These ten tips are aimed at helping men who have recently separated from a long-term partner. Men often feel shocked by a breakup and feel very intense emotions in the first few weeks of being newly single.
Try these tips to help you start to process what has happened and feel calmer.
If you’ve moved out of the home you shared with your partner, it’s important you create a “nest” for yourself in your new home. This includes:
- Stock your cupboards with fruit, vegetables, and supplies for cooking.
- Put some art on the walls.
- Buy some indoor plants.
- Move all of your stuff from your prior home.
Men, in particular, frequently avoid doing these things for various reasons; they may think it will make them feel worse, for instance, or they lack motivation and energy after the breakup.
Getting started on making a nest for yourself is likely to help you feel better. It's important your new home feels emotionally warm and comfortable.
2. Go easy on the alcohol.
Alcohol is a depressant.
And although it can make it easier to get to sleep, it makes it more likely you'll wake up during the night and have disrupted sleep. Having a hangover, similarly, will make you more irritable and emotional and may make it less likely you will do the types of healthy behaviors that will lead to feeling better overall.
It's not uncommon for men to struggle with suicidal feelings after a painful breakup. Since alcohol is “disinhibiting”—meaning it can lead to doing things you wouldn’t do if you were thinking clearly—it's especially important you don’t drink excessively if you’re feeling suicidal.
3. Get a relaxing massage.
Physical touch is irreplaceable.
4. Invite friends over to your new house for dinner and cook for them.
Social contact is important for helping with loneliness. Cooking for friends can help you feel competent and confident.
Plan activities so that you're not spending multiple nights in a row home alone.
5. Don’t “mind read” and assume you know what others are thinking.
Men often think that other people will judge them negatively for having had a relationship fail or a pattern of relationships that have failed. This is often not true or is exaggerated. If you feel embarrassed about your relationship having ended, you might be "mind reading” (inaccurately guessing what others are thinking).
6. Talk to your friends.
You don’t necessarily need to do a lot of talking to your friends—just a little can make a big difference. Bottling up your thoughts tends to increase shame, embarrassment, and loneliness. Try saying just a sentence or two to your mates about your thoughts and feelings.
More in-depth conversations might also help. Consider asking friends who have had a long term relationship end what they found helpful for coping. Ask them how their thoughts and feelings about the breakup have changed over time.
If you instigated your relationship breakup, talk to other people who were in that role. If you were broken up with, talk to other people who were in that role. Almost everyone has been through a relationship breakup as some time.
7. Prioritize adequate sleep.
Sleep deprivation makes people much more emotional than they usually are.
If you're having problems with getting to sleep or are waking up at the wrong times, get creative in figuring out how you can get more sleep. Strategies include:
- If you wake up early in the morning and can't get back to sleep, try getting up and going for a walk for half an hour (maybe while listening to music) and then go back to bed until your wake up time.
- Consider a 90-minute daytime nap if that's possible for you (e.g., on weekend days).
8. Process guilt and shame.
Guilt and shame are common emotions after a breakup.
The difference between guilt and shame is that guilt is about having done (or not done) a specific thing. Shame, on the other hand, is a more global negative feeling about what kind of person you are.
Guilt is sometimes warranted; shame generally isn't.
9. Work toward feeling hopeful about your future.
Are you currently thinking that there's no hope for you to be happy in the future or no hope for you to have a successful relationship? Just because you fear you’re going to end up alone and lonely doesn’t mean this is going to happen.
People's current emotions affect how positive or negative they expect their future to be. Your thoughts are more likely being driven by your current mood and how you're feeling right now, rather than reality.
That said, if you don’t want to repeat past patterns in future relationships, do some preparation for your next relationship. Read science-based relationships books (like this one).
If you need to, get some individual help to understand and overcome your past relationship patterns. You're likely to benefit from just a few sessions with a relationships psychologist to understand your blindspots that you can't see for yourself.
If you think you might be depressed, you should definitely see a qualified professional.
10. Behave in ways that are consistent with your values.
For example, if one of your most important values is being a good father to your children, think about how you can enact this independent of your current emotions (e.g. anger at your ex-partner or anxiety about how to have a good relationship with your child).
Note: These tips also apply to women, but in my clinical practice, most of the clients who come to see me for help coping with a breakup are men.
For more, check out my book, The Anxiety Toolkit.