When an epic relationship ends, one of the most tormenting aspects of the loss is that you can think you’re ok, that you’ve weathered the storm. Then, seemingly out of the blue, you plunge right back into confusion, disgust, and fear, all over again. Chances are, the more tumultuous the relationship was while you were in it, the more tumultuous your response in the aftermath of breakup will be.
Up till now being in a relationship may have been a determining factor in how you view yourself and how comfortable you feel in the world. It may be hard to know or trust who you are without a relationship. Therefore, even when you have said your goodbyes, it can feel like the only way you will get through to the next minute is to hear your ex’s voice: Like they are anchor that brings you back to who you are, or who you understand yourself to be. But, at the same time, you know that indulging that connection feels awful because you don’t want to keep depending on it.
Breakups can be challenging not only for you, but for the people who care about and support you. You are in too much pain to explain what you need, so they have no way of knowing the best ways to help you. To help them help you, I have created a guide to prepare and instruct them on some things they can expect to encounter as you go through your agonizing grieving process. It describes some of your feelings, reactions, and tendencies as a result of the breakup so that they can better prepare for and manage some of the frustrating, challenging, even overwhelming situations that lie ahead.
Here are five key guidelines written from you to the person, people or group you may turn to in your life for how to best prepare themselves and support you as you go through withdrawal from your ex.
After a period of devastation, loss, despair–a traumatic experience–as time passes, you may begin to feel better, safer in your own skin. You may even sense that you have grown stronger as the distance between where you are now and the painful experiences you have lived through continues to widen. During times when you feel okay, you may actually be able to allow yourself to relax into certain situations. You might even start to feel that your self-confidence is growing.
Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, your brain carries you back to a time in your history that evokes great shame and feels painfully unresolved. The images that flash through your mind cause a visceral reaction. Inside, you now feel destabilized, which pollutes the positive experience you were just having.
Like violent waves crashing against your very being, overwhelming, disorienting emotions overtake you during the breakup process. As time passes (often lots of time) the reality of the breakup begins to set in. For many, it is later in the breakup process that you begin to experience feelings of anger toward self, and other(s), including your ex. Anger is a healthy stage in the grieving process and should not be confused with blame, even though they appear very similar. Blame toward self or other indicates that you are stuck in a cycle. Blame at self or other for why the relationship went awry keeps you focused on outcomes that have already occurred.
When your relationship first ended, you may have been far clearer about why the relationship didn’t work, and why your ex was wrong for you. However, you now find yourself having uncomfortable thoughts about the ex—longing, melancholy, and memories of the good times are seeping back into your psyche. Your once-clear perspective becomes more cloudy: what you are feeling right now doesn’t line up with what actually happened between you and your ex. Yet you miss the relationship; you miss that partner who was so wrong for you. It just doesn’t make sense:
The burgeoning love affair between Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani, two of the coaches on the NBC show “The Voice,” has a lot of people talking. Both are creative, talented musicians, whose life histories, home lives, previous relationships, musical backgrounds, career directions, and forms of artistic expression are vastly different. He’s a country music star who, through the years, has taken a more conservative approach to recording, performing, and now “coaching,” by staying close to his country roots. Conversely, she is the trailblazing lead singer of a funky, edgy, progressive pop band who has pushed limits, broken down barriers, and shattered the glass ceiling for current and future female pop singers everywhere. For these reasons and many more, they are a surprisingly unlikely romantic pair.
What can you say? What should you do? You care about your friend, but you know trying to be there for your friend is fraught with no-win situations and conflicts. You can see much more clearly than they can what should or shouldn’t be done, but everything you say seems to fall on deaf ears as your friend just continues to become more distant and depressed. Here are four suggestions to help guide you toward being there for your friend in a way that is as effective as possible for them, while allowing you to maintain your boundaries, manage your frustration, and maintain your patience.
When the pain is at its worst, can you imagine being able to make a clean break from everything and everyone that reminds you of your ex? With modern technology, the incredible amount of access you have to your ex makes a clean break nearly impossible. Figuring out how to sever the ties with your ex, and just how many obscure connections there are is utterly mind-blowing.
It’s both noble and self-sacrificing to stay in a relationship because leaving would crush your partner. You’re loyal to the core, but also profoundly dissatisfied. Now your struggle is to balance the vow you made to your partner to stay in the relationship against the emotional drudgery and the desperate longing to be free.
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