Every feeling under the sun is normal during this time - hurt, sadness, fear, anger, relief, guilt, disappointment, and shame – the entire gamut of the emotional spectrum for one all-inclusive price. Breaking up is a process, not a one-time decision or action. There will be good days and bad days, and the most important thing you can do for yourself during this process is to be easy on yourself. Breakups happen when we are honest enough to say to ourselves and to our partner, “We have problems we cannot overcome and we realize that, ultimately, that we’re not the right fit.” The sooner you can come to this understanding, the freer and healthier you will be.
How do you know if it's over? Here are some questions to ask yourself:
1. Are you fighting over trivial things?
2. Does everything about your spouse/partner irritate you?
3. Has your spouse/partner physically or emotionally abused you?
4. When was the last time you had fun together?
5. Does your boyfriend/girlfriend constantly put you down, attack your self-esteem, and/or criticize you?
6. Are your goals and values different?
7. Can you compromise on important issues?
8. Has your partner been unfaithful?
9. Are you still having satisfactory sex?
10. Do the same problems keep resurfacing again and again, without any progress?
11. Do you have any respect for your boyfriend/girlfriend? Do they respect you?
12. Are you doing everything to look at and change your part in what is not working in the relationship? Is your partner willing to look at and change his or her part?
13. Have you tried counseling?
If, after asking yourself the above questions, you decide that it’s time to break up, here are some tips on how to separate with respect:
1. When you've realized that you no longer want this relationship, let him/her know. Don't drag it out; it doesn’t serve either of you. In fact, it takes a toll on both partners’ mental and physical health when you’re ambiguous, creating doubt and/or hope.
2. Be honest. This takes courage, but honesty respects both of you and will salvage any possible future friendship (even if you feel at this time that you don’t want one).
3. Discuss rules of the break up (communication/family/friends/money). Each should express what they need during the process and, as time moves on, re-evaluate the guidelines/rules.
Once the decision is made and the breakup is in motion, the time for healing begins. Below are some tips on how to process the loss:
1. Self-care – this is your time; it’s not about your ex anymore.
a. Avoid self-destructive behavior (overeating/drinking, drug abuse, angry tirades), as it will only lead to feeling worse about yourself and further delay the process.
b. Be aware of your thoughts and remember that thoughts can become issues, so avoid focusing on negative thoughts (I will never meet anyone; I must be unattractive/unworthy; Nobody will ever love me…).
c. Have a relationship/love affair with yourself rather than jumping into intimacy with someone else. Make a commitment to yourself to take some time alone to heal.
d. Meet your own needs, whether social, financial, sexual – this will increase self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-reliance.
2. This is a good time to stay busy with work, friends, and family. Try doing some of the things on your "I've always wanted to __________" list.
3. Feel your feelings – talk and write about them, find time to cry and allow yourself the sadness that is natural during a loss.
4. Focus on your hopes/plans for the future; What’s next for you?
Breaking up doesn't have to be hard to do if you have the tools to get through it with self-love and respect (of yourself and others). And if you understand the core of the decision: “We tried, we couldn't overcome our challenges, and it wasn't the right fit, ultimately. I will get clear with myself about what my part was. We both made mistakes, but it was no one’s fault. I will learn from my mistakes and bring a better version of myself to love next time."
And there will be a next time, I promise.