Breakups are an inevitable part of finding the right partner and although almost everyone gets through them successfully, the process can be very painful and difficult to manage. Everyone is different and we all have our own ways of grieving, but there are a few common elements that seem to help people heal faster after a breakup.
Be compassionate with yourself
When you lose someone important to you, it is only natural that you will grieve. Grief is a process that takes more time than we think it should and there are no real shortcuts. Pushing away your pain, denying your feelings, or numbing yourself will only prolong your suffering. Instead, realize that you will not be at your best for a while and give yourself some time every day to experience your painful emotions. Schedule time to grieve if you need to. Journal about your feelings or talk to a good counselor. Be open to whatever arises in you, even if it is uncomfortable. Take good care of yourself and treat yourself kindly. Ask yourself what you need or what you are willing to do for yourself in your moments of pain. Healing comes through eventually accepting and making meaning of your loss.
Accept that it is over and behave accordingly
Unless you are co-parenting or sharing some other major responsibilities, ceasing all contact and communication with your ex for a period of time can help you heal after a breakup – especially if you are having a hard time moving on. This includes phone calls and texts, social media, or driving by their home or place of work. If you are co-parenting, limit your contact to a business-like relationship with the children’s well-being as your priority and your sole mission. As the source of each each other’s pain, exes cannot “help” each other through the breakup. Staying in frequent contact with each other only prolongs the suffering. It prevents each partner from learning important lessons and gaining the objectivity that a period of separation brings.
Your mind will bargain with you, make excuses, and try to convince you to maintain contact with your ex. Therefore, you must continually remind yourself that your best chance of having a healthy relationship in the future is if you set good boundaries and allow yourself to heal. Even though you may not see it, your ex is struggling too and may also do things to undermine the healing. This is why it must be up to you, and not your ex, to set limits so that you can do the inner work required for healing.
Focus on what is within your control
Rather than spending all your free time contacting, thinking about and monitoring your ex’s activities, take care of yourself and make a commitment to personal growth. Work on being the kind of person you would want to be with – this is your best chance for a healthy relationship in the future. Start an exercise program, eat nutritious foods, practice good sleep hygiene, do some volunteer work, take a class, pursue a hobby, or further develop your expertise at work. Reach out to friends and family (who often see the breakup coming long before you do). Be patient, kind and gentle with yourself.
Remember that there are reasons why you broke up and there are reasons you liked your partner in the first place. Resist the urge to place your ex on a pedestal or seethe with angry thoughts of blame and resentment. Both of you are three dimensional people with strengths and flaws – neither of you are saints or villains. Remember, your ex is not your only chance at love – your capacity for love comes from inside you, not from the other person. A relationship is a two way street, so only half of it is under your control. Anything you might try to do to push (or force) the issue is bound to backfire on you. Grasping after someone only nudges them further away and makes you look unappealing in the process.