I recently had the displeasure of going through a break up and to be honest in the past I have always been very unsympathetic towards breakups. In my mind they always had a way of seeming very ‘high school’ you know? Like *insert whiny voice* “three months or six months of my life was a waste, they were my first true love, they will forever be the one that got away” etc. I think now that I have been in love and have had a moment where the person I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with, turns out I’m not… Has now made me view break ups in a whole new way.
Break ups f**cking suck. Not only is the person that you hung out with the majority of the time is no longer there but the support that you relied on, the person you shared both your successes and your misfortunes with is gone too, and if you are in a place like me, the friends that I made through my partner are now in a place of uncertainty. People keep coming up to me and asking are you ok? And to be honest I don’t really know how I’m supposed to respond, like yeah I am finding a way to get out of bed and go to work, I don’t spontaneously start crying in the streets…… So all in all OK I guess……..
And it got me thinking what is a good breakup? What is the ‘right way’ to handle a breakup and if I can talk about a ‘healthy’ relationship through my work then is there such thing as a ‘healthy’ breakup? My relationship with my partner was for all intents and purposes really good, they cared and loved me, they were close to my family and I to theirs, we could be honest with each other and for the most part it was a really healthy relationship. I got to a point however were I looked at the list of things that I told myself I needed from a relationship and I wasn’t getting them. It was hard because I knew I was giving up good in hopes that maybe I will find great and I think this is a thought a lot of people have when trying to decide what you need for long term happiness. I think we often get caught up when talking about relationships in a way that says if a relationship is ‘healthy’ then it won’t end and this whole process has made me have to reassess that.
So here I have some thoughts from a sexology student with a broken heart. My guide to a ‘healthy break up’. Before I continue I’m going to explain what my definition of a ‘healthy break up’ is because to be honest it can be COMPLETELY different based on every relationship and why a relationship ends. However, for this I have decided a healthy break up is one that is founded in respect, not just for your ex-partner but most importantly respect for yourself. In an ideal situation I think you would be respecting your ex and your ex would be respecting you, you can’t always rely on your partner respecting you in a time that is difficult, so respect yourself and your health and acknowledge this is a time that can be really painful so make sure to take care of yourself.
- Space is pivotal, I am very blessed that I’m on decent terms with all of my ex’s that we keep somewhat in contact and that if we ran into each other it would remain very civil. If you are like me and want your relationship with your ex to be friendly, the first thought is usually keep seeing them, right? Like if you hangout as friends then you will be friends? My experiences would suggest that after a break up you need time to readjust your feelings for each other. To go from lover and partner to friend overnight is difficult take a couple weeks of no contact. Start by giving each other space to adjust to this new relationship status and then slowly start contact and reassess if more space is needed or if friendship can start being achieved. Sometimes what works as a relationship cannot work as friendship. It’s important to know when to cut your losses and take care of yourself.
- Do the things that make you happy, this sounds pretty simple but I’m guessing you got out of the relationship because you weren’t happy? Or you weren’t wanting the relationship to end so now you’re miserable. Either way you deserve and need happiness right now. If that is through exercise, cooking, hiking or through nights out with your friends do that! You owe it to yourself to get your single life back off to a good start.
- Yes, drinking and other distractions and diversions are great, however give yourself space to mourn. Eventually the distractions will run out and if you are not processing that support system that was previously there that no longer is any more will eventually catch up to you. Try strike a balance of debrief, digest and gain closure and doing what makes you happy.
- Avoid mutual locations, I know this sounds dumb. Like why should I have to not go to our favourite bar or go to our gym or whatever but in my experience it usually hurts you just as much as hurts them to see each other in these spaces. An ideal break up you would get to discuss some of the finer details of break up about temporary ownership of mutual space but not every relationship ends that way. My tip is follow step 1, take space and this means that potentially for a fortnight or until you decide you will check in on each other avoid spaces where you are highly likely to run into each other.
- Lastly, make a promise to yourself to commit to the break up for a certain period of time. I know it can be the most tempting thing in the world to get back together with someone but in my experience if you have felt a way once you will probably feel that way again and on top of that break ups hurt like a bitch. If you were willing to go through that pain then you owe it to yourself to see if being apart from this person could make your life better.
Now one thing that I haven’t discussed and I deliberately didn’t mention yet is around dating and sex after a break up. This is very unique to the individual, some people will find it very beneficial to get a few friends with benefits after a break up others will want to be alone. Whatever you like or whatever you want you should actively seek. Don’t be afraid to tell people that you are ‘engaging’ with that you are freshly out of break up and that you may not be looking for anything serious, people usually find honesty refreshing rather than intimidating.
Next conversation that can vary depending on the couple is around break up sex, which let’s face it can be really, really, really good. Enter this with caution, make sure all involved parties understand that any sex that takes place won’t change the break up.
I want to premise this and say this is my experience, and that this possibly won’t work for everyone. But I found this to be some useful things to consider throughout my break up. Best thing you can do, is get close to your friends, talk to your family remind yourself that one relationship with a significant other ending does not mean that you don’t have other people that care about you. It doesn’t change the fact you have other relationships (that may not be sexual) but are still full of love and support.