A breakup is not a singular event. What follows the initial decision to split up is the hard part — a letting-go process that unfolds over time. Most emerge from the process with greater self-knowledge and psychological well-being. However, if you sabotage the breakup process, you will probably repeat the same mistakes in your next relationship—and find yourself living with the feeling that what you would like to have in a romantic relationship is continually out of your reach.
Here are 4 ways that people inadvertently sabotage their breakups:
1. Maintaining Contact
One of the hardest blows after a breakup or divorce is the idea of not speaking to or seeing your ex-partner again. To pluck a person out of your life who knew you inside and out and who you knew intimately, feels unnatural; for some, it's like a death. To combat the grief, many just maintain contact. They tell each other “let's be friends,” or continue to text, or initiate a hookup relationship after the official breakup. These types of arrangements only prolong one's misery and grief. Maintaining contact provides a Band-Aid, but not the real healing that comes from your former partner’s true absence from your life. The sooner you let go, the sooner you can feel the pain and eventually move on.
Denial is telling yourself that you are fine, and that you are not going to have a hard time with this relationship ending. If you have been dating someone for a period of time, and you have let them into your intimate world, it is natural that you are going to need to process this loss. By remaining in a holding pattern of denial, you do not allow yourself to fully experience what you’re actually feeling. Sit down and acknowledge your more difficult feelings about this breakup, through talking with a friend or a therapist, writing in a journal, or quiet reflection. Take a cold, hard look at what you may be avoiding or even hiding from yourself. This is the path forward.
3. Dating Too Soon
It is also quite common to throw oneself into the dating world after a breakup or divorce. The angst and upset can be too much to bear. And dating apps provide an all-too-easy and ready service for immediately connecting with new potential partners. Alcohol and drugs also offer quick fixes for what can feel like a future of endless suffering. The reality is that these approaches create new problems and take you out of your healing process. Resist the impulse to get back on the circuit too quickly. There will be a time for that. Keep in mind that we will tend to attract people who match how we feel about ourselves in that particular moment of time. You are not your real self right after a breakup. You are going through something painful and life-changing. You need to examine your hurt and care for yourself emotionally. That process is much more likely to set you up for better days ahead.
4. Not Taking Accountability
When you go through a breakup endlessly blaming your partner, it's really a lost opportunity. Of course, initially, it is natural to carry a certain amount of animus, particularly if you did not initiate the separation. But moving out of the blame game and into what you can learn from this relationship should be a priority. Conduct a relationship autopsy, in which you look at all that went right and wrong, notice what role you played, and determine what you want to be different within yourself next time around. (I describe how to conduct a relationship autopsy in my workbook, Breaking Up and Divorce.)
Jill Weber, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice in Washington, D.C., and the author of The Relationship Formula Workbook Series, including Toxic Love — 5 Steps: How to Identify Toxic Love Patterns and Find Fulfilling Attachments, 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.