How To Deal With A Break-Up

Whether it’s a three-year long relationship at university, a long-term marriage or just a few months spent with someone you thought was ‘the one’, dealing with a break-up and the emotional fallout is rarely easy. To help, we went to three of the dating industry’s top relationship and trauma experts to get their advice on how to move on.

Match.com dating expert Hayley Quinn says…

My number one tip to get over a break-up is to always remember that no matter how hard it feels now, you will get over it. Often, we have to change and grow into a new person to be able to let go of the past. It's not always how long you were together that makes the difference as to how you feel – it can often be the intensity of the relationship that counts most. Sometimes, in a longer-term relationship, you have time to realise things have run their course, while a relationship that ends abruptly, or you feel prematurely, can be much harder to move on from. 

There is no date marked in the calendar for when you'll be ready to date again. It's all about how you feel. If you feel detached from your ex, as in you wish them the best, but have no desire to go back there, this is a great indicator you're ready to date again. A rebound relationship can seem tempting. However, the opposite usually turns out to be true. Initially, you might be grateful for the distraction, but it's unlikely you'll meet someone right away who can compare to how you felt about your ex, so dates with them may feel flat and disappointing. As hard as it is, it's better to take time out for yourself to recover before putting yourself back out there again. 

Friends can be a valuable source of emotional support in a break-up – however, it’s often true that many of us neglect friendships when we’re in relationships. If you know you've overlooked a good friend, the best bet here is to be authentic and apologise. Any friend worth keeping will accept that and understand.

If seeing pictures of your ex on social media upsets you, it might be time to block their account and move on. When we check in on someone online, it often comes from us feeling out of control and trying to regain that sense of control by knowing what's going on in their life. Of course, when we do this, it can also cause us a lot of emotional pain. It’s important to look after yourself and work towards discovering new hobbies, friends and maybe even career opportunities. That said, it’s important to give yourself time to experience how you feel and process your emotions.

When we get hung up on someone, it's often not the reality of the relationship that we fall for, it's the idea of what it could have been. If you find yourself raking back over your best moments and wishing you'd done things differently, you may have your rose-tinted glasses on. To help you remember what it was really like dating this person, make a list of ways they treated you that you didn't like, or points of incompatibility that you couldn't work through. Then every time you have a fantasy about your ex, you can take a read. 

In reality, closure is a one-sided process. In the movies closure happens when the two exes grab brunch and amicably talk about what didn't work between them. In real life, it comes when you know within yourself that the relationship was never going to work and choose to let it go. 

Closure is possible when you’re willing to put the memories and social media stalking aside.
Rachael Lloyd

eharmony.co.uk relationship expert Rachael Lloyd says… 

My number one tip to get over a break-up is to accept the relationship is over. So many of us obsess about what might have been, and waste time and money trying to recreate ourselves in the hope the departing partner changes their mind. It’s human to grieve the people we love, and to complain about the unfairness of it all, but only in starting to process the pain do we begin to move on. Often, people who’ve had their hearts broken say they’re afraid of their feelings and worry they might go on forever. They battle to sleep, work, function and stay on top of everyday things. But this stage of heartbreak, which is essentially shock followed by devastation, is temporary. It will pass.

The longer the relationship, the more likely it is to be hard letting go. You’ll have many shared experiences and insights. When we’re lovesick, these experiences can be like agonising memories, plunging us back into disbelief that things have ended. But the length of a relationship does not solely determine its outcome. There are many people who are relieved to be free after long unions, particularly if they’ve only stayed together because of shared finances or children. Equally, people have had their heart broken by the sudden end of a passionate weekend fling. Rejection affects everyone differently – so much of how we handle it is tied to our childhood and self-esteem.

Give yourself a couple of months to heal before getting back out there. In a recent study, we found a fifth of singles were rushing to find matches as fears around a potential second national lockdown build, with over two-thirds looking to couple up just because they want companionship. Be kind to your broken heart and don't settle just because you want some company. If you do decide to throw caution to the wind, be honest. While no one wants to hear all about your woeful break-up, it doesn’t do any harm to say you’re taking things slowly because you’re newly single. Easy does it. Use some common sense and self-compassion.

Sometimes, rebound relationships can be terrific. They can give you a confidence boost and help you rediscover the excitement of lust. Just watch your boundaries. If you’re being very liberal with your body, others may assume that’s all you’re after, and respond in kind. The best thing about a rebound relationship is how it moves you sharply beyond the initial heartbreak. Of course, the downside is that shortly after that wonderful high, you might plunge into even deeper grief.

