How a person manages the news that a beloved romantic partner no longer desires a relationship with them determines how quickly and how healthfully they will recover. If you are facing a breakup or divorce, or anticipating one, take a pause from the grief spiral to consider how you want to manage this event with your best interests in mind.
1. Keep your dignity.
This is by far the most important rule. Don’t beg, don’t plead, don’t write long letters justifying your existence, don’t send song lyrics of how you feel — don’t degrade yourself in any way. Allow yourself to accept the fact that this person is no longer into you. Remind yourself that this has happened to countless others before you and will happen to countless others after you. Your partner is not perfect. His or her lack of desire to keep you in their romantic world is not a statement of your worth. Begging, pleading, and frantic calling will not change the fact that this person has told you they don’t want to be with you anymore. Even if you get back together, you will always remember this telling fact. You deserve someone who is unequivocally and consistently committed to you.
2. Resist impulse.
In managing the shock of a breakup or divorce, there's a temptation to act. Sitting with all of the upset and negative feelings can be so unbearable that you may be drawn toward impulsive behavior. This may take the form of drive-bys, frantic calls or texts, drinking too much, or letting new partners into your intimate world too quickly. Take a timeout to let what has occurred wash over you. If you sit with your feelings and resist the impulse to act, you will process the loss more quickly and move on more easily.
3. Reject the rejecter.
People go to great lengths when rejected to prove to their ex that they are in fact worthy. They may work to change their public image, go on a crash diet to lose weight, or strive tirelessly to convince the partner that they have changed in a profound way. As I describe in my workbook, it is empowering to resist this urge and instead reject the rejecter. Deeply accept that if this person doesn’t want you, then you don’t want them. You don’t want to live a life with someone whose devotion to you is always in doubt. You now have a chance to find someone who is not ambivalent in his or her love. Take this golden opportunity: Reject the rejecter.
4. Use your breakup as an opportunity for personal transformation.
Breakups and divorces are excellent learning experiences. They teach us what we need to work on for our next relationship. They help us fine-tune a conception of the kind of partner we want and the kind of partner we want to be. They allow us to get out of ruts of behavior and habitual ways of feeling. Instead of working on things your ex finds wrong with you, sit down and assess how you want to develop your own growth as a person. What did you struggle with in this relationship—communication, being yourself, being spontaneous, being reliable, having a life outside of the relationship, working too much, jealousy, fidelity, insecurity? Make a list of short-term and long-term goals you have for your own personal growth. Then read the list each day and write down the ways you are working toward these goals.
Jill Weber, Ph.D. is a psychologist in private practice in Washington, D.C. and the author of Breaking Up and Divorce—5 Steps: How to Heal and be Comfortable Alone and Building Self-Esteem—5 Steps: How to Feel 'Good Enough.' For more, follow her on Twitter @DrJillWeber and on Facebook, or visit drjillweber.com.