Expert Karol Ward, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist, nationally recognized speaker and author of Find Your Inner Voice. In this interview, she offers helpful advice to anyone who has recently ended a relationship.
Recovering from a Breakup Interview
What are some common feelings people experience after their partner breaks up with them?
Most people experience disbelief, anger, anxiety and a deep sadness. There is a sense of shock that what you thought would continue will not. The range of feelings will not follow a particular order and sometimes when people feel very angry, they are surprised because of their feelings of sadness and missing their ex. All of that is normal. Many times, people go through a period of self-blame and second-guessing. They worry that something they did caused the relationship to end, but do not take into account the other person's contribution to the breakup. It's important to sort through those feelings in order to get more of a balanced perspective. What is often interesting is that the person who was broken up with will often share that he/she "had a feeling" something was wrong and even list some of the signs he/she noticed but chose to ignore. Going against instinct and not speaking up caused additional heartache.
What thoughts go through people's minds after their partner breaks up with them?
One of the most common things I have seen people think about is how they fear they will never find someone again and that they can't imagine going out on another date. This form of anxiety and insecurity shows up right after the breakup. This "future tripping" or imagining things that have not happened yet is a way of trying to process the hurt and vulnerability you are feeling. Most times, we cannot possibly imagine dating anyone again and, when we are feeling vulnerable, we have a hard time with believing we will find love. Time, healing and more time will cause those thoughts to shift.
For people who did the breaking up, what types of feelings and thoughts do they have?
For those doing the breaking up, there can be feelings of relief, anxiety, regret and sadness. Initially, the pressure lifts and there is a sense of freedom and release. Later it can be a questioning of the decision as the person experiences time on his/her own - causing anxiety. There is often a feeling of regret for hurting another person and sometimes for not ending it when he/she first felt the instinct to do so. Lastly, there is often a period of sadness, loneliness as the person realizes the relationship is truly over. Again, these feelings will come and go until there is a sense of peace, or at least calmness, about the decision.
Tips on Getting Over a Breakup
What are some ways that someone can start recovering from a breakup?
- Try not to judge any feelings that you feel. Even if all your friends are glad the relationship is over, you can still miss your ex.
- Do things only if you feel like it. Don't rush out and go on dates just because others feel you should. If you want to remind yourself that you are a smart, attractive and certainly a datable person, then date. If not, get to know yourself again as an independent person.
- Be aware that you are more vulnerable than you realize. Watch out for rebound romances and unhealthy behaviors such as excess drinking or binge eating that go on for long periods of time. Indulge if you need to but don't let things get out of control.
- Keep your usual daily routines simple and familiar.
- Hang out with people who are supportive and caring of you.
Letting Go and Moving On
How long does it usually take people to let go of a broken relationship?
It is certainly individual, but in my experience, it takes about six months for the first feelings of being okay to start happening. When you feel more energy and are more optimistic about your life, you can take heart that you have gone through some healing and have moved on. Keep paying attention to your perspective on romance and relationships. If you still feel angry, bitter or distrustful, you are not ready. If you are open, friendly and at peace about your former relationship, you are ready for something new.
How long does it take people to feel as though they can move on to another relationship?
Again, it is individual but some guidelines are:
- Former shared holidays or anniversaries don't depress you.
- You feel better about yourself and start noticing people you are attracted to.
- You can handle watching romantic comedies.
- Your instinct tells you that you are ready by an increase in energy and confidence.
What are some things that people should keep in mind when they start dating again?
When someone is ready to date, I ask if there is anything from his/her past relationship that he/she would like to remember. Many times people will tell me that they want someone to treat them differently. I ask them to define what that would look like, feel like and to be specific. This is about listing your core values in regards to a relationship: what you want, what you will not compromise on and what is negotiable. The better people know themselves, the more likely they will attract the relationship they want. Be true to yourself and don't give up on what is really important.
Additional Information on Breakups, Dating and Finding Your Perfect Mate
There is often a confusing period right after a couple breaks up where they feel very close. They feel loving feelings and wonder if that means they should stay together. This can occur because the pressure of making it work lifts and the tension of trying to make it work is gone. Don't confuse a lack of tension as a sign you should stay together. Trust your instinct and ask yourself if the issues that made you want to breakup still exist, hidden under the nostalgia. When you start to date again pay attention to how someone acts on the first date in regard to time, manners, courtesy and attention. Usually how they appear and act on those first dates is how they will be throughout your relationship.
My book, Find Your Inner Voice has a chapter called Relationship Central, which shows you how you can recognize good relationships by using your instinct. It also teaches readers some hidden triggers for conflict and key tools for better communication.
LoveToKnow Dating would like to sincerely thank Karol Ward, LCSW for taking the time to share her knowledge in this recovering from a breakup interview.