It’s gotten messy, and you are undoubtedly shaken and saddened. Your relationship with your significant other is over. Whether you were married, engaged, or otherwise committed, breaking up and moving on is a difficult transition.
You may feel like you’ve wasted time or that you’ve failed in some way—regardless of whether you were the one to initiate the dissolution. No matter how it ended, it’s important to evaluate what happened—what went well, what went wrong—to strengthen your relationship muscles and learn about yourself.
If you are reeling from a breakup and need help clarifying the experience, take these steps to move forward:
Find a Therapist
If your significant other doesn’t want the relationship, be done with it. That means no more communication. No late-night texting when you’re sad, no calls to hear a voice—nothing. For some, this is the hardest part. We’ve all wondered if it’s possible to “just be friends” after a breakup, but friendships require give-and-take, and friendships after a love relationship rarely evolve the way we envisioned. If it’s over, let it be over.
Evaluate who you were in the relationship. Were you the passive one? Did you always want what your partner wanted? Were you an equal contributor? Were you the alpha? Did you make more demands than concessions? Perhaps you lost yourself in the relationship and had difficulty standing alone. Understanding your role in the relationship may help you to grow through change and reflection.
Identify what went well. How did you and your partner work well together? What facets of the relationship did you enjoy and relish? These identifying factors can give you clues to what you can replicate in the future.
Identify what went poorly. How did you and your partner get off track? Was it one major thing or was it several small infractions? Noticing any “red flags” and your reaction to them can be an enormous help in moving forward. Were you able to communicate freely, or was one of you stifled? Were you able to be yourself, or were you always asked to change?
Lean on your support system. Call your mother, father, best friend, and ask for support. Everyone wants to be helpful to others. There’s no shame in needing help; breakups are hard on people emotionally.
Don’t define yourself by your relationship. You are more than so-and-so’s partner. You have unique qualities that make you valuable in this world independent of your relationships. Identify what makes you special and quirky and marinate in those good parts. We are all more than our roles in a relationship; we are also sisters, brothers, neighbors, coworkers, and friends. If you find this step hard to do, ask your support system for help in identifying your good qualities. The people you trust and care about probably can list many that you didn’t even realize.
Take time. Don’t rush back into finding new love. Let your wounds heal and your heart reset. Heading immediately into another relationship may mean heading toward a repeat, with little growth. Yes, you may be lonely and sad—that’s understandable. Allowing yourself to time to think and grow is a form of self-love and is necessary for future relationships.
Finding peace after your breakup may be extremely difficult, but following the steps above, reflecting on the good as well as the bad, and taking the time to work through your emotions will help you to heal and move forward. For compassionate and nonjudgmental support and guidance, contact a licensed therapist.