Breaking up is tough. People often stay in relationships to avoid a very painful process; terrified of hurting someone they love and worried about being alone. It’s easy to forget that this transition, hopefully, will end positively. In fact, people often experience a surprising feeling of relief (followed by guilt) after a breakup.
You cannot rush the healing process. When going through a break up one is likely to go through stages of grief. By understanding this, we are able to accept that what we are feeling is both right and very normal. Each stage of this restorative process may oscillate between states of elevated happiness and intense sadness, feelings of rejection and indifference, and most likely you will experience every feeling in between. Each stage is dependent on the individual and there is no accurate or precise time that one should stay in each phase, you may even skip a few. From the initial shock and denial to anger, depression and then eventually acceptance, allow yourself to feel what you are feeling and do not fight against these emotions.
The pain that we feel when going through a breakup is very real. Scientists have found that there is activity in the same area of the brain as physical pain when rejected partners are shown a photo of their ex. Furthermore, a study conducted by Dr A. Lyon, a Consultant Cardiologist suggested that a sudden, massive release of adrenaline can lead to ‘broken heart syndrome,’ which ‘stuns’ the bottom half of the main pumping chamber of the heart, in effect paralysing it and requiring the top portion of the chamber to work much harder to compensate. Of course, there are many people who do not experience such ‘pain’ but with the knowledge that what you are feeling is valid, accept it, and know that you will move past it.
It's very common after a break up to have obsessive thoughts about ‘the ex’, which can start to take over. For example, we may start to constantly think about them, what they are doing, who they are with. We might also, uncharacteristically, check their social media accounts and/or talk to their friends to obtain information. It is completely normal to have such obsessive thoughts, but giving these thoughts too much attention can make it harder to move on. Often the hardest part of getting over a romantic partner is letting go of the individual as an attachment figure, i.e. a person you have come to rely on for validation and support.
Recovering from a relationship breakup is a process, you have to allow yourself time to heal. Acknowledge that there are stages to get through and what you are going through is natural. It is ok to cry! Crying is important and helps us to release stress and move on.
Plan of action in moving on:
- Use distraction – Become a yes person, engage in activities and hobbies which will bring you pleasure (in a healthy way). Spend time with other people who can support you and take your mind of things. Distract yourself from obsessive thoughts and from craving your ex.
- Set new routines - If you can, try and change your routine slightly so you do not consciously or unconsciously associate your everyday tasks with your ex. Whether that is achieved by going to a different coffee shop, changing gyms, picking a new favourite restaurant or even arranging to meet friends in places where you are unlikely to run into your old flame. This will help to avoid the triggers, which may cause distress.
- Give yourself a break - Try not to dwell on the past and most importantly do not repeatedly rethink the bad aspects of the relationship, as these memories will just prolong the healing process. Instead, as difficult as it may seem, make an active effort to leave the house and spend time with friends and family as it is those closest to you who can help nurture your re-growth and support you during this time.
- Focus on yourself – It is time to be a little selfish. Rediscover who you are as an individual, outside of the relationship. Do the things that give you fulfillment. Developing a passion may even lead you to find a positive friendship with someone who shares your interests; cultivating a relationship which brings you joy and allowing you to explore a new side to yourself.
If the relationship is truly over, trying to save it will prolong the pain, and delay the healing process; remember that you cannot force someone to be with you. Try not to consider the relationship with your ex as a mistake, but instead cherish the fond memories and be content with the moment in time that you shared.
Now it is time to be excited because you know that you will create even better memories with someone else in the future, because the break up experience has helped you to know yourself and what is important in a relationship.