Strategies for coping with the end of a relationship, Part II
This is the second in the series about strategies for coping with the ending of a relationship: THE LEFT. It might be helpful to read the first column, before proceeding.
Not every relationship is “made in heaven” and in fact a significant number of relationships come to an end. The ending of any relationship generally has two parties in differing emotional positions, the Leaver, discussed in an earlier edition and , the Left, the focus of this edition. Some relationships do end by mutual agreement or situational reasons (someone moves) but even then the feelings are often not mutual.
“Shocked, dumped, devastated, numb, bewildered, rejected, abandoned, helpless”, these are words often used to characterize the initial emotional experience of being left. Even when it has been apparent that “things just weren’t right” the person being left can be surprised by the phrase “it’s over”. Hope springs eternal, as it were, even in uncomfortable, unhappy or dissatisfying situations and so the left often still believes that the situation can be rectified. This can sometimes produce clingy behavior: “What can I do to fix things?” that connects with the leaver’s discomfort, guilt or anger and can produce further distancing on the leaver’s part and an increased sense of powerlessness and rejection for the left. The disequilibrium that you feel is going to continue for some time and assuming that their mind is made up they cannot make you feel better! Getting through the pain is YOUR task. You are mourning the present and future of the relationship that now is lost as well as questioning the past. Your partner by now has been through this and is not on your page emotionally. He or she might be sad but their focus is more on the immediate present and future and the task of moving on.
As with many issues in life recovery starts with acceptance of the situation, in this case, that your relationship is over. Not “just changed”, or now “we can be friends” or “we can live together” or sometimes “we can get together for sex” but OVER. No phone calls to “just hear your voice” or “just happening to run into one another”. When a relationship is over you have to give yourself a chance to recover, to get back to yourself, to regain your equilibrium. The person you are parting from is now like a drug and another “hit” will only maintain your addiction. If there is to be friendship it can only come later, after you both have had time to heal and gain a fresh and independent perspective. Working out of a relationship is like a roller coaster ride with the extremes (of feelings) more in the beginning but even further along the ride there are still peaks and valleys (like the first time you see them out or with someone else) before the ride smooths out.
Move away from powerlessness. TAKE ACTION. Make a plan for your own rescue and recovery. Pay attention to yourself and take care of yourself in the basic ways: self-care/hygiene, adequate sleep, good diet, exercise. Honor and engage in the routines that you enjoy. Your life has been temporarily disrupted, not turned upside down even if it feels that way. Reconnect with friends, they will understand and allow for the fluctuations of your mood, at least for a while. Resist the idea of creating a shrine to your to your former partner with mementoes and pictures. Put those things out of sight for now. Cry till you are dry. Crying literally removes the chemicals that are stored up by stress. After a while schedule your grieving so that it doesn’t creep up on you. Set aside crying time and use aides like sad music or sad thoughts if that is helpful. Take note of your worst times ( for many people this is night time or the weekends…too much unoccupied time) and plan an activity to distract and get you through it. This is not the time to go out looking for another relationship but it is a good time to think about what works for you, what you look for in another person and what you bring to a relationship. Get honest with yourself about what really didn’t work in this relationship. Think about what you have learned, what you have given to each other. Try to understand why it is important to let this relationship go and become part of your history and learning about yourself. Assess your core values and beliefs and when the time comes again (and it will, even if you can’t see it now) look for someone with similar values and goals in life. Opposites may attract but similarities and common interests are the stuff that help keep a relationship on track.