One of the unfortunate and less discussed subjects and fallout from the pandemic has been the dramatic impact it had in spiking the percentage of breakups among couples and marriages. Dating.com found that 67% of users have admitted they went through a breakup in the last year, which is a significant increase from last year’s findings of only 34% who admitted to having a breakup. For most people, breakups can be extremely painful, especially in the initial days and weeks.
There have been thousands of songs like the pop classic, “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,” by Neil Sedaka written about broken hearts because the physical pain of a breakup is so hard to bear. Most of my clients and those of us who have endured a major breakup have learned it takes time to heal the pain before we’re eventually able to move on and open up to getting back into the love arena.
The reason it’s so painful initially is that our brain is working to assimilate and accommodate the added information about being “single.” During this beginning stage, most people go through a period of denial. Denial may by waking up feeling like you’re still in a relationship, grabbing your phone looking for a text or vacillating and bargaining with yourself about whether getting back together is a viable option. Denial can last for hours, days, weeks, or months.
Moving through the denial phase is crucial to accepting the break-up, but there are triggers everywhere, confusing a brain that’s trying hard to create a new “single” schema. Overcoming denial can feel insurmountable, but there are techniques available that can help get you over the hump. Here are five tips to help you achieve acceptance:
1. Virtual cleanse
Remove or hide all references to your ex or their friends on social media, in text messaging and or emails. Delete contact information, photos from your phone and computer, or put them in a folder you won’t access. Cleansing your phone and computer will create a safe virtual space for you again, and one not wrought with potential landmines filled with “ex”-triggers.
2. Actual cleanse
Cleanse your living space. Remove items you purchased together, presents, and pieces of their clothing that remind you of your ex. Focus on ridding your space of items that serve as tactile or auditory reminders, or that have a visceral hold on you. If you’re not comfortable discarding them, you can store them or move them to a family or friends’ home for safekeeping until you’re ready to see them again.
Redesign the décor throughout your living space by changing comforters/duvets, sheets, move the furniture around, add accessories like throw pillows or throw blankets, and reposition artwork and pictures on your walls. This will cue and remind your brain there’s a new normal as soon as you walk through the door.
4. Change your routine
Refresh and change your social patterns by finding new locations to have dinner, lunch, or drinks. If you don’t feel comfortable going alone, invite your friends to join you at one of your new restaurants or bars. Go to a different movie theater or gym. The goal is to avoid visiting old locations you frequented with your ex that will evoke triggers. It doesn’t need to be permanent, but avoid re-entering familiar haunts before your brain has adjusted to your new normal.
We are creatures of habit and doing what feels comfortable to us. You can help your brain to accept your breakup if you embrace changing your life that signal you are healing and learning to enjoy the new normal you created.
Jennifer Guttman, Clinical Psychologist: Children, Adolescents, Adults, Couples
Dr. Jennifer Guttman is a leading Cognitive Behavioral Therapist and Clinical Psychologist with over 20 years of experience in the field of mental health. She has built thriving practices in Manhattan, NY and Westport, CT that provide weekly services for over 120 clients. Last year, Dr. Guttman launched her new lifestyle motivational brand platform, Sustainable Life Satisfaction, via her popular YouTube six-episode web series, “A Path to Sustainable Life Satisfaction.” She recently debuted as an author with her newly published workbook of the same title, which is available in e-book and paperback on Kindle/Amazon.com. Through her interaction with thousands of clients, Dr. Guttman found that over 80% of people don’t feel “happy” about some aspect of their lives. Her mission is to motivate and inspire people think about happiness in a realistic way. She created her SLS brand and six core techniques as a blueprint to help people feel more empowered, self-reliant, masters of their lives and put them on a path to achieving sustainable life satisfaction.