Don't drunk dial! Emotional distance is sometimes necessary, especially when there's social distance
“You wouldn’t drink poison because you are thirsty – don’t re-connect with toxic people just because you are lonely.” (Coach Blackwell, 2020).
Breaking up can be difficult and unpleasantly emotional. You have had someone share your life for a time, and not only is that going to change, but they may also take with them much of what they brought – and I don’t just mean their toothbrush. Yet, breaking up is sometimes necessary to give yourself the best chance of finding future happiness, and is something many of us will go through at least once. Whether you initiated it, you didn’t see it coming, or it was a mutual separation, you will experience a multitude of emotions – not dissimilar to grief.
The often used Kubler-Ross model states that when we experience loss we go through the following five stages:
Denial (not quite believing it to be happening),
Anger (perhaps at things you wish you’d said or done, or at the seeming “loss” of a number of years together),
Bargaining (this can sometimes result in temporary reconciliations – which can, on occasion be successful),
Depression (the sad realisation that it’s over)
and Acceptance (the start of picking up from a new starting point).
The extent to which we feel them, and the duration of each stage varies from person to person.
However, our usual support system which may have been available to us previously, may not be under the regulations of “social distancing”, and a growing sense of loneliness may see us turn to less than healthy means of “soothing.”
Here are 5 things we can do (on our own) to make the process a little healthier:
1. Be sad….or be happy…or appreciate that you feel exactly as you do!! Acknowledge you are hurting if this is the case. Do not feel as if you have to “put on a brave face”, but also do not pretend to be sad because it is what others expect. Everyone deals with pain in their own way, and as long as you are acknowledging and accepting your feelings don’t try to conform to others’ expectations.
Try this: Allow yourself “24 hours of wallowing”. During this time watch Netflix on loop, or eat a tub of ice-cream. Whatever you do (as long as it doesn’t harm you or others irreparably), do it without guilt – but after those 24 hours – begin to find your new starting point of growth.
2. If you need to “gain closure”, try to do so at a time when you are not overly emotional. Even then, have an agenda (sometimes written!) to stick to so any conversation does not dissolve into blame. Also remember that, the other person may not wish to talk right then, and you may not get the answers you were hoping for.
Try this: If you are very angry, write or journal your feelings – but do not send the email or note. That may help release some of the pain, as well as reveal the questions you may want to ask if you decide to have a talk. If you are not given that opportunity to talk, keep that agenda for next time so you do not have to “remember it”. All remembering will do is keep opening the wounds that are trying to heal.
3. Reflect on your actions. Derailment of a relationship takes two. This is not to apportion blame, but to grow from the experience. Anything you learn about may stop you repeating that behaviour in future relationships. Take this time for yourself and try not to be distracted by “stalking” your ex on social media. Know your personal growth is worth more than that!
Try this: If you cannot block your ex, at least block how much you see of what they are doing. Also if you are not ready to see them if they want to talk – say no!
4. A break-up is sometimes a catalyst for change – the proverbial joining a gym, or getting an extreme haircut. If a specific change is what you wanted to make anyway – embrace them because you have that time to engage in them and make them work for you – but do not labour under the misapprehension that this will “win them back” or it will fulfil a need for revenge. They are not in your life, so do not allow them to control your mindset!
Try this: Affirmations can help you begin to think more positively of yourself. But rather than using angry ones such as “I don’t need him/her”, try empowering statements such as “I am a strong person and I will overcome all my challenges” or “My love, my time and my energy are valuable and I offer them wisely.”
5. Remember all experiences are part of who we are – you might reflect and learn from them, but you do not need to dwell on them. As you feel ready to pick up from this new starting point be proud of how you came through and look forward to your next adventure.
Try this: Treat yourself to something – without putting yourself in debt of course! Whether it’s finding time to read a book or watch a film, or perhaps spend time with good friends or supportive family – do what energises you. In fact something that isn’t expensive is often the best for the soul.
And finally, if you are struggling, connect with a coach or your support network via video call or telephone. It’s not the same as being around them, but when healing, it’s always important to surround yourself with people who you know have your best interests at heart.
Audrey is a Chartered Psychologist and author. Find out more on www.draudreyt.com or follow her on Twitter/Instagram @draudreyt