5 Ways To Come Back From a Rough Breakup
4. Start thinking bigger.
Posted Jul 26, 2016
You have received the news: Your long-term partner no longer wants a relationship. Shock ensues: How can it be? The person you laughed with, cried with, and thought you would spend the rest of your life with no longer wants you. It’s a crushing, stinging, excruciatingly personal rebuke. Your heart races. Thoughts condense to “What have I done to make him stop loving me?” And then come waves of almost involuntary self-analysis: questioning everything, your personality, your physical appearance, something you might have said or didn’t say.
If you are caught in the grip of this self-sacrificing cascade, cease and deist. Endless self-scrutiny will get you nowhere and in fact will prolong and intensify your hurt. Here are 5 ways to transform this rejection into something worthwhile for you and for your future:
1. Life Without Rejection?
I ask you to consider, what would it be like if you never felt rejected romantically? What if everyone you desired always desired you? I know: As hurt as you are in this moment this may sound terrific. But let’s take it a step further: What would life be if we always got what we want and never experienced setback? Your feelings now are uncomfortable, even intolerable, but the pain you feel means you are facing them. And as you do, you are growing and becoming a stronger person. Setbacks are inevitable. Perhaps you have gotten this far in life without one but, for most of us, it’s not if but when will we encounter our next serious setback. Never experiencing romantic rejection means you lived, so far, a sheltered life. As you work through the ending of your relationship and show yourself that you can survive and even be better as a result, you will become emotionally stronger. When difficult things spring on you in the future, you will be more resilient, because you have coped before. And when love comes again you will cherish it, attending to it tenderly, knowing that it deserves your full gratitude and attention.
2. Develop A Growth Mindset.
Research shows that people who look at their breakups as permanent statements about their worth take longer to recover and do not grow or improve as a result. In order to grow, you must not look at the ending of your relationship as a statement of your worth as a human being. It’s a setback, a difficult and painful one. But take it as a way to further develop specific areas of growth, as opposed to a final verdict about you not being good enough. Rejection is part of the human condition. For many, each relationship that doesn’t work out has within it the tools to craft the next one so it will be more fulfilling. Use it as a learning experience for your future, not as something that defines you.
3. Undertake An Emotional Makeover.
Steer clear of gimmicks suggesting that a physical makeover will somehow bring romantic bliss and happiness—at best it only scratches the surface. Instead, take on an emotional makeover. Relationship endings are opportunities to forge ahead into personal growth: For example, do you wish to better understand and cope with your emotions? Or do you need to take more social risks and develop relationships with new types that will challenge you to grow? Do you wish to improve your communication skills? Or perhaps you want to build up your relationship with yourself, all on your own, so that you can be more independent in your next serious relationship. (In my workbook, Breaking Up and Divorce 5 Steps: How To Heal and Be Comfortable Alone, I describe specific steps to take in this direction.)
4. Think Bigger Than You Have Previously.
Become keenly aware for the ways in which you may engage in self-defeating patterns when it comes to romance. Ask yourself in what ways do you limit yourself from getting more of what you want? Were there ways you were unhappy in this recent union but accepted it anyway by telling yourself this was the best you could do? Did you tolerate poor treatment from your significant other? Think bigger about yourself and what you want out of life—romantically, financially, professionally—in every way.
5. Take On A New Identity.
As you think bigger, consider what you may not have attended to about your personality or interests because you have been so consumed with your ex partner. If that relationship has been challenging for some time, you may have stopped paying attention to yourself on a nuanced level. Are there things you have thought about from time to time that you would like to do or new challenges you’d like to take on but are afraid to take the risk? Consider old interests that have long gone dormant that you could now revisit. Or, perhaps you realize that you let your social connections go during your relationship and you miss this part of your life. Now is the time to make connecting with new people a priority. Force yourself to take the risk, get out of your comfort zone, and actively pursue new areas of your identity.
Jill Weber, Ph.D. is a psychologist in private practice in Washington, DC and author of Breaking Up and Divorce 5 Steps: How to Heal and Be Comfortable Alone. For more, follow me on twitter @DrJillWeber, follow me on Facebook, or check out drjillweber.com.