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.
Looking for more information about getting over the end of your marriage? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Healing After Divorce.
By keeping these truths about healing after a divorce or breakup in mind, you can heal more quickly.
It may sound trite to say that “no two relationships are alike,” but it’s true. And in the context of healing after a divorce or breakup, the maxim is just as germane.
Give a canvas, paints and brushes to all the students in an art class and tell them to render the same model. Even with the same instruction, the visual interpretations will be as unique as the artists themselves.
And so it is with giving relationship advice. The “experts” can give insight, objective observations, suggestions — even relevant scientific data. But how you absorb and apply the counsel will be as unique as you are – especially if you’re struggling with feeling unlovable, lost and discouraged.
When healing after a divorce or breakup, it’s important to remember the unique, non-duplicatable nature of yourself and the relationship you’ve just left.
What may work seamlessly for helping one person heal may create a tangled mess for another. And one person may have a remarkable ability to move on and into a new relationship while another may embark on an unforeseen journey as a happy single.
One piece of sound advice is not to allow yourself to get swept up into myths and formulas about healing after a divorce or breakup. Rocket science couldn’t possibly control for all the variables that influence a human life, let alone a relationship. And it certainly couldn’t create a fail-proof formula for healing in its aftermath. Neither can the “experts.”
So give yourself a break, and know that the information provided here is intended to inspire your healing process as much as guide it. Only you can decide how much you reflect upon it, return to it and implement it.
Your relationship, in both its positive and negative qualities, existed to teach you and your partner essential lessons for your lives on earth.
It was the forum for wrestling with unresolved issues and restless demons, while pioneering a future as a blended endeavor.
Your break-up and healing exist to teach you essential lessons, as well. And those lessons will continue to help you pioneer a life as unique as you.
At any and every point in your healing process, you have the choice to search for and hopefully find peace and growth within your loss. These tips can help you do that.
Below are 7 important things to know about healing after a divorce or breakup:
- Healing takes time and patience.
Take the formulas for how long it takes to heal from a divorce or breakup with a grain of salt. At best, consider them with relativity.
The important thing to remember is that grief work is not It simply isn’t. While there are several identifiable stages of grief, they are rarely if ever navigated in order, in isolation, or in a fixed amount of time.
Be kind to yourself, and be as patient with the questions and misgivings that come up during your healing journey as you are with the moments of clarity.
- Relationships have a profound impact on your self-concept.
By the time you enter a relationship, you already have a lifetime of relationships that have shaped your thoughts, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. When you enter into a committed love relationship, you essentially carry all those relationships to the altar with you, as does your partner with his/her relationships.
Think about all the influences on who you are! And now you are committing all of that to one lifetime relationship that will not only shape who you are, but influence the direction of your life.
So it makes sense that as you heal from your divorce or breakup that you may feel like you’re losing a part of yourself. Yet working through this loss is actually how you’ll be able to find yourself again.
- Breakups involve unraveling.
Because you committed yourselves to a unified life, you were naturally “woven together” in your marriage or committed relationship. A breakup, therefore, involves an unraveling of your lives so that you can go forward independently.
Cognitively that makes sense. But emotionally it can be devastating and fraught with confusion and disorientation. You’ll probably ask yourself questions like:
Who am I without her/him?
Who was I before?
Who would I be today if I hadn’t met my ex?
How do I define myself?
How much of my ex’s influence on my life should I hold onto?
- Relationships don’t fully end; they just change.
Your ex may be physically out of your life — perhaps partially, perhaps totally — but you will never be the same ‘you’ had s/he not been in your life. You will be forever impacted by your relationship — just as you are by your family of origin — because you lived
However, you have the power to write your future from the lessons and wisdom gained during your time together.
- Reflection and talking can strengthen your recovery.
Self-concept reorganization is the process of rebuilding and strengthening the sense of self, independent of a relationship. Research into this healing process has shown that those who reflect more on the relationship and its breakup (9 weeks in the study) have a stronger recovery than those who take a more cursory, non-reflective approach.
The benefits of talking about the relationship and breakup, even repetitively, include gaining different perspectives and insight with distance. Talking will also help you to construct a story of the relationship that will give meaning to the experience through all its stages. It’s like talking into your own truth.
No, it’s not about blaming. It’s about reframing. And by sharing the talking process with a caring friend or family member, therapist or coach you are more likely to understand your story from a position of empowerment instead of weakness.
- Understanding your relationship fears can help you heal.
Most relationship issues have some kind of fear buried in them. What comes across as being unreasonable, paranoid, aloof, etc. may really be rooted in fears of abandonment and/or rejection.
You may not be able to discern those possibilities for your ex, but you certainly can — and should — for yourself. By courageously looking at your own behaviors and reflecting upon their emotional triggers, you can take steps toward allaying those demons before they do more damage in your life.
- Forgiveness is huge.
The practice of forgiveness is ongoing. It’s not an over-and-out mic drop that erases the past in a dramatic moment of reconciliation. It’s a method of meeting its antagonist in the moment and saying, “You no longer have power over me. I am releasing you so that I can move forward in my life.”
Yes, you can speak it to a person who has hurt you. But more often than not, when you’re healing after a divorce or breakup, forgiveness will be practiced within your heart. And it’s as important that you extend it to yourself as toward your ex.
You are the only one who directly knows if and when you choose to forgive. But consider the way energy shifts within a person who has made that choice. There’s a greater ease and peace that occur.
And the wonderful thing is that the shift is felt, even unconsciously, by everyone in that person’s life.
Going through a divorce or breakup can feel like a completely loveless time. You lose the love for/from/with your partner, you don’t feel much love for yourself, and you wonder if you will ever be loved again. You may not even want to be around people because you feel so lost, discouraged, and devoid of anything to offer.
By acknowledging the uniqueness of yourself and your relationship, and by not being sworn to any “absolutes” for healing, you can turn this loveless, painful time into intentional growth and eventual peace.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. If you would like additional help healing after a divorce or breakup, I can help. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.