There are few sadnesses more all-consuming than that felt after a breakup and the loss of a long-term loving relationship.
The life you once shared has been turned upside-down. Everything you knew to be true, valued, took for granted—it feels like it’s gone. Suddenly, cardboard boxes are everywhere, hastily crammed with their possessions—or yours. The novelty items you purchased at that groovy gift shop on holiday in Spain. The reams of CDs you bought together in a last-ditch effort to save a dying medium. The house plants you valiantly tended as a team. The photos. The mementos. The memories.
There’s no two ways about it: the feeling is one of devastation. A loss of identity. A sense of failure. Despair at the loss of commitment, the loss of two united families, the loss of security, joy, and comfort.
Our most intimate relationships tell us who we are, even when we don’t realise it. They shape who we are; we’re an altogether different person after a relationship than we were before. And the loss is felt on so many levels. You lose the tactility, sex, the presence. You lose commitment, reliability and attachment. And you lose your own self-esteem; your wellbeing is jeopardised and you’re dumped unceremoniously back in the land of the single. Once again, you must live by—and for—yourself. Your future, once so brightly dusted with twinkling aspirations, has overnight been tinged with sepia.
But—and you have to believe there is a but—even though you feel that an essential part of who you are has been zapped from existence, there are things you can do to turn this around. What lies ahead is unknown, and it’s going to be tough. But there are paths to discovering inner strength, newfound courage, and unexpected hope. You’re going to have to be resourceful, stoical, resilient—but you can learn to deal with the loss, and adapt to the separation.
1. Really feel your feelings
The emotions will come crashing, and you won’t be able to predict their arrival. Grief, hurt, resentment, anger, fear. Someone you loved and depended on—someone you thought loved and depended on you—is out of your life. It may take months to really come to terms with this wash of multicoloured feelings. All you can do is let them happen, acknowledge where they come from, and understand that they’re natural. It doesn’t make it easier, but it at least empowers you to be at one with yourself, to be under no illusion as to the reality of the situation. And in time, this approach really can pay dividends: you may find it easier to eventually disassociate your emotions from your ex, process your thoughts better—and move on.
2. Take care of yourself
At this time, your own wellbeing must come first. Many of us have a tendency to accommodate and please others, and that habit can be perpetuated even after a relationship has ended: those feelings are simply redirected to other loved ones. But don’t lose sight of what you need, what’s going to help you through this dark time—even if you don’t feel like doing it right now.
Even though you feel dejected and unloved, don’t neglect your health, appearance, and social life—especially because you feel dejected and unloved. It can hurt, but facing your feelings head on is better than putting a lid on them and allowing them to spiral. Strength comes from within—and you’ll be surprised at the oases of power you find dotted along this winding path so long untrodden. Remember that you are as worthwhile a person as anyone else, and that you deserve respect—especially from yourself.
3. Get moving
Stay active — physically, but mentally too. Stick with a routine—the sense of structure might be all that keeps you going through the darker days, all that tethers you to your surroundings and responsibilities. You had an entire life before you met your ex, and you will again. It didn’t go anywhere—not really. You can rejoin that life. You might just be amazed at the old faces who are delighted at your reappearance. With their support you really can forge a brand-new future—and you truly don’t know who you’ll meet along the way.
4. Beware of radical action
The temptation to effect drastic change to combat your trauma is understandable, but remember: you’re vulnerable right now. You might not be thinking clearly. You might want to reinvent yourself, make big bold transformations to your character, even your appearance—but maybe those aspects of yourself weren’t why your relationship ended. Even if they were, it doesn’t necessarily mean those characteristics need changing—perhaps they just didn’t mesh with your ex as an individual. Make changes slowly. If you feel the urge to do something that deep down you know you could well end up regretting, run it by friends and family. Request brutal honesty. You might just thank them for it down the line.
5. Learn from your experience
Maybe you contributed to the breakup. Maybe you were too demanding. Maybe your expectations were unrealistic. Examining what went wrong might be a cold bucket of water over the head, but it’s only through introspection that we gain insights into who we really are, and become better, more self-aware individuals. What would you have done differently with your ex? What will you do differently when you meet someone new?
There’s no playbook for breakups—but there are strategies
The ending of a relationship can be chaotic; there is no predicting what will unfold in your life, even inside your own head. There are no rules on how to disentangle your lives—and there’s no panacea for the multitude of pains you’ll likely experience. All you can do is take each day as it comes, accept your feelings, and be proactive in how you channel them. Whether that involves spending more time with loved ones, focusing on your own wellbeing, or engaging in healthy activities which you know make you feel good, such as charity, art, exercise, sport, being in nature. Suspend your expectations; the plane of grief is cyclical, not linear.
Maclynn (formerly Vida) is an elite, multi-award-winning international dating agency. We’re world-renowned for bringing together highly compatible singles, and our estimable matchmakers are relationship experts in their own right. If you’ve experienced a painful breakup and want to talk about it or find love again, we can help. Get in touch today, and together let’s help you find your way back to yourself.