Have you been blindsided by a breakup? Are you stuck with a growing sense of doom and unreality as the world around you fades into shades of grey?
As the reality of separation sinks in we are often driven into making panic-fueled decisions that will ruin our chances of healing or reconciling. This article features five typical examples of mistakes made when a relationship ends suddenly, and what we can do to avoid them.
1. Don’t Burn Your Bridges
The first thing we’re going to want after a breakup are answers, and we’re going to want them now.
This is primarily a reaction to the insecurity associated with suddenly being cast adrift. Now that we’re free-floating in uncertainty, our routines and comfort-zones shredded, even unpleasant answers can help us control the anxiety we feel by giving us a framework we can lean on.
But not so fast.
This need to control our feelings can lead to burning our bridges needlessly and making a bad situation a whole lot worse.
Breakups are a time of emotional flux, and the answers you seek likely haven’t yet consolidated. If you push for a yes or no scenario immediately after the breakup, your ex is going to retreat defensively no matter what their feelings for you are.
Whether we like it or not, a breakup is a message. And that message is I can’t keep going on like this. Even if there is the will and a way to patch things up, resolving these issues will take some space.
This is not to say that going no contact is the solution here, all I’m saying is that we should avoid pushing for closure immediately after a breakup.
2. Don’t Assume It’s “Just A Phase”
The fact that we’re not getting any answers means we’re going to go about creating our own. This is understandable given the shock and pain we are experiencing but often leads to denial.
Some popular examples of this are:
- It’s the grass is greener syndrome.
- It’s a mid-life crisis.
- It’s just a hormonal imbalance.
- It’s just their pride talking.
There may be a grain of truth to some of these assertions, but let’s face it, these are psychological constructs designed to make us feel better about our breakup. It makes the breakup seem less “real” and therefore reduces the severity of our pain.
It is in our direct interest, both with regards to reconciling and with regards to moving on, that we assume that the breakup is not the result of a moment of madness. But rather, its impulsive end was merely the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Our innate pattern-seeking instincts will feed our denial in order to comfort us. There’s little we can do about our subconscious brain’s mission to protect us. However, scanning our motives and thoughts for traces of denial is often enough to make better post-breakup decisions.
3. Don’t Play Mind Games
I could fill an entire book on the value of emotional manipulation, but I’ll condense the rant to this: Ultimately, you’ll only confuse yourself.
This isn’t me berating you for entertaining a reconciliation or healing strategy. Who am I to judge your motives? No, my concern is about efficiency and outcome because these stratagems never seem to work. At least, not in the long-term.
The reason I don’t trust strategies or psychological playbooks is that they add more confusion to a situation that is already very confusing. This isn’t good news when you consider that both moving on and reconciling require rebuilding strong foundations.
All these games will achieve is keeping both partners engaged without addressing the hard truths surrounding the separation.
Yes, hiding behind a game means avoiding rejection or hurt, but it also means making no forward progress. Sooner or later, the never-ending stalemate that these games lead to will burn you both because nobody can live with the kind of uncertainty being bred here.
4. Don’t Fake It
Faking it till you make it can work wonders when it comes to moving on, but if you want to reconcile, avoid letting your pride do the talking.
This isn’t about faking strength with your friends, family, or co-workers. This is about being honest about how you feel about the breakup with your ex.
Always be upfront about what your intentions are, even in the face of defeat, because if your ex ever has a change of heart they may just feel welcome enough to pick up the phone and tell you about it.
If you act like you’re over it, your ex will assume you are done with them and adios reconciliation, even if both of you are pining for it. How about that for a senseless tragedy?
It’s fine to erect strong boundaries after a breakup. It’s great to refuse to be your ex’s doormat and push the mixed messages and crumbs away. But if you want to reconcile, make sure you say so.
5. Don’t Hurt Yourself
My last point has nothing to do with your ex, and everything to do with you (or us, given that I’m hardly exempt).
Don’t hurt yourself for attention and don’t punish yourself with misplaced guilt.
Offering your body and soul as a sacrifice on the altar of guilt serves no purpose other than to make you even more miserable than you already are.
I run the horrible risk of sounding condescending with this, but I know how much of a beating our fragile human minds can take during a breakup. And just how far down the road to insanity the experience can take us. So let this be a voice in the dark reminding you that relationships fail, and that it is perfectly natural for them to do so.