The loneliness of relationship breakdown
“And maybe for now, a happy ending doesn’t include a relationship. Maybe it’s you on your own, picking up the pieces and starting over, freeing yourself for something in the future. Maybe the happy ending is just moving on.”
When a relationship ends, everything familiar seems to change. The relationship may have lasted three months or three years but we are left with feelings of loss heartache and pain. We can feel very alone. Relationships coming to an end can cause us to question our sense of self and can send us on a destructive inward spiral and we deal with difficult feelings in a search for why.
It can be easy to shut yourself away particularly in the early stages of a breakup as you try to deal with the difficult feelings. It is a natural impulse to try to avoid people, situations and places that remind you of the relationship. Many struggle with why they can feel this bad when they did not want to be in a relationship which was making them unhappy. The reality is that we are processing a loss and processing that loss on our own. While we may not regret the reasons for the break-up the ending represents many things.
It may represent closeness and intimacy with another person, someone to share your life with, a person to be vulnerable with, a person to do nothing with, and suddenly they are gone.
It may be the loss of plans of future happiness. Most of us enter relationships with hope of what the future might hold, of the life and experiences we will and can share together. We will always have that person to plan with and be beside us whether our future is children, travel, a career or a combination and the loss feels like those plans can never happen.
Yet there are practical steps you can take to reduce the isolation and loneliness of a break up.
The first may seem obvious, yet it is surprising how many people forget or feel unable to do it. And that is to talk about the feelings. Face them head on and do not avoid them. Sometimes if it is too painful to talk you could consider a journal or a counsellor but try to let yourself feel what is happening and not to judge or beat yourself up for what has happened.
The second thing you can do follows on from this and that is to look after yourself. Pay attention to the things that you need, and make time each day for yourself. Take time for yourself and do things that nourish you both physically and mentally. Getting out and being active often helps and allows you to clear some of the thoughts from your head.
The third thing you can do for yourself is to accept that you will take a little time to get over the loss of the relationship, even if getting out of the relationship is what you wanted. You have to give yourself the time to process the change in your life and like all changes that takes time for you to adjust. Be kind and understanding towards yourself while you are adapting to your new plans.
Finally remember that if you are struggling it's always worth considering talking it through with a good friend or a counsellor to look at what you are feeling and what you might do to change the situation.
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About Graeme Orr
Graeme is a counsellor and author living and working on the south side of Glasgow. In his practice he sees a number of clients with emotional, anxiety and self-esteem that have relevance to us all. His articles are based on that experience and are offered as an opportunity to identify with, or to challenge you to make changes in your life.