As the old song goes, “Breaking up is hard to do.” Just as every relationship is unique, every breakup goes down differently — some breakups leave us feeling relieved while others leave us shattered. What are the psychological effects of breakups?
Depending upon the circumstances surrounding the split, it’s normal to experience a crazy mix of emotions not unlike meatloaf slathered in ice cream. You might feel elation one minute, anger the next and despair to top it off. Here are 12 psychological effects of breakups you can expect as well as when it’s time to ask for help with managing your emotions.
1. The Good
Can you feel positive emotions after breaking up? Absolutely! In fact, after getting out of a very negative relationship earlier in life, my psychological outlook improved dramatically. Here are some upbeat psychological effects of breakups, which hopefully leave you smiling:
- Unparalleled independence: One of the major positive psychological effects of breakups is regaining your independence. Want to head out to after work happy hour with the girls from the office? No need to call home unless you need the sitter to stay late. Feel like taking a spontaneous vacation in the name of health? One plane ticket is cheaper than two, and if your ex snored, there’s no need to have your hotel bedtime sanctuary interrupted by snuffing and snorting.
- Rediscovering your authentic self: When we’re in a relationship, like it or not, we change. A breakup is the perfect time to rediscover who you are as your own person. Besides, when you love yourself and your life, you attract people with a similar vibe into your tribe.
- Making your space sacred: I’m a bit of a neat freak, and my bad ex was to housekeeping what the proverbial bull is to a china shop. After the break, no one could tell me my aromatherapy diffusers made them sneeze or leave their dirty underwear on the bathroom floor!
- Freedom to explore your own dreams: Differences in how the members of a relationship view the future can cause a lot of strife in a relationship, and even lead a lot of women to put their goals on hold. Did you know research shows that women in relationships are 15% more likely than men to say they’d move all the way to a whole new country for their partner’s job? Where’s the adaptability, boys? Well, you no longer have to worry about the answer to that question. Maybe you want a farmhouse in the country with a few chickens in the yard, but your partner thrives on city life. You’re now free to head to the boonies and get your crazy cluck lady groove on.
- Finding purpose beyond relationships: As women, we’re often raised to think marriage and having kids represents the pinnacle of success. That’s a fine choice for some! But life has other things to offer, too. Maybe you dream of writing a novel, traveling to Africa to help build schools for girls in rural areas or running for Congress — guess what, sweetie? The only limit, now that you’re free, is the sky.
2. The Bad
Unless your relationship was unbearably toxic, you indubitably were drawn to your partner for a reason. Those reasons were valid no matter what lead things south, and negative feelings are normal. You may not spend every weekend for a month curled up in your bathrobe eating ice cream and binge-watching “Criminal Minds,” but if that’s what you need to do to heal, listen to yourself.
- The loneliness: If you were partnered or hitched for a long time, coming home to an empty house at the end of the day can feel lonely. And when you mourn, leaving the house to attend a social event can seem akin to undergoing root canal surgery without anesthesia. Lean on your besties during this time. Let them chill with you while you binge watch or help you with cooking a decent, healthy meal.
- The self-doubt: If you and your previous partner seemed so perfect once upon a time, it’s normal to doubt yourself and wonder what you did wrong. Remind yourself people grow apart for different reasons. Those reasons aren’t necessarily wrong or bad, and may not have anything to do with you.
- The question of what might have been: If you planned to wed or you were married and thought it was a forever thing, wondering what might have been comes hand in hand with splitting up. Remind yourself gently that things do have a way of happening for a reason. The reason for the split may not appear until years later, but have faith the universe has your best interests at heart.
- Watching your friends get hitched: Did you break up shortly before an upcoming wedding? Having to serve as maid of honor the week after a split can leave you feeling like Adam Sandler singing about his ex Linda in “The Wedding Singer.” If you don’t feel able to handle it psychologically, a true friend will understand — take time to heal if that’s what you need.
- Insecurity about your future: Many couples plan for their long-term futures together. When you lose that vision, it can leave you reeling, adrift like a boat without an oar. Give yourself time — you will find your direction again as you heal.
3. The Ugly
Sometimes, if the circumstances surrounding the breakup were abusive in nature, or if you find yourself falling into major depression following a breakup, seeking help becomes necessary.
- Dealing with PTSD: Yes, you can get PTSD from an abusive relationship. Furthermore, if you suffered abuse, you probably feel guilt and shame for allowing it to go on for so long and for possibly ignoring or failing to notice the red flags at the beginning. Working with a qualified therapist can help you process your emotions and also rebuild your ability to trust.
- Feelings of overwhelming despair: Feeling depressed after a breakup is normal, but if you find yourself thinking of ways to harm yourself, please reach out for psychological help. You can text the crisis line at 741741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline to speak with a qualified counselor. They can help you determine if a course of inpatient or outpatient care is best to help you manage your grief.
- Finding the help you need: Check with your health insurance company for a list of therapists accepted on your plan. Some employers offer assistance programs for staff in need — if you have access to such a resource, continue using it.
Dealing With the Psychological Effects of Breakups
Like any major life shift, dealing with the psychological effects of breakups takes time. However, with self-love, you don’t need to suffer alone, nor do all your feelings need to be negative to be valid. Breaking up may be hard to do, but it does offer you a chance to fall back in love with everything that makes you the amazing woman you are!