A relationship breakup can be extremely painful and difficult to recover from. Many of us have gone through it and although there is no one right answer, there are some tips we can all use to help us survive. I get asked for advice on how to “get over a breakup” frequently and unfortunately there are no easy answers and there is no one way.
However, there are things we can do to move us in the right direction toward recovery. Whether we just ended a 20 year marriage or a summer romance, we can all use some assistance in avoiding behaviors that can and do prolong the pain.
Over the next 8 days I am talking about the top 8 tips (in my opinion and experience) that greatly help us take some control of our experience and steer us firmly on the road to not only survival but recovery.
Today’s tip is simply about allowing yourself to feel your feelings. In this current environment where the next potential mate is just a “swipe right” away, we may tend to think we can simply move on to the next partner by burying our hurt and pain and “getting over it”. Unfortunately our feelings may have different ideas.
Have you ever been frustrated by your inability to stop feeling hurt? Maybe you have tried to move on, even date others, but still find yourself thinking about the ex-relationship? You spend hours running over the story in your mind, assigning blame, feeling guilt or shame, pouring salt into the wound over and over and until the pain is so strong it feels like the break up just happened. Does it almost feel like you are addicted to the relationship?
The fact is that we do become attached to the feelings of love or attraction with our partner. This can become addicting in a way so that when it is gone we can be experiencing similar symptoms to withdrawal. We crave the relationship like any other addict might crave a substance.
We can know rationally that the relationship is not working but still crave it. This can be confusing!
Maybe it makes more sense if we think of the need for love like a craving that has been fed by a relationship. Not only is the relationship gone when we break up but the sense of being loved (or fed) is gone also. As we mourn the loss, we also crave that feeling we had when the other person made us feel loved.
So it makes sense that if we try to stuff these feelings down we will be unsuccessful, right?
So what do we do?
We acknowledge our feelings by talking about them with someone we trust, writing them down, and/or seeking out professional help. We allow the emotions of sadness, anger, guilt, and shame when we acknowledge the pain. This may feel difficult at first, especially if we have broken up with someone else before and now we have those memories of previous relationships flooding back too! But all of the feelings are natural, valid and in need of expression.
Our pain has a message for us.
What is your pain trying to tell you? Why do you feel the emotions you are feeling? Some of us may feel guilt about how we behaved during the relationship or others of us may be angry at the ex-partners behavior. Whatever the feelings, they are telling us about our response to the relationship and can teach us about ourselves and the way we are in relationships.
When I was 16 I fell in love for the first time and I was convinced that this relationship was the forever one. When we broke up I was devastated that my “plan” for the future, for my future did not work out. I wasn’t open to looking at why the relationship ended and how I felt in it. I think I was more in love with the thought of love then the person I dated. I loved how he treated me and being in the relationship made me feel safe. My other friends were all experiencing the ups and downs of high school dating and I managed to find a person who was steady and loyal to me.
Who wouldn’t love that?
When we broke up it was devastating. I remember it was like a switch was flipped and I no longer felt safe and secure. I had forgotten how it felt to go to a party alone or to not have plans for a Friday night. It was an uneasy feeling and I remember having to resist the urge many times to call this person “just to talk”.
I was craving that feeling I had when I was with him and with the relationship gone, I felt very alone and lonely. It was painful.
The only thing that stopped me from calling my ex was an intentional reminder to myself why the relationship ended in the first place and honestly considering whether I wanted that type of relationship again.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Remember to be kind to yourself, acknowledge you are hurting and talk or write about it.
More tomorrow with Tip #2 and the topic of Being Honest!