unhappy couple

Breaking up is never easy. The end of a relationship is the end of a set of dreams and hopes. It fundamentally alters your relationship with the person who used to be the most important figure in your life. It hurts. 

There is a lot of advice about what to do after someone breaks up with you and how to heal from that emotional pain. What are you supposed to do, however, if you are the one who was the heartbreaker? What do you do after you break up with someone?

Respect that the relationship is over.

When you are the one who ends a relationship, it can be easy to claim that you two can still be friends. You likely even mean it. Except in cases of abuse or cruel betrayal, such as cheating, most people still think fondly of their ex. They may no longer be interested in a romantic relationship with their ex, or they know that the relationship will not work out no matter how much they wish it would. That does not mean, however, that they do not enjoy their ex’s company or want to cut the other person out of their life entirely. As the one who instigated the break up, it is somewhat easier to start thinking of your ex as your friend. Assuming you do not expect crippling awkwardness, you might text your ex and want to hang out with them like you would a friend. This, however, can confuse or hurt your ex. They see you acting like a friend, and it may give them some subconscious hope that the two of you are getting back together. 

After you break it off with someone, respect that they may want space. You do not have to ignore their every text or cross the street to avoid talking to them, in fact this may make things even worse. Simply let them instigate contact. Also, be prepared to remind them, if necessary, that the two of you are not getting back together. It may be a non-issue, but do not be so sure that they are really inviting you to that Valentine’s Day work party as “just a friend.”

Show some tact.

As the one who broke off the relationship, the odds are that you will recover faster and be the first one back into the dating game. Depending on how quickly you move on and meet someone new, you might well have found a new beau while your ex is still grieving the loss of your heart. In that case, show a little tact. If you meet someone gorgeous and you are out with a group of friends, do not brag about how this person was interested in you if your ex is standing there. If you bounce right back and enter a new relationship, do not plaster pictures of you and your new beau all over social media. Your ex does not need to have it shoved in their face. Your status as “Facebook official” can wait an extra week or two. Similarly, telling the world how fabulous single life is can be a slap in the face to your ex. You do not have to walk on eggshells forever or put your life on hold, but bragging about the freedom of singlehood or your hot new beau a month after you ended a relationship of three years is not a nice move.

Let yourself grieve.

Just because you were the one who ended the relationship does not mean that you got away without any heartbreak. You had hopes that the relationship would continue on “’til death do us part.” You had dreams of a future with your ex as your significant other. You invested your time and energy into the relationship just like your ex. You are allowed to mourn what you have lost. Just because you were the one who finally said the relationship was not working does not mean that you are for some reason not allowed to feel grief. 

Treat the grief following a break up just like you would if you were the one who had their heart broken by someone else. Do not drown feelings of mourning with addictive substances that includes both traditional addictive substances like alcohol and less commonly remembered ones like the internet. No, binging on Netflix, Instagram and Etsy for two straight weeks is not a healthy way to handle a break up. Instead, get plenty of sleep, eat right and exercise. Taking care of your body will help your heart heal.

Learn from the experience. 

Every failed relationship is a learning opportunity. After you break up with someone, look back over the relationship and see what went wrong. Where did you make a mistake? When did you refuse to apologize? What was your partner missing that you realized you needed? Where were they unable to compromise? Think about what went wrong and what went right without judgement. If you found that you simply cannot handle a romantic relationship with an extrovert, make a note of that. If you discovered that any long term partner has to share you religious beliefs, accept that. This does not mean that you cannot be friends with those types of people, it simply means that they are unlikely to meet your needs in a romantic relationship. Do not try to force a relationship with one of those people to prove to yourself that you are not a judgmental person. Do not waste both you and the other person’s time and energy. Instead, learn about what you need in a romantic relationship. If you really need someone who is comfortable staying in on the weekends, so be it. If you want to raise children in your faith, that is fine. Learn from your failed relationship and accept what you have learned.

When you break up with someone, you need to enable both yourself and the other person to heal. It may not be comfortable, but healing rarely is pleasant. Take the time you need, grieve your loss, then get back up and get back out there. The one is waiting for you.
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