Stalking an ex on social media is like eating broken glass. What good can come of it? How can anyone start moving on this way? Newly broken-up couples should embark on a complete electronic blackout. Remove your ex from your social platforms, mute them on WhatsApp, tell your friends you don’t want to hear about him/her, and focus on bringing good things into your life. Stay busy the right way and avoid gossip.

It’s natural to see an ex more positively when you’ve just been dumped. Somehow, the brain always elevates them to this god-like status, simply because they’ve left. So it’s important to challenge this. Make a list of all the things they did or said that were irritating, disappointing and boring. Keep updating it as you remember. Write about times when you were in the relationship and wondered whether you even really fancied them, or whether you could do a bit better. Keep reality strictly in your sights. Then, make a collage of all your best pictures and write down the nice things people have said about you over the years. You’ll soon realise you’re probably better off.

Closure is possible when you’re willing to put the memories and social media stalking aside. Some people can evolve from romantic relationships to friendships, but that can take years. It’s also much harder to achieve proper closure if you share children, but you can at least have strong boundaries about when you see the ex and what you will or will not accept.

Find some new activities to stop your mind from wandering into pining territory. Take up mediation via one of the trendy new apps (Insight Timer is amazing), journal about how you feel, learn something new – tennis, online dance classes, Bake Off-worthy cakes. Whatever you do, don’t forget to stay in touch with a trusted group of family and friends who will have your back during this time. Things will get better quicker than you think, if you let them.

We all have a tendency to forget the bad and look at relationships more positively than we should.
Antonia Harman

Emotional trauma expert Antonia Harman says…

My number one tip is to make time to grieve and work through your emotions. But don’t get stuck there. Lamenting over lost loves day in, day out is destructive. You may wish to lay blame. They may have cheated, or abandoned you, heaven forbid there may have even been mental or physical abuse. You need to process it and move on. Don’t get stuck living in the past lamenting over what could have been. When it’s fresh, it may be invading your every thought. That will settle; however, you may need a level of emotional discipline to help you move on. Change the record in your head, focus your thoughts on something positive. Plan fun activities with your friends. Go and do those things you didn’t get around to when you were in the relationship. Distract yourself with activities that you truly engage with.  

Depth of connection makes more of a difference than the length of relationship. Often people are in wrong or toxic relationships for years, then they may go on to their next relationship and feel a deeper closeness immediately. If it was deep and enduring, of course it will be painful when it ends. But, sometimes, breaking up from an intense fling which only lasted a month can feel more upsetting than a loveless marriage ending. In that regard, time isn't necessarily the most compelling factor. 

The best time to think about getting back out there is very personal. A good rule of thumb is when you have stopped obsessing about your ex, so you don’t bring that baggage to your next relationship. 

Rebound relationships can be pretty toxic, especially when you might hurt someone. If you do want to go down this road, honesty is the best policy. Let your new partner know that it is a rebound relationship before you jump into bed. Let them make the decision – after all, it may or may not be right for them. Rebound relationships tend to be short lived, but some do lead to marriage. Either way, starting a relationship with the truth will give you the best foundation. 

When people are really your friend, absence doesn’t matter. Let’s face it – we are all a little guilty of neglecting friends while we’re in a relationship, and it’s likely even worse in the current Covid climate. You should be able to pick up where you left off. Just give them a call, it’s as simple as that. Life gets busy, especially as we get older, with kids and careers. True friendships weather storms. It might be nerve wracking but that shouldn’t stop you from trying.

Social media stalking is a miserable thing to do. Avoid, avoid, avoid. No good will come of it, you are setting yourself up for pain. A little discipline may be necessary here: if your break-up wasn’t amicable just block them and move on.

We all have a tendency to forget the bad and look at relationships more positively than we should. My top tip is when you have just broken up and feel traumatised, make yourself a video, with you possibly in tears saying how bad things actually were. Go into detail and list the destructive parts of your relationship. Play it whenever you feel nostalgic.  

Forgiveness and moving on with your life is the best form of closure. Forgive them even if they haven't apologised, for your own sanity. Leave the past in the past and live in the now. Don’t let past events ruin your future happiness. Time will help here, too.

A week or so after the break-up, you might start getting stuck in a mind loop. Distract yourself when you notice that happening. It could be something physical, or anything that engages your brain so there isn’t space to think about your ex.

 
For more relationship advice or to meet your next match, visit Match.com and eharmony.co.uk. For more help with moving on from a break-up, book a consultation via DivineEmpowerment.co.uk.

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