It may sound trite to say that “no two relationships are alike,” but it’s true. And in the context of healing after a divorce or breakup, the maxim is just as germane.
Give a canvas, paints and brushes to all the students in an art class and tell them to render the same model.
Even with the same instruction, the visual interpretations will be as unique as the artists themselves.
And so it is with giving relationship advice. The “experts” can give insight, objective observations, suggestions — even relevant scientific data.
But how you absorb and apply the counsel will be as unique as you are – especially if you’re struggling with feeling unlovable, lost and discouraged.
When healing after a divorce or breakup, it’s important to remember the unique, non-duplicatable nature of yourself and the relationship you’ve just left.
What may work seamlessly for helping one person heal may create a tangled mess for another.
And one person may have a remarkable ability to move on and into a new relationship while another may embark on an unforeseen journey as a happy single.
Rocket science couldn’t possibly control for all the variables that influence a human life, let alone a relationship. And it certainly couldn’t create a fail-proof formula for healing in its aftermath. Neither can the “experts.”
So give yourself a break, and know that the information provided here is intended to inspire your healing process as much as guide it.
Only you can decide how much you reflect upon it, return to it and implement it.
Your relationship, in both its positive and negative qualities, existed to teach you and your partner essential lessons for your lives on earth.
It was the forum for wrestling with unresolved issues and restless demons, while pioneering a future as a blended endeavor.
Your break-up and healing exist to teach you essential lessons, as well. And those lessons will continue to help you pioneer a life as unique as you.
At any and every point in your healing process, you have the choice to search for and hopefully find peace and growth within your loss. These tips can help you do that.
Below are 7 important things to know about healing after a divorce or breakup:
1. Healing takes time and patience.
Take the formulas for how long it takes to heal from a divorce or breakup with a grain of salt. At best, consider them with relativity.
The important thing to remember is that grief work is not It simply isn’t. While there are several identifiable stages of grief, they are rarely if ever navigated in order, in isolation, or in a fixed amount of time.
Be kind to yourself, and be as patient with the questions and misgivings that come up during your healing journey as you are with the moments of clarity.
2. Relationships have a profound impact on your self-concept.
By the time you enter a relationship, you already have a lifetime of relationships that have shaped your thoughts, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors.
When you enter into a committed love relationship, you essentially carry all those relationships to the altar with you, as does your partner with his/her relationships.
Think about all the influences on who you are!
And now you are committing all of that to one lifetime relationship that will not only shape who you are, but influence the direction of your life.
So it makes sense that as you heal from your divorce or breakup that you may feel like you’re losing a part of yourself. Yet working through this loss is actually how you’ll be able to find yourself again.
3. Breakups involve unraveling.
Because you committed yourselves to a unified life, you were naturally “woven together” in your marriage or committed relationship.
A breakup, therefore, involves an unraveling of your lives so that you can go forward independently.
Cognitively that makes sense. But emotionally it can be devastating and fraught with confusion and disorientation. You’ll probably ask yourself questions like:
Who am I without her/him?
Who was I before?
Who would I be today if I hadn’t met my ex?
How do I define myself?
How much of my ex’s influence on my life should I hold onto?
4. Relationships don’t fully end; they just change.
Your ex may be physically out of your life — perhaps partially, perhaps totally — but you will never be the same ‘you’ had s/he not been in your life.
You will be forever impacted by your relationship — just as you are by your family of origin — because you lived
However, you have the power to write your future from the lessons and wisdom gained during your time together.
5. Reflection and talking can strengthen your recovery.
Self-concept reorganization is the process of rebuilding and strengthening the sense of self, independent of a relationship.
Research into this healing process has shown that those who reflect more on the relationship and its breakup (9 weeks in the study) have a stronger recovery than those who take a more cursory, non-reflective approach.
The benefits of talking about the relationship and breakup, even repetitively, include gaining different perspectives and insight with distance.
Talking will also help you to construct a story of the relationship that will give meaning to the experience through all its stages. It’s like talking into your own truth.
No, it’s not about blaming. It’s about reframing.
And by sharing the talking process with a caring friend or family member, therapist or coach you are more likely to understand your story from a position of empowerment instead of weakness.
6. Understanding your relationship fears can help you heal.
Most relationship issues have some kind of fear buried in them. What comes across as being unreasonable, paranoid, aloof, etc. may really be rooted in fears of abandonment and/or rejection.
You may not be able to discern those possibilities for your ex, but you certainly can — and should — for yourself.
By courageously looking at your own behaviors and reflecting upon their emotional triggers, you can take steps toward allaying those demons before they do more damage in your life.
7. Forgiveness is huge.
The practice of forgiveness is ongoing. It’s not an over-and-out mic drop that erases the past in a dramatic moment of reconciliation.
It’s a method of meeting its antagonist in the moment and saying, “You no longer have power over me. I am releasing you so that I can move forward in my life.”
Yes, you can speak it to a person who has hurt you. But more often than not, when you’re healing after a divorce or breakup, forgiveness will be practiced within your heart. And it’s as important that you extend it to yourself as toward your ex.
You are the only one who directly knows if and when you choose to forgive. But consider the way energy shifts within a person who has made that choice. There’s a greater ease and peace that occur.
And the wonderful thing is that the shift is felt, even unconsciously, by everyone in that person’s life.
Going through a divorce or breakup can feel like a completely loveless time. You lose the love for/from/with your partner, you don’t feel much love for yourself, and you wonder if you will ever be loved again.
You may not even want to be around people because you feel so lost, discouraged, and devoid of anything to offer.
By acknowledging the uniqueness of yourself and your relationship, and by not being sworn to any “absolutes” for healing, you can turn this loveless, painful time into intentional growth and eventual peace.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. If you would like additional help healing after a divorce or breakup, I can help. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.
Looking for more information about healing after a divorce or breakup? Check out the other articles in Healing After Divorce.