By Suzannah Weiss
The end of a relationship can leave you feeling powerless, especially if you were on the receiving end of the breakup. But it can actually be an empowering experience, and a time to rediscover yourself and become aware of your own strength. Don’t believe it? Here’s how to deal with a breakup and use it as a springboard for positive changes in your life.
Honor your true feelings
Productively moving on from a breakup first means grieving the relationship in a real way. Give yourself the chance to feel and express all of your emotions, whether that’s by crying, journaling, or talking to people who support you. Don’t worry if your feelings don’t make sense to you, and don’t put any restrictions on what you should or shouldn’t feel. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to how to deal with a breakup.
“Only you know what the relationship was like on the inside,” says social worker Jude Treder-Wolff. “It’s okay to be devastated at the ending of a relationship other people never understood or believed in, and it’s okay to be relieved at the ending of a draining, difficult relationship that looked good to people on the outside.”
Focus on what you got out of the relationship.
Once you’ve taken the time to process your feelings, try reframing how you think about the breakup. It’s easy to see it as a loss, but try to think about what you’ve gained. “Tell the story about the relationship from the perspective of how it changed you,” Treder-Wolff advises. “If the transformation is that you learned something harsh and painful about life, you can find meaning by looking at it through the lens of growth and what the experience awakened. If the relationship expanded you in some way, tell the story through the perspective of what was discovered.”
Reject any guilt you’re feeling. While it can be useful to reflect on what you’ll do differently in the future, it’s important to remember that everyone makes mistakes in relationships and has regrets.“Reframe any thoughts of guilt into positive ones,” says clinical psychologist Dr. Brian Wind, which might mean transforming the guilt into a lesson for future relationships.
Use your newfound free time to try new things
Now that you don’t have a relationship taking up your time, use the opportunity to learn a new skill, read a book, or really, try anything that interests you. “A new hobby is a way to find fulfilment and focus on yourself again, and building up new skills can be very empowering,” explains Dr. Wind. So that knitting project you’ve been wanting to try or that cat from the local shelter you’ve been hoping to foster? This is the perfect time to give it a go.
Spend time with loved ones
You may no longer be in a romantic relationship, but you can still take joy in all the other relationships you’re lucky enough to have. “Spend more time with close friends and family to remind yourself of the love that you already have in your life, which can be very empowering,” says Dr. Wind. These people can also be a support system as you’re processing your feelings from the breakup, “However, avoid rehashing your past relationship repeatedly because it can prevent you from healing,” he advises.
It’s extra important to take care of yourself when you’re going through an emotionally challenging time. “A breakup is obviously very difficult, and healing looks different for everyone,” says psychologist Dr. Jennifer B. Rhodes. “However, it can be a self-care intervention if you take the stance that whatever is happening is happening for your higher good.” Dr. Rhodes recommends dealing by going to therapy, if you’re able, or doing yoga or meditation.
“Moving directly into self-care mode and nurturing your mind, body, and soul after a loss conveys the message that you respect yourself,” she says. “Empowerment does not come from spending time plotting revenge against the person who broke your heart. It is discovered in those moments that you put yourself and your dreams first.”
The truth is, there’s no one way to get over a relationship. The right way for you is whichever way makes you feel most empowered and lets you stay true to yourself.