‘By this date, I’m going to get up, I’m going to get dressed, I’m going to go out,’” says Beth Sonnenberg, a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist.
“Giving yourself an allowance to be sad is helpful because then you don’t feel guilty. And if you do it for a distinct amount of time, then you can do it in a healthy way,” she says.
It also helps to realise you’re not always going to feel this broken up, angry, or lonely, Sonnenberg adds. “This is just how you feel right now, and next week, next month, next year, you’re going to be in a different place.”
Make plans with friends and family
Distraction is a great way to get out of your own head – especially making lots of time to have fun with friends and family who love you and have your back, says Sonnenberg.
Of course, easier said than done while there’s still Covid everywhere, but you can still be social and stay safe. “Make plans to meet a friend for a walk or hike, Zoom with a group of friends and make it special by playing trivia, doing a treasure hunt or dress up, have an outdoor driveway or fire pit socially distanced hang-out, or get a group of friends together to do a virtual wine tasting or cooking class,” says Sonnenberg.
Do some self-care, which is another way to distract yourself. If taking a bath or reading a good book doesn’t help, listen to music that makes you happy or sparks a positive memory, call an old friend or do some virtual or social distance volunteering so you can focus on others, she adds.
At the very least, treat yourself to something that you wouldn’t normally do – an indulgent takeout meal, a splurge buy – so that you can be good to yourself. “You have to love yourself for someone else to love you, and sometimes people forget that. Reframing and refocusing on that can be helpful,” Sonnenberg notes.