My latest article for GQ discusses how to move on from a break up in the best possible way. If you or anyone you know is struggling, please take a read here. This article isn’t just for a relationship break up, it will help anyone who feels they are stuck and have ‘lost something’ or simply ‘cannot move on’.
Dear GQ Therapist,
I split up with my partner quite suddenly last year, but six months on and I just can’t seem to get on with my life. I still feel sad and depressed about it and the pain just won’t go away. How can I move on?
Ending relationships and break-ups are no fun. Whether you were the one to be broken up with or if you were the one to actually pull the plug on the relationship, it sucks to go from being a couple to being alone.
No matter how many times relationships comes to an end it always feels miserable, and because break-ups are so uncomfortable to deal with most of us simply just try anything we can to get over them as quickly as possible. We work out harder, drink more than we should, dive into a packet of cigarettes (even if we stopped years ago), head into a rampage of one-night stands, or we just decide to work more. Anything to avoid those feelings. So I want to give you a few tips to help you “move on”…
1. Process your feelings
Unfortunately, ignoring how you feel and trying to move on too fast means you miss out on something quite important. Your friends may want you to get over it quickly, but I believe you have to allow the feelings to come and go, and only then will they actually pass. You can’t force it. When we try and just decide we shouldn’t be feeling sad/hurt/angry/or upset, the process ends up taking a lot longer.
There’s also a really great way, proven by researchers at a university in Villanova, to process your break-up pain – they studied to find the best ways to move on. They came up with a process called “redemptive narrative” journaling. The idea is simple yet effective. Write about your relationship, including the whole messy break-up, the quickness of it finishing etc, but try to reframe as much of it as you can in a positive light. For example, you might focus on your growth through the relationship, such as the things you learned about yourself during the relationship. Or maybe you walked away with a new knowledge of what you do and don’t want in a partner. Or maybe you have a clearer picture of what a healthy relationship looks like. It’s important to note that what matters is finding something positive about the painful experience. The researchers found that when people were able to do that, it actually lessened the emotional toll.
3. Remember: your thoughts create your world
If you go out into the world thinking your life is over and you will never be happy, it will feel heavy and miserable. You need to know that’s your choice. You have to get your thoughts right. Thinking in a negative mindset is the worst thing you can do for yourself. So instead, start reframing things and thinking in a more neutral or happier way. For example: “I am ready for something better now” or “I am free to meet whoever I choose and do whatever I want and the world is my oyster.” Thoughts become feelings, so be mindful of what you are thinking.
4. Explore your life
When we couple up we can sometimes lose ourselves. We don’t see our friends as much, we don’t practise our hobbies and we get too comfortable. Now is the perfect time to rediscover yourself. What do you love to do? Who haven’t you seen in ages that you want to reconnect with? Who can you meet and talk to over a beer and find some laughter and joy together? Book the boxing training you love or the holiday you have always wanted to take forever. In other words, now is the time to take care of you. Be selfish for a little while and start doing the things you used to do again.
The Office For National Statistics released data in 2015 that shows 51 per cent of people in England and Wales are single. That’s over half the population. It’s important to remember you are not out in the world single and alone. Think about that positively: it means there is definitely someone out there for you, who feels like you, and could well be open and available for a new relationship at just about the time you feel ready to be, too.
6. Believe in your destiny
I am a big believer that what is meant to be will always find a way. If your partner was right for you, they will come back. If they weren’t, that’s because there is something out there that is better for you. Growth works like that. Life works like that. Now is the time to change your thinking and have a little faith that things will get better. How many times in your life have you been in a situation that felt like it would never get better, then it did, and then it exceeded your expectations? It’s like that now. So please allow yourself to grieve for as long as you need. Then, when you are ready, pick yourself up, dust yourself down and go out into the world with a positive mindset and a dash of faith that things are going to get better. Remember the Henry Ford quote: “If you think you can do a thing, or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”
7. Talk it out
Last but not least, if you find you are still struggling there are lots of people out there you can talk to. Talking about how you feel is the fastest way to move on through discussing you feelings. If Prince Harry and Brad Pitt are open to it and Michael Douglas can do it, so can you! You know where to find me…