Commit to avoiding the mistakes that only make things worse.
It sucks. It just does. The hurt, the anger, the loss (of seemingly everything -- companionship, security, self-esteem). The process of healing after a divorce or breakup can feel like insult on injury. It’s tough enough trying to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. But now you have to fight against being your own worst enemy.
The inherent challenge of moving on from a breakup is fighting the urge to connect. You build a relationship by striving in all you do to connect more genuinely, more intimately. To suddenly have that call-to-action ripped out from under you is a real blow. It’s like expecting a moving train to stop on a dime and go back to where it came from.
But whether or not it is apparent to you now, this time of healing after a divorce or breakup is a time of great potential. Sure, you didn’t want or plan to be here. But the beauty of life is that it is an equal-opportunity benefactor, and it imbues every situation with opportunities for exponential growth.
If you’re in the process of healing after a divorce or breakup and feel maddened by the frustrations and temptations, read on. Sometimes the message of “what to do” is more impactful if written as “what not to do.”
You may recognize your own behavior in the following mistakes people make in the aftermath of a breakup. But don’t stress. Absorb the recognition and the lessons as to why those mistakes don’t serve your effort to move on. And trust that everything is falling into place to facilitate your highest good and happiness.
Here are the 6 biggest mistakes people make when healing after a divorce or breakup.
- Contacting your ex right after the breakup.
Yes, it’s natural. You’ve been calling and texting your ex all day every day for so long you almost don’t know how not to.
But now you want to know what your ex is thinking, doing, feeling. You instinctively want to keep tabs, vent your anger, and hear those three-word phrases, “I miss you,” “I love you.”
Rushing to contact your ex only delays your healing after a breakup or divorce. It’s like pushing the hold button and keeping the relationship -- even in an unhealthy state -- alive. One more day on life support, with no promise of a future.
When you resist the natural urge to contact your ex for anything other than essential business (e.g. kids), you start healing. You may not feel the healing, but you will be growing stronger from your self-control.
- Obsessing over your ex’s social media presence.
Okay, so, if you can’t make contact directly, why not do it indirectly? Sit in bed with nothing but your smartphone to light up your tear-stained face, and stalk your ex in private.
Head straight to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Look for any sign of happiness or despair in your ex’s life. Expand photos and evaluate facial expressions and anyone who might be hiding in the background. Read all the comment streams to see what your mutual friends know and say. Check to make sure you are still on your ex’s friends list and in his or her old posts and photos. Just. Keep. Hanging. On.
Surely this isn’t how you see yourself five years from now, so why start now? You have a thousand other social media friends who are cheering you on.
Take the plunge and unfollow/unfriend the one who is no longer central to your life. Set some boundaries and protect yourself from seeing things that will upset you during this vulnerable time.
- Showing up in all those old, familiar places.
Remember that, just as you weren’t the only person in your relationship, you aren’t the only one in your breakup. Both of you are drowning in emotions and lifestyle adjustments. Both of you need to find a way to move on. And neither of you will ever achieve that vision of love and happiness by lurking in the shadows of something that will never be.
Granted, you may legitimately bump into one another at some point. But take your ex’s favorite haunts off autopilot and fight the urge to see if s/he is home by curfew. You both need space and time for healing after a divorce or breakup.
- “Casually” asking mutual friends about your ex.
You want to know. I get it. But chances are you don’t even know what you want to know. Do you want to hear that your ex’s world has fallen apart? That s/he is miserable without you?
Your curiosity in these early stages of a breakup are usually about putting bandaids on some of your own emotions.
Someday, when you’ve come through all the hurt and you look back on this relationship as a mere stepping stone to happiness, you will understand. And your curiosity will be genuine and grounded in a desire for your ex’s happiness, too.
In the meantime, don’t put your friends on the spot. Your breakup was (and probably still is) hard on them, too.
- Wallowing in your misery and isolating from the world.
You may feel on the outside of all your friendships now that you are single. And if you’d made your ex your whole world, it may have been some time since you were really part of “the group.”
But this is no time to waste away in the corner of your shattered life. Remember, when you’re healing after a divorce or breakup, life sends you nurses in the form of friends. And just as your friends want to be there for you, you need to allow their love to do its work.
Trust that goodness will bring about more goodness. And allow yourself to feel the love.
- Rushing to get into a new relationship.
You may know it with your head, but your heart may not want to hear it. You’re not ready to get into a new relationship when you’re still healing from a divorce or breakup.
Feeling lonely isn’t a good enough reason to take the plunge. And no amount of blaming your ex for your problems and breakup is going to give you good reason, either.
You need this time to grieve your loss and learn from this relationship, not seek to replace it.
It’s also essential that you spend time examining your own role in your relationship. How did you nurture it, and how did you contribute to its erosion? Rushing to fill the void of love in your life is usually an indication that you don’t want to look at your own responsibility.
Besides, the last thing you need is to get on a dating app and see your ex on there. Trust that you have love all around you in just the ways that are necessary for your healing and future happiness.
Healing after a divorce or breakup can be messy. And, as with a bad cold that gets passed around a home, you may wonder when you will ever feel better.
Sometimes the best step forward is simply not taking a step backwards. If all you do in the early stages is to commit to avoiding the mistakes that only make things worse, you will be making progress. And you can give yourself a boost of confidence with these 7 signs that you are healing.
Trust life to show up for your greater good. And most importantly, trust yourself to recognize when it does. You’ve got this.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I help people just like you with healing after a divorce or breakup. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.