When relationships end
The Couples Connection
August 2012

After a break up, it’s normal for both partners to experience a range of emotions as you come to terms with the fact you’re no longer a couple. Sad, angry, exhausted, frustrated, anxious, even relieved; it’s all normal. There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to feel.

When a relationship ends many people experience a sense of loss and disappointment. It can be difficult to let go of the hopes and dreams you had for your relationship and look towards an uncertain future.

Even if you ended the relationship, or know it was unhealthy, the fear of the unknown can often seem more difficult to bear than the unhappiness you felt in the relationship. You might start to wonder if you made the right decision.

Both partners will no doubt miss things about the other, even when a new partner is involved. It’s normal to remember things you loved about your ex only when the relationship is over. Your new partner may make you happy, but they won’t be the same package as your ex. It’s inevitable you’ll miss some of the things that once worked in your previous relationship.

But while the ‘leaver’ and the ‘left’ may share a sense of loss over what might have been, these feelings will be more intense if you didn’t choose to end the relationship. If the breakup was your partner’s choice you’ll probably feel like you’re out of control, and in the immediate aftermath this feeling can’t be minimized. Your routine has been disrupted and your responsibilities, home, and relationships with friends and extended family might also be forced to change.

Psychologist and psychotherapist Dr Janet Reibstein explains:

“You haven’t planned for things so the chaos will be that much greater, the grief will be that much greater, and you’ll be going at a different pace.”

However, it’s often the emotional, rather than the practical, loss that feels most painful. Dr Reibstein recommends allowing yourself time to grieve your loss.

“It’s fair to say that, normally, as with a death, people go through the mourning process or readjustment and come out of it alive, and sometimes better off.”

Tips for dealing with a break up:
  1. Take time out to grieve. Recognise the intense and sometimes conflicting emotions you’re experiencing and accept that you won’t be at your best for a while. It’s okay to give yourself a break.
  2. Remember grief lessens with time. It might seem easier said than done, but try to remind yourself that things will get easier after a while.
  3. Don’t go through it alone. Isolating yourself can make the grief more difficult to cope with; support networks will help you get through this difficult time. If you don’t feel you can share your feelings with family or friends, post your thoughts on the Couple Connection forum to get advice and support from our online community.
  4. Remind yourself of the future. It may feel hard to let go of the hopes and dreams you held for your past relationship, but it’s important to remember you have a new future to embark on and encourage yourself with the knowledge that new hopes and dreams will eventually replace the old ones.
  5. Find new interests. Try to see the breakup as an opportunity for new beginnings. Take up a new hobby that attracts like-minded individuals ; get into sport and revamp your image; or use dating or social networking sites to make new friends – all of these things will help improve your confidence, take your mind off the break up, and encourage you to have fun again.