I am going through a breakup right now and I don't know what to do, what to think or how to feel
Thank you so much for your question. Breaking up is so painful (and likely the reason why most songs on the radio are about break-ups). It’s a kind of loss that we can often gloss over, especially when the relationship has been relatively short. However, no matter how long you were together, breaking up hurts.
Healing from a break-up takes time (even if you initiated the break-up) because you are losing more than just a romantic partner. You lose a friend, a confidant, and the life you had planned together. The longer we are in partnerships, the more of these plans we start thinking of and cutting them off can feel physically painful. Different people take different amounts of time to heal. However, every time you meet up with your ex (especially if you hook up and have sex or even just emotionally intimate conversation), the clock starts over. You are re-opening that wound before it’s fully healed.
I’ll also throw this out there: if you are hoping to get together in the future, then it sounds like you haven’t really processed the fact that this aspect of the relationship (the romantic portion) is over. Although it may be counter-intuitive, I believe that engaging in the mourning process and growing will help you later on if you *do* get back together. If you get back together after many months apart, you will have matured and increased your insight into what you are looking for. Further, if you get back together now you may just hop back into the negative patterns that led you to break up in the first place.
Once you are matched with your therapist, she or he will be able to help you identify the triggers for these feelings and specific ways you can find more happiness in your life. However, to get you started while you wait to be matched, here are some potential ways you can improve this situation.
IMPROVE YOUR CURRENT QUALITY OF LIFE. It is possible that some of the positive feelings you have about your ex are partially about your old life. Further, if you are lonely in your new situation, then it is especially important to find ways to get social support. Please consider whether you can join a church, social groups, or if there are opportunities to meet people related to your hobbies or work. Please also consider what connections with your past may be healthier for you. Do you have old friends that you could meet up with more regularly? Please also consider what else you can do in your current situation to improve you quality of life (perhaps a different job, better sleep, better food). In summary, if you are happier where you are, you will reminisce less about where you were.
REMEMBER WHY YOU BROKE UP. Ask a close friend or family member to help you remember the reasons you broke up with your ex. It may have been your decision or could have been his, but something in that relationship was not working. What were those reasons? What were the annoyances? Write them down or send it to yourself in an email so you can look at them often.
MAINTAIN BOUNDARIES. If you are still speaking with your ex, I strongly recommend stopping any text or phone calls. It just re-opens the wound. Further, please stop following them on social media and hold back from Googling them. Keep in mind – everything looks better online than in person. We only post our most attractive pictures, we only post our most exciting vacations, and we only post our wittiest conversations. What you see there is not reality and it will only make you feel worse.
TRY TO IDENTIFY THE TRIGGERS. We are creatures of habit, and we tend to be stressed or saddened by predicable things. It is important to start learning about the common themes of what makes you feel this sense of longing. Is it when you are lonely? When you are annoyed? When you are bored? When you are sexually aroused? Everyone is different. The best way to do this is to start keeping a log of the times you experienced these feelings. Jot down in a journal or in an app like Google Keep these times, including:
-- Where was I when this happened?
-- What was I doing?
-- How was I feeling?
Over time, you will see themes that can help you attack the triggers.
CONSIDER WHAT YOU TRULY WANT. Consider listing what you would like to have in a partnership (whether it is with your spouse or someone else). Making a realistic wish list can help you identify your priorities. And please keep in mind that you are valuable and WORTH meeting these priorities. Ask yourself questions like:
- How should my partner and I solve problems when we disagree about little things (for example, the best way to wash dishes)? How should we solve problems when we disagree about big things (for example, how we want to spend money)?
- What kind of activities do I want to be able to do with my partner?
- How should my partner and I talk about what we want in sex?
- What kind of sense of humor is important to me? What kinds of things make me laugh, and is it important that my partner shares this?
- How much are looks important to me?
- What kind of dates do I expect? What do I like to do when getting to know someone or spending time with someone I care about?
- How fast should my partner get back to me when I text or call? Do we always need to pick up the phone, or is it okay to have the call go voicemail if I’m busy?
- Should my partner and I to do fun things apart or only together? Is it okay if we do fun things with out friends without the other partner?
- How important is it that my partner get along with my friends?
- How important is it that my partner get along with my family?
- What are my limits? Are there any things that I absolutely will not allow from a partner (like physical violence, certain kinds of substance use)?
After making your list, consider how it felt. Do you feel you deserve to have these needs met? (I think you do deserve to have a good partnership that meets your needs). Are the needs realistic? Which ones are the highest priority?
When you meet with your Better Help counselor, I recommend discussing your grief about this loss. Even though your ex is alive, breaking up requires the same kind of mourning process and can help you identify ways you can grow from this experience and then be an even better partner later on (regardless of who you are with).
I see good things in your future. Again, I am so impressed that you have reached out for help and I am confident that working with your therapist will help you in several areas of your life!
Note: If you are in crisis and feeling like hurting yourself, please call 911, go to your closest emergency department, or call the suicide hotline (the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) immediately at 800-273-8255. You could also go to their website to chat at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.