Breaking Up Is Painful And Isolating: A Team Of Your Friends, Family, And Therapist Can Provide Support
As a therapist, I see how people want to hide after a breakup. Often they are embarrassed, feeling at a loss, or that life as they know it doesn’t make sense or compare to their peers. There’s also a sense that they’d be bothering their friends by being in pain in front of someone who is seemingly fine. So they tell themselves they’ll heal silently with Netflix, quiet nights, and time.
However, hiding is the opposite of what is needed after ending a relationship. Even though there are situations in which a relationship with a partner just has to end, breaking up is especially painful, and can be isolating. In fact, a team of friends, family, and a therapist can provide essential support, protection, and understanding in helping to end a relationship powerfully.
Breakups Often Happen In Private: Talk About It To Others
While a breakup might be the best decision you can make for yourself, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. One aspect of breaking up that is particularly challenging is that the toxic behaviors in the partner or relationship that cause you to have to cut it off often happen in private. And when you’re in it, it can be hard to see out. However, it’s essential to not hide and pretend that all is well.
This is where your team can come in, and help you talk about what happened (or is still happening) honestly. We learn through working and talking through pain with others. Set the agenda to talk to your friends, family members, and therapist about why you had to break up the relationship. And it’s okay if you struggle to explain why or if it comes out messy, it’s important to get your point across.
When you break up, we, as therapists, help you sort out who to tell and keep close, and who to let in and how to not hide around them. It should be noted that some people around you need to know the nitty-gritty details. Others may just need to know you’re not in this relationship anymore, but you need them around you. It depends on the individual’s strengths, as well as the closeness of their relationship to you. There will be people you can tell everything: the folks that if anyone harmed you, would jump in first to say, “Whoa! That’s not okay!” and then listen to you as long as you need. Others who aren’t as close can just get a bit of the story (“I’m not talking to them, and you need to know that”).
Breakups Are A Grieving Process: People Around You Can Help
Each breakup is its own grieving process, and in active grieving, you need to not hide. Grieving a breakup is a different type of grief than death. Rather than mourning the loss of a person you loved and trusted, this type of ending means grieving someone who is still alive, but will no longer be a part of your life because you broke up, which was a choice you made.
You can employ people around you to support you in grieving by saying, “This person hurt me. I’m not in a relationship with them anymore. Part of me still cares for them. I’m sad, angry, and can’t imagine that this relationship came to this, but it’s better than the hurtful, harmful partnership we had.” They can be there with you while you cry, and their input can be as simple as a serious glance, a hands-up emoji, a nod, an eye-to-eye look, or a hug. Something to let you know you aren’t alone in this decision or in your grief.
Just like when grieving a passing, you need the people around you to check in with you to make sure you aren’t hiding. Your therapist can be particularly helpful in this, holding your story and your grief, and stepping in when they know you need more support. For example, a therapist can create a supportive, caring plan for staying connected, knowing the patient needs more right now. This could include deciding who to text throughout the day when it used to be a partner, or who to call or email (and yes, it can be the therapist) on days they’d normally spend with their partner.
Post-Breakup: Be Honest With What You Need
There is a lovely way TV shows portray girlfriends standing up for their friend who just broke up with a jerk, and needs to stay away. They say, “Hell no!” or “We got your back whatever you need” (with a big eye lock). You need this kind of strength and attitude from your friends, family, and therapist. They need to keep you from the tendency to want to hide. They can have your back and give you what you need, whether a hug or an affirmation that you made the right decision.
How do you get this support? By voicing your needs directly. Say straight out, “I need you to believe me, and have my back that this breakup was right and important for me to do,” or “I just need you to hang out, and let me be sad and miss them without trying to solve anything.” It’s also important to tell your friends and family members who may know your ex what you do and don’t want to hear about them. Say, “We aren’t speaking. I need you to support that I have a good reason for this. I may need you to check on me more, and may not want to talk about them for a bit,” or “I can’t talk about them if I’m not the one to bring them up.” Also be open to other people deciding they don’t really need to talk to this person either.
And if folks don’t rally? Let them go. Part of the toxicity of our culture in general is that it is unhelpfully organized to protect the ex or a person they got to know through you. It’s okay to distance yourself from people that assert there must be a reason for the ex-partner to act that way, don’t want to see you uncomfortable, question if it really was that bad, or don’t quickly sign on to your need. Let them go–you need everyone signed on to help you not hide.