Your relationship has ended. A part of you recognizes there are things you should be doing that you aren’t doing, but you just can’t get yourself on board. Here are 4 reasons break ups make us crazy and keep us stuck.
1. Your Identity Is Still Tied to Your Ex: One of the hardest things about ending a close relationship is that when two people are tied they they start to take on one another’s identities. We show each other our likes, dislikes, preferences, and eventually adopt some of these together as a couple. When this tendency goes in overdrive people become co-dependent so that there is no separate “you” in the relationship but just the relationship. When the break up comes you may not know how to be a fully functioning, independent separate person. Depending on how long you were with your ex, or if you go from relationship to relationship, you may not know who you are on a deep and intimate level. Taking time to be alone, building a life that feels meaningful to you, and regaining a sense of empowered independence will help you find stability.
2. You Don’t Want To Grieve: When you get a glimpse of grief you may feel overwhelmed by all that is involved. After all, it is just plain old painful to feel the loss of someone we loved dearly and perhaps someone we thought we’d be with forever. Confronting your loss means you will feel sadness, anger, and even hopeless about your future ever being as happy as it was with your ex. Many who grieve a particular event also find themselves grieving other losses from other times in their lives. The daunting nature of grief leaves some hiding out in denial. They keep themselves in active motion all of the time with new relationships, work and constant activity to hold the grief at bay. Or, they stay so obsessed about their ex—how to contact or pining about what their ex is doing or not doing or thinking or not thinking—that in a way they haven’t yet accepted the loss as real. Until you allow the grief process to run its course, you will remain stuck in first gear. Grieving is painful, but it follows a typical course of stages. Most who allow themselves to grieve not only come out on the other side, but also are committed to a more enriched and meaningful life as a result.
3. You Won’t Accept Your Self-Esteem Loss: You’re humiliated. Your ego is bruised. You feel rejected or abandoned or not good enough. These feelings are overpowering and instead of sitting with them, talking about them, processing and eventually recovering, you are turning toward judgment, criticism, or even surveillance of your ex. Consider if instead of working through your vulnerable feelings you are hyper focusing on your ex as a way to distract yourself from your pain. When going through a relationship ending it is common to protect ourselves with the armor of focusing on the flaws of the person who hurt us. Maybe our thoughts are accurate or inaccurate, either way, the longer you stay stuck in obsessing about your ex the longer it will take to heal and move on.
4. You Won’t Change: You liked your old life. You enjoyed spending time with your ex, doing your daily or weekly routines together and spending time with your couple friends. Now all of that has changed. The longer you stay stuck in the past the harder it will be to move on. Accept that that particular life is over so you can start to build new routines of functioning and develop new relationships and activities that will bring you pleasure. One reason people struggle with this is because when they are heartbroken they don’t have the motivation to go out and do new things. Make yourself do it in spite of your sad feelings. Take your grief along with you as you start with something small. Can you agree to a new monthly book club, or a new exercise class, or consider taking a class or joining a hiking or nature club? Anything new you do will eventually pay off as your brain adjusts and you create a fulfilling life.
In my book Breaking Up and Divorce 5 Steps, I offer specific strategies for overcoming relationship endings.