The Most Important Steps to Bouncing Back from a Breakup
... because you can't move on to something better until you let yourself grieve.
Posted July 7, 2016
While managing a divorce or breakup, many women tell me that they drive themselves crazy with the realization that their former partner “seems fine” and has apparently moved on. They obsessively criticize their own very normal grief processes, asking themselves: “What’s wrong with me that I’m so upset?"; “I should be further along by now"; "How is it that he seemed to love me so much and now it’s as if we never knew each other?”; “How can he be fine when I feel so miserable?”; or, “How could we have been so close and now I’m a stranger to him?”
Keep in mind: A flight into health is typically temporary.
Many women experience profound loss and despair when a romantic relationship comes to an end. Whether it's a breakup or a divorce, it's typical for women to fully experience the heartbreak. Even if they initiated the split, they're still in pain.
It’s troubling when going through this natural process to see the man you were in an intimate relationship with apparently moving on easily, while you are stuck with hurt and sadness.
Research shows that women do experience greater pain and heartache after a breakup than men. However, and this is important, although women typically take longer to heal, they do eventually completely get over the relationship. Men, on the other hand, often go into an immediate “flight into health,” appearing fine, even happy. Eventually this façade wanes as the loss sinks in over time. And if they don’t fully work through the loss, they find themselves stuck repeating the same negative relationship dynamic with new partners.
Grieving is a natural and healthy component of letting a relationship go. When we don’t allow ourselves to feel the hurt caused by the absence of someone we cared about, we deny, avoid, and suppress. Eventually the hurt grows and transforms into behavioral or emotional dysfunction.
Part of grieving is thoroughly understanding the good and the bad in the relationship—within our partners and within ourselves As I describe in , we must accept our loss in order to cultivate positive, new prospects in the future. And if we don’t do this work, we are bound to repeat the same mistakes in our next relationships. It is more challenging in some cases than others, but there are straightforward steps one can take to speed up the healing process and intelligently prepare for a new romantic relationship.
If you are grieving the loss of a romantic partner or a marriage, remind yourself that grieving eventually opens a door to new growth and happiness. I can’t tell you how often I have seen healthy grieving after a divorce or romantic loss eventually lead to healthier patterns—and more fulfilling unions.
Grieve, but at the same time be kind to yourself in the process. Don't think, “What’s wrong with me that I’m still upset?” Remind yourself that you are upset because you deeply cared for someone who is no longer in your life. It would be bizarre, robotic, or inhuman to care for someone so deeply, let them go, and never miss or long for what you no longer have.
There is a future for you out there: Sadness will give way and you will be prepared for something better.
Jill Weber, Ph.D. is a psychologist in private practice in Washington, DC and the 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.