Recently I spoke with a good client of mine regarding a recent breakup that was unexpected. She began apologizing about not being able to complete her therapy assignments due to her sadness and we began a dialogue about what she felt she needed to do in order to really process her relationship. This conversation made me think about what is a good guideline on how to deal with break-ups. Now we all deal with the end of a relationship differently, but I think there should be a few things that EVERYONE should at least think about before really feeling that they are ready to close that chapter in their life.
Why did we break up? For some…this question can go unanswered and trying to figure out what happened makes processing a break up even harder. I get it. That being said, there should be some indications of something that may be went wrong or maybe a red flag that the two of you may not be compatible. If you have these answers GREAT! This will hopefully give you some basis to find out if there are some expectations that you have in your next relationship or a quality that you need or don’t want in your next partner, that you may have not realized in the beginning of your previous relationship. This is essential! You obviously don’t want to continue a cycle of getting into the same relationship and having the same issues…that will ultimately leave you back in the same position of dealing with the breakup of that relationship. Take this time to learn from your past relationships, which hopefully will lead to better relationships in the future. If you haven’t really received any answers of why your relationship ended, you can still get a good understanding of what qualities you want in your next partner and your expectations of your next relationship. And granted not knowing why your relationship ended can make getting over the breakup harder, but learning from the relationship in order to move on is ultimately more important then questioning what went wrong.
How have I changed since the relationship started? We all change in some ways when we get into a relationship. As independent as we may believe we are, there is some aspect of ourselves that change. Whether it be your preference for how you want your eggs cooked (Runaway Bride Reference) or the fact that you ultimately do not want kids in the future, it is important to know how you have changed and if this is something that you still feel strongly about. Learning more about yourself is essential in order to move on. You should really get to know what you need and want for yourself in order to really express those thoughts to your next partner. So take your time.
How long should I grieve the end of this relationship? Now this can be dependent on how long you really feel about your ex and the relationship that you both shared. I think the best guideline is to take about ½ to 1/3 the time of your relationship to really grieve the loss of your ex. NOW…when I say “grieve” I don’t mean that you should be eating 2 tubs of ice cream for 4 months straight because your previous eight month relationship ended. Grieving is individualized. Not everyone grieves in the same way, but you should be taking healthy steps to gradually get over your relationship. If you have reached a point in which you don’t feel that you can get over the relationship by yourself, then seek professional assistance.
The end of a relationship…sucks. There is really no better way to put it. You lose someone that you genuinely cared about and at times there can feel like there is a huge gap that you will never be able to fill, but there is always a silver lining. Taking the time to really learn about your previous relationship can help you build a better you and ultimately a better partner.
Written by: Jessica Jefferson, Registered Marriage and Family Therapist and Owner of Cloud Nine Therapeutic Services. My passion is working with couples who need assistance in navigating life's transitions such as: newly engaged couples, divorcing couples, and couples becoming new parents. I help them utilize strengths within themselves and their relationship to overcome challenges and find peace.