Although it is almost never easy, breaking up with an intimate partner is a life challenge that most of us face at some point in our lives. This can be a time when psychotherapy is helpful, but there are also many steps that we can take to help ourselves. In truth, if we accept the reality that many relationships we have will end despite their infinite value and choose to actively engage in our own growth, we can make the most of any relationship ending.
One of the first steps in working through a break-up is to clearly let go of the connection you had with the other person. This means coming to terms with the fact that the relationship is over, and to limit or sever contact if there are no children involved. This step might involve withdrawing from social engagements, blocking on-line connections, and changing your daily routine. Whether your relationship lasted a month or several years, acknowledging that the process of working through the break-up will be challenging is vital. Tying up loose ends with your previous partner in a timely manner, returning his/her belongings, and making decisions about shared property is essential while remembering that you can only be responsible for your own behaviour. Removing reminders of your previous partner from your living space can also be very helpful. Accepting that the relationship is over, and allowing this realization to play out in your life without fighting it, is the key to the first step in moving forward.
The next step is self-care, although it is important throughout the entire process. If you can, try to identify what is most beneficial for you. Eating nutritious food, getting enough sleep, and making time for relaxation are all essential elements of self-care. Getting out of your head and into your body through exercise, meditation or massage can be extremely useful. Ruminating about the past or thinking too much about the future is not usually helpful. So, do your best to stay in the present moment. That is the only moment over which you have any control at any time. Seeking out social supports is critical, and it can involve talking to caring friends, family members and/or healthcare professionals. Spending time on activities you enjoy can help to distract you, and give you a mental rest from the break-up. The goal of self-care is to provide you with some physical and emotional relief, while also providing you with a broader perspective on life.
The third step in working through a break-up is processing what took place in the intimate relationship. If you are feeling a lot of different emotions, including confusion, start by developing a general overview of your experience. Write out how you feel about the other person, and what went wrong in your relationship as you see it. Reading self-help books, and utilizing reputable on-line resources, can also help you to work through your emotions.
Once you feel that you have gained some understanding about what went wrong in your relationship, begin to examine what went well in it. Identify the positive traits that you and your partner brought out in each other, even if it was simply that your previous partner helped you to become more assertive (because your needs were constantly denied). If you can, forgive yourself and the other person for what happened and/or how you hurt each other. Recognize that all relationships involve learning. If the two of you did not fit together, then you both made a responsible choice by freeing each other to find more suitable partners.
Keep in mind that there was a time when you did live without this person in your life, and be open to the possibility that life without him/her can be good again. If you choose to make it happen, you can learn valuable life lessons from the ending of any relationship. Ultimately, you will decide what you take away from your break-up. Be good to yourself, and glean as much learning from it as you can.