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When It's Over

Navigating the end of an intimate relationship.

Key points

  • The end of a relationship is an especially challenging time, when negative emotions run high.
  • After a breakup, it is important to treat yourself with kindness and compassion.
  • Navigating life post-breakup with kindness makes it easier for you and your former partner to move on.

The decision to end a committed intimate-partner relationship is often difficult and distressing and comes after great efforts to make it work. Amid feelings of disappointment, resentment, anger, uncertainty, and grief, managing the practicalities at the end of a relationship is hard to do well. But the better we handle the the period following a breakup, the easier it will be for us to minimize its pain and suffering and rebuild our lives.

Minimizing post-breakup pain and suffering

In relationships with a history of violence, there is a heightened risk of abuse after the relationship ends. Safety is the top priority, and removal from harm is the only way forward. But in the aftermath of most breakups, we can choose to move forward with compassion, take steps that minimize hurt and harm, and leave both parties able to move on.

Setting intentions

At the end of a relationship, people often become emotionally fragile and quick to anger. They may lash out, blame, and shame their former partner. It is important to set intentions to treat your former partner as you would like to be treated, do your best to behave impeccably, and make your faith in your ability to handle whatever comes your way —including an emotional roller coaster— bigger than your fear. The belief that you can handle whatever comes your way, versus your fear of the unknown, will carry you through the unexpected challenging days and weeks following of your breakup.

Set the intention to transition out of the relationship with the understanding that you did everything you could to make it work. Behave impeccably to allow yourself and your ex to move forward with minimal self-doubt, pain, and resentment.

Dealing with negative emotions

The end of a relationship can unleash a flood of negative emotions: disappointment, blame, shame, a sense of failure, and fear of an uncertain future. We might feel deeply hurt, disrespected, or humiliated if our ex has moved on with a new partner while we are still struggling with loss. We might be struggling with guilt for choosing to end the relationship if your partner feels differently.

In the weeks and months of vulnerability directly following a breakup, treating your former partner with kindness and compassion, and dealing impeccably with the many bumps in the road allows you to regulate your emotions, move forward with fewer regrets, and avoid prolonging the painful post-breakup phase.

Dealing impeccably with the fallout of a breakup

While dealing with the fallout of a breakup, it is extremely important to treat yourself with kindness and compassion. Allow yourself to feel bad, somewhat sorry for yourself, and a little afraid. But watch out for negative self-talk, self-blame, and self-doubt and an urge to give your former partner another last chance. Have compassion for your low moods and negative forecasting about your future but challenge such negative thoughts and take steps to lighten your mood when you’re feeling emotionally drained. Talk to friends and family members. If you’re struggling with feelings of guilt, shame, failure, or fears of an uncertain future, seek professional help.

Getting ready to rebuild

Once a relationship has ended, let it go. it is important to allow yourself—and your ex— the time and effort to recover, regroup, and move on. Ending or limiting your contact with your ex allows both of you to move on. Set boundaries and keep them. While backsliding into contact can be tempting and feel familiar and comfortable at a vulnerable moment, it can negate a great deal of genuine work and effort to move forward and result in prolonging hurt and harm to both parties.

Allow yourself to process and absorb the lessons of your past relationship, to heal and grow, as you prepare to move forward, rebuild, and create the life you truly want and deserve.

Three golden break-up rules

Treat your former partner as you would like them to treat you. This can be challenging during a breakup, but treating your ex with respect and compassion will leave you feeling healthy and whole.

Behave impeccably. Make every effort to make your relationship work, and when all efforts fail, be on your best behavior as you transition out of your relationship, no matter how challenging. When you behave impeccably, at your highest and best, you can move on without regrets and self-doubt.

Make your faith in yourself bigger than your fear. Make your faith in yourself and your ability to handle whatever comes your way bigger than your fear of what lies ahead as you begin a new chapter of your life.

More from Monica Vermani C. Psych.
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