When a relationship ends, it’s bound to be painful regardless of who made the decision to end it. If the break-up comes out of left-field, there’s often shock and grief, confusion and fear – especially if there are children and property involved. It’s hard to know where to start in dealing with the aftermath. Should you be calling a counsellor, a lawyer or your best friend? In a time of crisis, it’s wise to take one day at a time, allow yourself time to heal and ideally to manage your own emotions in a way that doesn’t cause harm to others.
In other words, resist the urge to do things in the heat of the moment that you might regret later. Below are some suggestions that might help you navigate that difficult time right after a relationship ends.
1. Give it time
In those first wobbly days and weeks after a relationship ends, emotions are jagged and raw and everything is uncertain. At this time, patience is key. Try not to push for definitive answers, final decisions or legal papers. Take some time out for your own self-care and allow time for the dust to settle. It can be helpful to familiarise yourself with the neutral zone, which is what psychologist William Bridges calls that vast no-man’s land that exists between an ending and a new beginning.
2. Feel your feelings
It’s important and healthy to process your painful emotions. You might call on your best friend, your mum or a therapist. There is likely to be a period of mourning what you’ve lost even if you weren’t altogether happy in the relationship. In fact, even if you’re the one who ended it, you’re entitled to feel sad about what you’ve lost. Try not to numb your feelings with alcohol or drugs. It might feel like a great option in the short term but ultimately those feelings are still going to be there in the morning.
3. Remember the good times
After a break-up, it’s tempting to paint your ex in a negative light as a way of buffering your sad feelings. After all, it’s much easier to hate someone than to love them when you can’t be with them. This is unfair to both of you and doesn’t honour the good times you shared, regardless of how it ended. Speaking badly about your ex ultimately reflects badly on you and focusing on the pain they caused you only prolongs your suffering. As best as you can, rise about the temptation to trash talk them, especially if there are children involved.
4. Beware the rebound relationship
Getting involved with someone else too quickly is a recipe for disaster. It’s unlikely to end well and is unfair to the person you’re using to make you feel better. A one-night stand might seem like the perfect way to make you feel good about yourself again but it’s more likely to have the opposite effect so do try to seek solace in platonic relationships and give yourself some space from romantic encounters right now. If you realise that you’ve never been alone before, this is a perfect opportunity to learn how to live independently and get to know who you are outside of a relationship.
5. Be kind to yourself
Breaking up can be a blow to your self-esteem so it’s important to remember that just because a relationship didn’t work out, it’s not because you are not loveable or worthy. Remember your best qualities and hang out with people who appreciate everything you have to offer. Use the opportunity to spend time nurturing yourself, developing your own interests and remembering who you are and what makes you fabulous so that when the next relationship comes along, you’ll be healed and whole, confident and ready to jump back into the dating game.