If you’re still carrying around the emotional baggage of a former relationship, it can be difficult to stop living in the past.
Relationships can have a pull on us long after they’re over. It can be difficult to accept that something that was once a really big part of your life is now becoming a memory. Likewise, unresolved issues can make it difficult to accept that the relationship has ended at all.
Clients often tell our counsellors that they feel stuck going over and over what happened in their last relationship and that makes it feel impossible to move on. It’s also a lot harder now to disconnect yourself from painful reminders of the past: simply scrolling Instagram and seeing updates or photos of an ex can leave you heartbroken all over again.
However, there comes a time when we need to accept that what’s done is done and begin to look forward to what might be coming next.
Talk about how you feel
The cycle of emotions you go through following a breakup can be similar to those you would go through following bereavement. You’re likely to experience feelings of denial, anger, emptiness, and sadness. This is all completely normal and you may even find yourself revisiting some of these emotions several times.
Some clients tell us they worry that they aren’t dealing with a breakup as they should be or that friends or family expect them to snap out of it. The truth is, how someone responds to the end of a relationship is different for each of us: there’s no right or wrong way to do it. The important thing is that you give yourself the time and support you need to feel better.
Relationship counselling can help you talk over your thoughts with someone who doesn’t know you or your ex and won’t judge anything you say. We’re here to help you sort through how you’re feeling and work out what you want to happen next.
Let go of anger
One of the hardest things to let go of following the end of a relationship is anger.
It can be easy to stuck in the ‘blame game’ – endlessly questioning who did what, what could have been done differently and who ended up feeling worse. But this kind of thinking will only make you feel bitter, regretful and has a tendency to go in circles.
Although it isn’t always easy, it’s much more useful to focus objectively on what the relationship was lacking and how it failed to meet your or your partner’s needs. It isn’t about deciding who was right and who was wrong, but being realistic about what happened and why.
Think about the warning signs that you may have ignored. Think about the things that caused arguments – not just who caused them. And, crucially, try to understand your part in what happened.
Although the answers to these might be upsetting, they will make it easier to let go of the past and avoid making the same mistakes in the future.
Embrace your freedom
Coming to terms with the end of a relationship is a very freeing experience. It means you’re no longer fighting to keep things alive or struggling to understand what happened.
This new found sense of freedom will come with a surge of positive emotions – potentially even greater levels of energy – and it will allow you to make plans for what you’re going to do next.
As you enter this new stage, you may find the following tips useful:
- Look for ways to find a lasting sense of personal happiness. Consider trying out things that would enrich you as a person like a new hobby, or helping others. Learning to maintain good self-esteem is an important part of creating a positive future.
- Be courageous. Believe you can do what you want to do and don’t put limits on your hopes and aspirations.
- Think positively. Be ready to catch yourself when negative thoughts pop into your head. Think about what you 'could try' rather than what you 'can’t do', no matter how small.
- Try writing out a list of ten positive things about yourself and keep it with you. When a negative thought creeps in, get the list out and remind yourself of everything you have going for you.
How we can help
If you’re looking for support with your relationship, we can help. Here’re some of the ways we can work with you.
Learn about ongoing counselling for couples, individuals, children and young people; plus sex therapy and mediation – ask your Centre about prices and financial help:
Help figure out your next steps – £30:
Work through a problem in writing – £ 45:
For a specific issue – currently £90 (usually £120):
Access hundreds of self-help articles including quizzes and videos whenever you need them – free of charge:
Help us continue supporting the nation’s relationships: