Surviving a Relationship Breakup
By Mary Anne Knapp, LCSW, Clinical Social Worker
There is heightened excitement and a sense of euphoria for many of us when we enter romantic relationships and experience a feeling of union with another person. The bliss of feeling understood and the hope that you will experience “the happy ever after fairy tale ending” can feel truly wonderful at the time.
But when the relationship doesn’t last, you may be taken by surprise. It’s a shock that the person who professed undying love last week now has replaced you in their affections with someone from a Spring break encounter. You feel confused about how to get back into socializing especially if you have isolated yourself from others when you were in the midst of relationship bliss. You may feel that you are in an emotional tailspin as you try to recover. You may find yourself experiencing intense emotions that you weren’t prepared for. These can include panic, grief, anger and depression. Or maybe you feel that they have “lost” yourself. You may find it hard to imagine going on without your love and even consider suicide as a reaction to the loss of this relationship.
At CAPS (The Center for Counseling and Psychological Services) we see many students each year who struggle with these issues and feelings. It’s important to remember that you can survive, recover and even grow from this breakup experience.
- When a relationship ends it’s important to make time to think about the relationship and your personal identity. Allowing the feelings of grief and loss can aid the healing process.
- As one part of the process, journal writing or talking to loved ones who aren’t involved in the relationship can help. Reading self-help books about ending relationships and recovery from loss can also be helpful.
- Making a schedule of activities can temporarily serve to fill the void left by the partner. It’s important to remember, however that things may take more time and you may not be as productive for awhile when you are grieving.
- Allowing friends and loved ones to support you or remind you why you don’t want to return to the relationship can help a person stay grounded.
- Connecting to other dimensions of self other than the relationship can broaden perspective. Some examples include:
- Connecting to your body through exercise or eating favorite foods
- Connecting with nature by going for walks, watching the sunrise and actually looking at the world around you and
- Connecting with your spiritual and philosophical beliefs or political causes.
- Spend part of each day focusing on NOW and the possibilities for pleasure and enjoyment that you may have missed while you were in a relationship.
- If the relationship is healthy enough to tolerate this and both parties are interested, it can be helpful to set up some times to talk about the relationship and why it’s ending. Setting up an appointment time also helps to structure this discussion.
- Nurture your relationship with yourself. This relationship is the most important one you have and is always with you. Learn to be supportive, positively challenging and self soothing in how you talk with yourself.
- Seeking professional counseling services can be especially important if you feel intense anxiety, depression or anger, if you are suicidal or if the relationship was abusive. Full-time Penn State students at University Park may call the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at 863-0395 for a consultation appointment.