Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Sunday, February 7, 2010

How to Cope with a Break-Up: Breaking Up Gracefully, Part 1

Breaking up is hard to do. Who hasn't had a breakup, after all? One of the hardest things to do is to break up gracefully. Relationships bring out in people what I call 'primitive' emotions: anger, love, lust, jealousy, and the beat goes on. This is the first in a series of 4 essays I call Breaking Up Gracefully.

This first one will focus on why breakups trigger such primitive emotions and why breaking up is so damn difficult. The following 3 essays to come this week will focus on other aspects of breakups and give you tips on how to break up gracefully.

Breaking up is difficult because, in a nutshell, we have lost something. This loss often triggers profound sadness. One of the things that determines how you deal with your break up is whether you initiated it or your partner initiated it. Everyone always asks people, "So who broke up with who?" Adults like to think this is such a juvenile question. They will laugh it off and say that this is childish, that it doesn't matter. The truth: it does. If you loved someone but then end the relationship yourself, you can feel overwhelmed with guilt and worry for the well-being of your partner. If your partner chose to end it, you can feel a total loss of control. I am a believer that if one partner is unhappy, both are unhappy. Why? Because we can sense when our partner is not happy and that should make us feel unhappy, too and help us realize that the relationship is not working. It has to work for both partners, not just one!

If your partner is the one who initiates the break-up but you didn't want the relationship to end, I feel tremendous empathy for you. There is little worse than feeling that you are not enough to make someone happy. This can trigger sadness, anger, revenge fantasies, and all sorts of other primitive feelings. One of the worst parts of breaking up is that your feelings seem so damn permanent at the time! Sometimes, it's hard to imagine that you could ever feel happy again. One of the quickest things to fly out the window when you are overwhelmed with primitive feelings is perspective. It can be terribly difficult - or next to impossible - to imagine that one day you will wake up and feel better.

In the next 3 essays to follow this week, I will give you some tips on how to handle breaking up so that you can immerse yourself in the light at the end of the tunnel. For now, if you remember one thing, remember that the primitive feelings you feel while breaking up are not permanent. The pain won't last forever.

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