How to Deal with a Failed Relationship: Grieving, Moving Forward, Then Thriving

A breakup or the end of a relationship is a difficult part of life. Sometimes individual counselling can help during this challenging time. Moving on can be difficult and painful, but it’s an important part of the healing process. A long term relationship may result in a great deal of “baggage,” but you can speed your recovery with some tips.

Get closure by:

  • Accepting the ending - Admit that the relationship is over. It’s natural to reflect and wish things turned out differently. Stay strong and acknowledge that the partnership has run its course. Create a list of reasons your relationship didn’t work. This exercise can help ground you and provide perspective. Use your new viewpoint to understand things weren’t working for both partners, and that ending the relationship was probably beneficial for you both.

  • Giving yourself time - Grieving is a natural part of the post-breakup process. The emotions that follow will be complicated. You need time to sort them out. Take time to reflect and get in touch with what you’re feeling. Journal writing can help you process the experience. Consider giving yourself a “deadline” for mourning. This doesn’t mean that you’ll be over everything once you hit that point. Just know that by a certain date you have a responsibility to yourself to grow and thrive.

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Take time to grieve

  • Avoiding “rumination” - When you’re in the middle of reflection, avoid over-analyzing each past event. Sometimes when a relationship ends, people spend a great deal of time dissecting everything moment and action. It’s normal to examine your history, but avoid taking it too far. Ruminating can make you feel stuck and make it harder to start the new part of your life. Rather than analyze why your relationship ended, think about who you want to be without your partner in your life.

  • Recognizing negative thoughts - It’s normal to have some hard feelings about a relationship ending, but these types of emotions can hold you back from moving on. Discover your triggers by identifying bitter thoughts and recording them. Teach yourself methods to interrupt recurring thoughts before they can fester. Avoid sinking into self-pity. You might feel powerless after a breakup, but you can change how you think. It takes time, but moving forward will be much easier by changing your perspective.

Engage in positive activities

  • Averting self-destructive behaviour - Avoid using harmful, self-destructive methods of coping (e.g. smoking, drinking, or drugs). These are unhealthy ways of dealing with the fallout of a relationship, and create more problems. Indulging in any self-loathing behaviour lengthens the recovery process by drawing out your grief. Look for healthy alternatives that make you feel good about yourself (e.g. exercise, art, writing).

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Avoid contacting the ex

  • Cut ties with your ex - A counsellor may advise you to implement a “no-contact rule” with your ex and avoid interaction. Stop texting or calling, and stay away on social media. You may be able to be friends later, but for now you need to build a life without your former partner in it. Cutting ties also makes it easier to disengage from the relationship. Do be polite if you must communicate, but avoid long interactions. Talk to friends about splitting their time between you and the “ex.” They don’t have to choose sides, but they’d appreciate avoiding awkwardness.

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Give your space a new look

  • Refresh your living area - Give your living space a new look. This can help tremendously if you and your partner lived together. Take the opportunity to remove their things and make the area yours. Return your former partner’s belongings with the help of a mutual friend. Removing signs of your partner’s presence can symbolize a new start and make your surroundings feel new.

  • Own your actions - Avoid playing the “blame game.” Pointing fingers at your partner might make you feel justified. However, this behaviour is damaging. Reflect on how you may have contributed to the end of the relationship. Get perspective by acknowledging your part in the relationship; use those lessons in future relationships. Find out what worked and what didn’t to avoid repeating mistakes later.

  • Remember the good - Dwelling on negativity allows anger to fester. Harbouring bitter thoughts about your partner or giving backhanded compliments about them doesn’t help you grow. Avoid holding on to negative emotions and focus on the good times you had. Letting go of negativity creates a more positive future.

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Hang with your friends

  • Spend time with others - Avoid withdrawing after a bad breakup. Spend time with loved ones to help focus on something other than the pain. Retreating into yourself aggravates feelings of loneliness; avoid spending too much time alone. Being with other people is also a good way to distract yourself with positive activities. Consider doing things you might have avoided because your partner wouldn’t join. If you have a supportive family, this is an ideal time to spend time with them.

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Learn to forgive

  • Forgive - Forgiveness allows a broken heart to let go of past events and move into the future. Accept that you cannot change the past but you can change your future choices and behaviour. Forgive yourself  - and your partner. Understand that forgiveness helps you heal. Learn from the experience and avoid carrying pain with you.

It can be difficult to move on after a failed relationship, but it’s important to rebuild. Avoid rushing into things, and not to dwell on your pain. Give yourself time to grieve and recover from a failed relationship. If you need to vent to a friend, or cry for a few days, go for it. Take as much time as you need to work through your feelings, and do your best t stay positive. The important thing is to start enjoying life again. Pain is inevitable, but you can overcome it. Take it one hour at a time.

Once you’ve had time to process your emotions, you will be equipped to move toward a new life. If you need help sorting through a breakup and its aftermath, contact a local counsellor or therapist to help teach you the skills to live a better existence.

To rebuild your marriage or partnership, call Living Well by Design. Wendy Hart offers assistance for couples at any stage of the relationship. Understand your life and choices. If you need help improving intimacy (or ending a relationship), address your problems with a licensed counsellor. Contact me at (780) 246-8100 to make an appointment today.

Wendy Hart