Break Up: First Aid for a Relationship’s End
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Everyone will know the immense pain that comes with a break up or a marriage break down. Although, nobody begins a relationship thinking it will end, we enter them hopeful and full of joy. So, if they do come to an end, it can be an overwhelming sense of loss; as you lose the person, your identity as a couple, and the activities that you shared.
It’s important to note that as painful as it is right now, you may feel that this pain is here for good. Know that you are not broken and that you can heal your heart given time and a little work. Before we get into that, let’s look at the perspectives of a breakup and the psychological impact of one.
Breakup-ER or Breakup-EE
Sometimes, the one breaking up still loves that person but has realised that the relationship isn’t a stable or healthy one. Other times, they’ve lost feelings for them and fear hurting them. There are even times when both parties saw this situation happening, and both part more amicably.
Unfortunately, there are also times when the communication breaks down, and cheating is the reason for the relationship or marriage break down. This is a huge knock on self-esteem and can cause us to trust our next partners less. Whatever the situation that led to the breakup, it’s key to know that all involved will feel a sense of loss.
Or, as William Shakespeare’s quote puts it, “the course of true love did never run smooth.”
Relationships themselves are incredibly complex. First, you have two individuals trying to unite into one unit with their own beliefs, trauma, and ways of behaving. This is even more noticeable when the two live together or get married, as you literally share the same space, each other’s thoughts, and physicality.
The Psychology behind Break UPS
- Physical Injury: A study showed that blood can enter the brain’s pain points after a break up. So, it can really feel like a physical pain to lose someone we love.
- Withdrawal: It also shares many similarities with withdrawal symptoms from drugs. It can change our appetite, cause fatigue, difficulty sleeping, restlessness, and more.
- Depression: Another common symptom of a break-up is depression. It can begin to stir up feelings of hopelessness, loneliness and cause us great sadness.
- Trauma: If it’s not the first heartbreak, it can remind us of those we’ve experienced in the past. It can also create a fear of moving forward into new relationships for fear of recreating this feeling.
- Grief: Much like when a loved one passes away, a break up can show common signs of grief. You may experience shock, pain, guilt, anger and begin to reconstruct and heal. Not necessarily in that order or all of them, but generally speaking.
- Obsessive Thinking/ Rumination: Post-breakup, there’s also that feeling of “why?” or “what did I do wrong?” People can often sit and go over every detail or become obsessed with staying in contact with their ex.
How to Break up with Someone Healthily
Clearly Outline Your Feelings
Firstly, make sure you know how you’re feeling and that you’re making the right decision. Next, write down your reason for why you believe you can’t salvage the relationship. Then before breaking up with your partner, try to find a resolution to these feelings. This will also help a situation where, if you leave, they will know why and know that you tried to fix things.
Face To Face Break Up
Whether you’ve been together for a week or years, sending a text isn’t the healthiest way to go about it. Instead, preparing for a face to face discussion is better. If possible, try to do it in private, as these conversations are highly emotional, and you will likely embarrass them in a public setting.
Compassion Is Key
No matter what the situation is if you start the conversation with “you did XYZ”, it will likely cause more trauma to that person. So instead, using “I feel” statements, like “I feel like XYZ.”
Try to remember that the person in front of you was someone you love once or still. Then, try to kindly state your case for why the relationship isn’t working and why you both would benefit from going your separate ways.
Honesty Is Best
Telling the truth about how you feel in the moment is a good idea. That’s as long as your truth is told with respect and compassion. “It’s not you, it’s me” is too cliche to mean anything anymore.
Instead, look at why your feelings have changed towards the person. Also, think about how to explain that in a gentle way. Also, if you’re about to turn a marriage break down into a divorce, take an honest look at the part you’ve played in this outcome. It’s great to have a two-way conversation about the things you both did well, and the things you both need to improve individually.
Don’t Expect An Outcome
Both in the sense of don’t expect them to react in any given way and don’t expect to remain friends. If someone is being broken up with, allow them to react in the natural way they are responding. It’s a difficult thing to hear from a loved one, so allow their emotions to surface and remain calm and compassionate.
As for friendship after a break up, it all depends on the couple involved. Of course, some can remain friends. But for the most part, it is best to take some distance for at least a few months to “detox” from the relationship.
5 Techniques to Get Over a Break Up
Avoid Pictures or Social Media
The studies mentioned earlier about a break up feeling like physical pain were done by showing participants a photograph of their ex and one of a friend. The people who saw the photo of their ex had blood rush to the pain receptors in the brain. Which shows how much a photo can affect us.
So, before rushing to check on your ex on social media, remember that it may cause more pain than it’s worth. Instead when you get the urge to look through the memories, to ask yourself what you need at this time to help you feel better.
Creating a routine with healthy distractions is one way to ease the mind after a break up or marriage break down. Instead of jumping to alcohol, junk food, or doing any one thing too much, consider filling your time with a range of things that make you feel good. Some examples might be:
- Watching things that lift your spirits
- Listening and singing to your favourite tunes
- Re-organising your home
- Getting into nature
- Exercise routines
- Seeing friends
- Drawing, painting, crafts
- Learning a new skill
Take Off The Rose-Tinted Glasses
After the break up, we tend to blame ourselves and see our partner in a favourable light. Try to write down the reasons you weren’t suited for each other, write down all the reasons they were the wrong person for you.
When your mind becomes nostalgic of a time before the marriage break down, try to remind yourself that it was a relationship meant for you at the time but not in the present. Also, look at what you learned from that relationship and use that to improve the next one.
Exercise Can Boost Your Mood
I don’t like the idea of exercising to “show your ex what they’re missing.” If you start an exercise routine, it should be to show yourself what you are capable of and to help create more energy, stable moods, and strength.
The kind of exercise you do depends on what you would enjoy doing consistently. So carve out three times a week to dedicate to an activity that you could see yourself enjoying, making sure to have rest days in between. For those who have never really exercised, remember to take it slowly at first and build up in strength and intensity.
Channel The Pain Into Creativity
Creativity is said to be very therapeutic at times of heartache or depression. Whatever you love to create, whether that involves lego, paint, a pen, or even your career. Try to channel that creativity. Because what you’re experiencing right now is relatable to so many people in the world.
Whether it’s talking to your family, friends, or mental health professional, finding and speaking openly to your support system is one of the best ways to process your feelings. Just make sure that who you’re speaking to is compassionate and understanding of what you’re experiencing. Especially if you’re experiencing a marriage break down, as you’ll need help to move home and throughout the devision of stuff in the divorce.
Also, learn to become your own support system too. One tip is to write a letter to your child self, encourage them that everything will be alright, and express to your inner child how you’re going to help them during this time.
How Long Does It Take To Move past a Break Up?
Falling in love, having your heart broken, and healing from that will take as long as it needs to take.
Rather than applying your focus to timeframes, apply it to healing your heart. Learn to be kind to yourself, give yourself the time you need, and create happiness within yourself.
Rediscovering You through Mindfulness
As my favourite meditation teacher Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche explains; if you said, “yes I am aware that I’m reading”, then well done! You have awareness.
Also, if you said “no,” to being aware that you’re reading these words, then well done! You are aware that you don’t know that you’re reading.
This simplified example brings us to the present moment and identifies our awareness of what we are doing right now. There are plenty of resources online that you can find and apps to help teach you meditation to help grow this awareness.