Divorce can be a devastating ordeal, and recovering from divorce can be a difficult, treacherous road. Sometimes people don’t recover at all. Others, although appearing to be past their divorce, still carry the pain of the breakup and the fear of getting close to a partner again.
A breakup of a nonmarital relationship can be just as devastating as a divorce. The pain can be intense even if the relationship did not last a long time.
Here are 10 steps to help you recover from a divorce or breakup, plus an opportunity to work on your own recovery, faster, right now! These steps will show you how to start to heal deeply, get your life back on track, re-create your life and your relationships to be far more fulfilling than before the breakup and start on a bright relationship future for yourself.
1. Grieve deeply and completely.
Many times people are terrified of their dark feelings, such as sadness, depression, anger, etc. The intensity of these feelings can seem strong enough to take hold of your soul completely. But you need to know that although these feelings are indeed strong, they will not last forever. Nor will feeling these feelings in some way damage you or destroy you. You will feel better once you allow yourself to feel.
On the other hand, if you do not feel the dark feelings arising in you as a result of the breakup, they will last forever and will deeply affect your life and future relationships.
Go ahead and feel your feelings. Feel the anger, the sadness, the betrayal, the confusion. Avoid going into your head and obsessing instead of feeling. Avoid overeating or using other addictions to escape your feelings.
This is your dark night of the soul, the time to dip into your feelings. Feel your feelings now, and you will be free to move on with your life post-divorce or post-breakup.
2. Grieve for the future of your marriage/relationship, which now will never be.
When people come together in a commitment, many dreams and hopes are created. These are not simple to let go of, because we use dreams and hopes to guide us to our future. Look into what dreams and hopes you had created for your relationship. Then separately grieve for each one. Know that your dreams and hopes are not dead. You will re-create them again with someone else, or even alone.
3. Spend time with people who will listen to your feelings with love and acceptance.
When recovering from breakup or any devastating loss, it is critical for you to be allowed to speak your mind as much and as often as you need to. Many people are not comfortable listening to others’ dark emotions.
Listening to someone else’s anger, fear, or grief often makes us afraid that their emotions will overtake us. This is why seemingly loving, caring people often try to “fix” us when we share our painful feelings. It is important that you are not interrupted or given advice – sharing your feelings is how you will heal.
4. Understand what happened in your relationship/marriage.
In order for you to be able to come to terms with the breakup and to move on to create a wonderful life, you need to understand what happened. This is the part of your journey in which you will have to be extremely honest with yourself. It will do you no good to blame your ex or yourself. You need to clearly understand the dynamic you and your partner created together. You need to clearly trace the events that led to the animosity or the cooling off in the relationship.
You will have to find your part in what happened to the marriage or the relationship. You will have to look back and recognize the signs that your relationship was headed for trouble. You will have to look back and look for critical decision points for both you and your partner, at which another road could have been taken that might have led to a different outcome.
This introspection is not for the purpose of blaming yourself. It is for the purpose of returning your power to you. You are not a victim, and seeing yourself as such will only cause you more pain. When you see how you contributed to the demise of your relationship, you will begin to heal from the current breakup and gain insight that will save your next relationship.
5. Understand why you chose your former partner.
People choose relationships for many different reasons and call it being “in love.” But what many consider to be love has nothing to do with love at all. Here are few of the reasons people choose each other:
- Deep need to be wanted, or wanting someone to make you feel good, loved, adored, etc.
- Lifelong struggle to meet someone like his/her parents and save them or change them so as to heal childhood pain
- Fear of being alone
- Infatuation or chemistry, attraction
- Security, support, etc.
- Someone to have a family with
- Wanting to stop feeling lonely
None of these reasons are bad in and of themselves; they are just not good enough reasons to end up in a relationship with someone. Why? Because they are not about connecting, having a relationship, they are about meeting your needs. When you choose partners out of need the relationship usually does not work out.
See if one of the primary reasons for getting into the relationship you are now in the middle of a break-up from is on this list. Which needs above, or other needs were you trying to get met?
If you can honestly examine and understand why you chose your partner, you will also start to build understanding to be able to choose differently the next time around.
6. Forgive your partner, forgive yourself.
Now it’s time to forgive. Understand that you and your ex-partner did the best both of you could. Understand that even when you were doing things to hurt each other, it was still the best you could do at the time. Perhaps the painful actions came out of self-defense or self-preservation.
Perhaps they came out of revenge for the pain you felt the other was inflicting. Forgiveness is a sure way to free yourself up to have a wonderful life in the future.
Do not expect forgiveness to come easily, and do not expect yourself to want to forgive. Forgiving your ex-partner is something you may have work on again and again. Forgiveness is an action you will need to take daily, or even many times a day. Think of your ex-partner and forgive, again and again.
7. Create distance between you and your ex- partner. Spend three to six months with no contact.
One thing that is so difficult about breakup is no longer having another person around, no longer having your best friend and confidant. It is difficult to let go of the everyday interactions and the friendship. And yet, if you are to heal well, you must sustain three to six months of no contact with your former partner (or as little contact as possible in case you have children together). This will give you the opportunity to grieve and work through your anger. It will also allow the relationship between you and your ex-partner to begin again (if at all) on a different footing.
The kind of contact you specifically want to avoid altogether is having your partner meet your needs or you meeting his or her needs. If you are to successfully heal and move on, your ex-partner must cease to be a source of need fulfillment for you.
Think twice about getting your ex to help you with anything or helping him or her. You may feel better temporarily, feel less lonely in knowing there are still feelings between you, but you will feel worse in the aftermath. You will feel the old pangs of attachment and the feelings of loneliness will redouble their strength.
8. Create a supportive community.
You need to be listened to. You need to know that you are wanted and loved. For these reasons, having a supportive community is critical to your recovery. A community can be a religious/spiritual group, an online community, or a group of friends you ask to support you. Make sure your community clearly knows that you need support and how you need to be supported.
9. Resolve to learn everything about you and relationships.
If you are to create a better relationship in the future without repeating the same mistakes, you need to understand and examine yourself in regard to relationships. You need to know what you want in a relationship, what kind of partner would be best suited for you, what you absolutely need in order to feel satisfied, and what you absolutely will not accept.
You also need to look at your behavior in past relationships and start looking for what and how you need to change so that your next relationship can be happy, healthy and lifelong.
It is always a good idea to set yourself on a course of relationship education. Relationship skills are not taught in school, and they very much should be. Given that you ended up losing your relationship to breakup or divorce, you most definitely could use more healthy relationship skills. Throw yourself into the study of relationship skills with determination to learn all there is to know, and you will reap the rich reward of an emotionally healthy you and later a healthy, loving relationship.
10. Take great care of yourself in the process.
Divorce or breakup recovery is a stressful, painful and life-changing process. When people are going through fundamental life changes, they must take care of themselves extremely well. A good rule of thumb is to treat yourself as if you have a cold – delegate or reduce your workload, eat well, exercise gently and get lots of rest. To nourish your spirit, add in extras like a massage, taking a creative class, doing activities that you consider fun, reading, going for walks, laughing, etc.
Although recovering from divorce or breakup is not easy, it can be done. Take it gently, one step at a time, but do move yourself forward. You can succeed and come out of the process healed and eventually be ready for a healthy relationship if you follow the above suggestions.