A breakup is not a singular event. What follows the initial decision to breakup is the hard part —a letting go process that unfolds over time. When you allow this process to take place, most emerge from the experience having greater self-knowledge and psychological wellbeing. However, if you sabotage this process, you will probably repeat the same mistakes in your next relationship. And you will find yourself living with the feeling that what you would like to have in a romantic relationship is continually out of your reach.
Here are 4 common ways that people inadvertently sabotage their breakups:
1. Maintaining Contact:
One of the hardest blows after a breakup or divorce is the idea of not speaking to or seeing your partner again. To pluck this person out of your life, a person who knew you inside and out and who you knew intimately, feels unnatural and, for some, like a death. To combat the intense grief many maintain contact. They tell each other “lets be friends,” or continue to text, or initiate a hookup relationship after the official breakup. These types of arrangements only prolong the misery and grief. Maintaining contact provides a Band-Aid, but not the real healing that comes from your former partner’s true absence from your life. The sooner you let go, the sooner you can feel the pain and eventually move on.
Denial is telling yourself you are fine and that you are not going to have a hard time with this relationship ending. If you have been dating someone regularly for a period of time and if you have let them into your intimate world, it is natural that you are going to need to process this loss. By remaining in a denial holding pattern, you do not allow yourself to fully experience what you’re actually really feeling. Sit down and acknowledge (through talking with a friend, or a therapist, or writing in a journal, or quiet reflection) your more difficult feelings about this breakup. Take a hard cold look at what you may be avoiding or even hiding from yourself. This is the path forward.
3. Dating Too Soon:
It is also quite commonplace to throw oneself into the dating world after a breakup or a divorce. The angst and upset can be too much to bear. And in this situation, dating apps provide an all too easy and ready service for immediately connecting with new potential partners. Alcohol and drugs also offer quick fixes to what can feel like a future of endless suffering. The reality is these approaches create new problems and take you out of your healing process. Resist the impulse to get back on the circuit too quickly. There will be a time for that. Have in mind that we attract people that match how we are feeling about ourselves in that particular moment of time. You are not your real self right now. You are going through something painful and life changing. You need to examine your hurt and care for yourself emotionally. That is much more likely to set you up for better days ahead.
4. Not Taking Accountability:
It is a lost opportunity when going through a breakup to endlessly blame your partner. Of course, initially, it is natural to carry a certain amount of animus, particularly if you did not initiate the separation. But moving out of the blame game and into what you can learn from this relationship should be a priority. Conduct a relationship autopsy where you look at all that went right and wrong. Notice what role you played and what you want to be different within yourself next time around.
(I describe in my workbook, Breaking Up and Divorce, how to conduct a relationship autopsy).
Jill Weber, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice in Washington, D.C., and the author of The Relationship Formula Workbook Series, including Toxic Love—5 Steps: How to Identify Toxic Love Patterns and Find Fulfilling Attachments, Breaking Up and Divorce—5 Steps: How to Heal and be Comfortable Alone and Building Self-Esteem—5 Steps: How to Feel ‘Good Enough.’ For more, follow her on Twitter @DrJillWeber and on Facebook, or visit drjillweber.com.