With all the talk about how to manage and preserve relationships, it’s easy to forget that sometimes, despite all our best efforts, relationships still come to an end. Perhaps because people don’t talk about it much, I’ve found that so many people just have no idea how to properly breakup. And believe me when I say that there is a proper way of doing it, and deviating from that way will only prolong the pain and anguish of that break up.
So, I’ve decided to write a guide on the four key steps to a successful breakup. Please bear with me even if the previous sentence sounds a little paradoxical.
Determine Whether the Relationship is Really Over
This first step seems simple enough, but it is also the step where most people fail. Whether it’s unresolved feelings, the compulsion to preserve and protect something that you’ve invested much of your time and energy on, or just plain old loss aversion, people tend to believe that their relationship isn’t really over, and then try their best to save it.
Here’s the problem: they’re almost always wrong.
Although there are a few circumstances where people breakup without the relationship being “over,” these circumstance are few and far between. I’d say that the following is a safe rule of thumb: if the two of you can no longer get along or connect the way you used to, or if one of you can no longer trust the other, the relationship has reached its expiration date.
Keep Your Distance
Many couples breakup and then think that they can still be close friends and still be a big part of each other’s lives, without making things awkward or presenting the temptation to get back together. I’ve seen many of these couples attempting a “subtle” breakup, and all of them have failed.
The reason for that failure is because of two things that have developed throughout your history together: memories and hormones. Your brain associates your ex with several pleasant memories from your time together, whereas your body associates your ex and their pheromones with the release of oxytocin and other pleasure-inducing chemicals. Of course it will feel good to remain in touch, and of course there will be the temptation to backslide into that already-expired relationship all over again.
This is why you need to keep your distance from each other. As tempted as you are to confide in your ex about your horrible day or even about your promotion at work, try your best to resist. If you were like conjoined twins during the relationship, you may even have to go cold turkey and sever all links and lines of communication between you.
It’s not extreme at all, my friend. One of you is bound to cling on to what’s left. Entertaining it will only cloud your judgment and make it even harder for both of you to move on.
Find Alternate Routes to Happiness
Most couples, especially those who have been together for a long time, tend to include each other in everything. Social circles tend to merge, as do hobbies and ways to spend leisure time. This leads to several complications after the break-up, as your best friends Jimmy and Mary don’t know who to hang out with anymore – you or your ex.
The key to solving this problem is to find new sources of happiness that do not require your ex’s company or evoke good memories of your ex. Make new friends, or reconnect with old friends from before your relationship started. Never went mountain climbing with your ex? Now is a good time to try. Examples are endless, but you get the point already. Find new ways to be happy on your own. Once you reach that point, you will come to the realization that life goes on.
Don’t Look Back
Finally, the end point of this four step process is a simple yet crucial one. Don’t recollect, reminisce, or reconsider any part of the past. Some people talk about this phenomenon called “winning the breakup” where you check up on your ex after some time has passed to see who has recovered their life better. This is also a trap.
The thing is that you won’t be able to connect with a new person if you keep thinking of an old one. Over-evaluating your past relationship, or even worse, comparing your future relationship with your past one is unhealthy.
Remember that being single has its perks, so relish it while it lasts. Also, enjoy your new adventures with those amazing new people. And for god’s sake, stop thinking about your ex.
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