How to Handle the End of a Long-Term Relationship in a Healthy Way
A breakup with a person is not a break from life and happiness
"That's the paradox of loss: How can something that's gone weigh us down so much?"
Author Jodi Picoult attached words to the conflicting feelings most feel after their long-term relationship ends.
Ending a long-term relationship is often a challenging decision. If you are contemplating separating or divorcing your partner, you are not alone.
The divorce rate for spouses aged fifty and over more than doubled between 1990 and 2008.
Contrary to romantic comedies and popular music, ice cream and binge drinking are not effective strategies for coping with a breakup.
No amount of mint chocolate can replace the bad taste a toxic relationship leaves in your mouth, and no amount of vodka will wash away your memories.
Ending a long-term relationship requires emotional work and planning. Depending on the relationship, parties may need to resolve the following:
Read more to learn how to start healing after a long-term relationship ends.
Leverage Your Social Connections
Demi Lovato survived a near-fatal drug overdose in 2018. Today, she credits an "incredible support system" for helping her follow a treatment plan.
Lovato, who lives with multiple psychological disorders, now feels prepared to cope with her conditions and live authentically.
Studies on social connections have found the following:
- Social support helps minimize the consequences of post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Social relationships help individuals remain motivated to achieve their goals.
- A network could improve cardiovascular health, such as reducing blood pressure.
Consider social services, community groups, places of worship, or activity programs to create or expand your support system.
You may benefit from multiple support systems depending on your physical, emotional, financial, and informational needs.
For instance, you may rely on your friends to vent about your relationship but turn to your church for groceries.
The weight of ending a long-term relationship can be overwhelming. It is okay to share that burden with people that want to support you.
Maintain Your Routine
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Mark Wahlberg woke up at 2:30 am every day and fit in two workouts, golfing, an hour of cryotherapy, work, and family time before going to bed at 7:30 pm.
Most of us can't relate to Wahlberg's daily cryotherapy, but we can relate to him adjusting his daily schedule due to the coronavirus.
For many of us, adjustment looks like working from home, homeschooling children, and going extended periods without seeing loved ones.
The pandemic's consequences have adversely affected Americans' wellness.
Approximately 40 percent of American adults reported struggling with mental health conditions or substance abuse during the pandemic.
Today more than ever, routines could help individuals regain a sense of normalcy and control over their lives.
Routines create structure, provide a sense of accomplishment, help reduce anxiety, and signal to others how we feel.
Post-breakup is an opportune time to incorporate meditation, exercise, journaling, and anything that brings you joy into a routine.
Prioritize Your Health
In the breakup anthem "Back to Black," Amy Winehouse sang, "I died a hundred times. You go back to her, and I go back to black."
Critics disagree over whether "back to black" refers to depression, alcohol, or heroin.
In any case, Winehouse's health deteriorated and ultimately resulted in her premature death.
Breakups often trigger intrusive thoughts, depression, and insomnia.
There are steps you can take to cope with the aftermath of a breakup in a healthy way, such as:
- Processing your feelings with a therapist.
- Joining a support group.
- Setting "thought boundaries" to prevent rumination.
- Taking a break from social media.
- Avoiding your ex as much as possible.
The breakup blues could be intense enough to interfere with every aspect of your life.
A breakup parallels the death of a loved one because you are losing somebody in your life and the future you thought you would have with them.
There is no deadline for grieving. How long you will grieve depends on the nature of your relationship, what stage you are in life, and how well you deal with "failure, rejection, and abandonment."
Some therapists recommend detoxing after a breakup to reflect and recharge. A detox includes not dating anyone new or engaging in any behaviors that hinder your healing.
Detoxing could prevent recycling the same issues and toxicity of previous relationships into your future relationship.
Allow your feelings to flow, indulge in hobbies you overlooked during your relationship, and cultivate the relationship that matters the most: the one with yourself.
Set Long-Term Goals
Breakups can feel like being in a haze with no end in sight.
Long-term goals could help you get a grip when everything seems impossible.
Start by brainstorming SMART goals, which are Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic, and Timely goals.
You may resist looking towards the future when the present feels so disastrous. In those moments, incorporate a mindfulness technique known as opposite action.
Opposite action refers to the deliberate attempt to behave opposite of whatever emotion urge you are experiencing.
For instance, if you feel fearful about the future, do not run away from it. Instead, do something that gives you a sense of control over your future, such as establishing long-term goals.
Long-term goals could help you improve your self-image, realize your strengths, recognize past victories, and visualize better days.
Avoid Unnecessary Conflict
Divorces and breakups typically involve some degree of conflict.
For instance, a couple may disagree about whether to separate or are financially unable to break a lease.
These disagreements will test your patience and self-control. Before you act, consider the following tips for minimizing and diffusing conflict:
- Express your feelings and thoughts without blaming your partner.
- Avoid using absolute terms like "always" and "never."
- Utilize active listening techniques.
- Incorporate breaks into your argument for deep breaths.
- Refrain from reacting defensively to your partner's grievances.
Get Personal and Professional Support
You deserve to receive as much breakup support as possible.
From a friend cooking your meals to neighbors keeping you company, there is no such thing as too much support.
As much as loved ones and podcasters empathize with your experience, they are not substitutes for professional support.
Professional advice could provide the guidance you need to move forward, such as:
- A family law attorney could answer your legal questions and manage divorce's complex emotions.
- A psychologist could provide a safe space to develop coping skills.
- A divorce coach could serve as an ally during the divorce process.
- A physician could manage any physical symptoms of stress.
Give yourself credit today for choosing to read about healthy ways to cope with your breakup.
As hopeless as life may feel at times, remind yourself that you have options and a future ahead of you.
We hope you enjoyed this article.