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help with post-break up coping?
December 29, 2013 1:08 PM   Subscribe

i'm at break-up +3 months and could stand to re-up my mefite input as regards coping.

We were together for nigh on 4 years, co-habitating for the last 2.5. There wasn't really a last straw - rather, the work of our relationship just didn't feel worth it to me anymore. i suffered from severe relationship ambivalence for years - fed by her massively high stress levels and depressive nature - and i finally got decisive.

since then life has been roller coaster city, if generally trending upwards. we have had virtually no communication, occasioned by a spat that concluding with her issuing an emotional threat and me telling her she was incredibly important to me. the lack of contact is helpful but painful.

i tend to bounce around a lot emotionally, going from acceptance to regret and back fairly frequently. it's an overstatement to say that i second guess my decision, but i do feel extremely shaky and vulnerable at times, especially since we work in the same relatively small community - so i am often with people who are in contact with her. i feel self-conscious, judged, and super vulnerable - i'm constantly anxious that i'll bump in to her with a new guy, or else one of our mutual acquaintances will let something slip about that and it will devastate me. i'll feel abandoned - ironic, since i was the one who ended it!

other times - especially lately - i feel more resolute than ever - in fact, i kick myself for not ending it sooner!

just to throw in another symptom - as i go about my life these days, making (sometimes exciting) plans or looking forward to different things, i become convinced that something is destined to go horribly wrong. it's strange because, before the break-up, i always felt depressed that i would never have the opportunity to do things that i care about - our temperaments were so different that i ended up compromising parts of myself that i never wanted to compromise. i totally lost myself.

i spoke with many people (including friends, family, a therapist and the good people of AskMe) and received a lot of encouragement that i had worked very hard on the relationship, i had though it through, and i had sound reasons for leaving. but this emotional profile of late is wearing me out. have you had similar experiences? does it mean that i made a mistake? what did you do to cope?
posted by fingers_of_fire to Human Relations (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
It just takes time. Hang in there and eventually you will not only feel better but one day you won't even think about any of this any more.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:15 PM on December 29, 2013


since we work in the same relatively small community - so i am often with people who are in contact with her. i feel self-conscious, judged, and super vulnerable -

My experience in a small town was that people thought about my "situation" a lot less then I imagined and never mentioned it to me....

i'm constantly anxious that i'll bump in to her with a new guy, or else one of our mutual acquaintances will let something slip about that and it will devastate me

Eventually this will happen, but it will not be as bad as you think it will be...

A lot of what you're experiencing is pretty typical "distorted" thinking (as the CBT folks put it), you might want to spend some energy correcting those thoughts, you'll probably find that it will reduce your anxiety significantly.
posted by HuronBob at 1:34 PM on December 29, 2013


This is grief. You were together a long time, and the loss is profound. There is no going around it. You must go through, pay attention, take care of yourself physically and learn what you can. It's the gift you give yourself at this difficult time. Good luck. And by the way, there is no such thing as "getting over it," you just make space for it.
posted by thinkpiece at 1:53 PM on December 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


This all sounds really familiar. It doesn't mean you made a mistake. Every breakup brings ambiguity and an unpredictable future with it, and our brains don't like that. It doesn't mean that the same old predictable rut is the better place to be. As time goes on, the time you spend on thinking about the pain/regret will lessen, and the time spent on new plans and new realities will increase. You will find yourself surprised that you haven't thought of her all day, all week. But this takes time.

Coping: Be gentle with yourself. Invest in yourself. What hobbies did you drop that you'd really like to pick up again? Give yourself enough quality sleep time as you heal. You say yourself that this phase of healing is wearing you out, so give your body the resources it needs as it processes the stress of the breakup. Allow yourself to grieve, and allow yourself to move to your next phase when you are ready.
posted by heatherann at 1:55 PM on December 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


When you make a choice to leave someone-or something-behind, no matter how good the decision was, normally there is a grief process. I felt it when I changed churches, for heaven's sake. Even though I am much happier where I am! You will still miss the good things about the relationship, but you know that if it were really that good, you would have stayed.

Tincture of time is what I recommend.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:02 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


“We were together for nigh on 4 years, co-habitating for the last 2.5.”

First of all, this is a serious relationship by any measure. Maybe you just need to have that reaffirmed and acknowledge it to yourself. It may feel like you were “checked out” during part of those four years, but it doesn’t really matter- four years is a long time and your brain and body are going to need more time than 3 months to get over this. You will always have significant memories. You should admit that to yourself right away and take some of the pressure off.

"i suffered from severe relationship ambivalence for years - fed by her massively high stress levels and depressive nature - and i finally got decisive.”

There are several ways to deal with indecisiveness. One is to wait it out and see if you trend YES or tend NO with time. You tried that. It didn’t work. Another is to decide that you personally define YES as ONLY being a STRONG yes. That means ambivalence itself gets slated into the “NO” category for you. After a certain amount of time I think this is a reasonable approach for most people to take in life- Ambivalence that is not turning into YES, is as good as NO. Keep reminding yourself of that.

“we have had virtually no communication, occasioned by a spat that concluding with her issuing an emotional threat and me telling her she was incredibly important to me. the lack of contact is helpful but painful.”

No contact should be a firm rule if you’re serious about moving on. It doesn’t matter that you worry she might talk to mutual friends, or you left some stuff at her place, or you’re afraid you’ll be the last to know she has a new boyfriend- all of that is just stupid noise your brain is using to trick you into thinking you need contact. You do not need contact, at all. Make it difficult or impossible for yourself to reach out and delete her number.

Also, it doesn’t matter that she “issued an emotional threat” – you are broken up. She is not in your life. Emotional threats should have zero currency with you anyway.

You, for your part, should NOT be telling her she was “incredibly important to you.” Unless it was accompanied by a firm, “Yes it was real, but it’s totally over,” type-statement. That is way too emotional language for an ex.

“i tend to bounce around a lot emotionally, going from acceptance to regret and back fairly frequently.”

This is all normal and will pass with time and no contact.

“especially since we work in the same relatively small community - so i am often with people who are in contact with her. i feel self-conscious, judged, and super vulnerable"

This is about you more than it is about her. In your mind she is a symbol representing your past and what you feel is your personal failure. Stop judging yourself. Put as much distance as you can between you and her and whatever mutual friends you had- this may mean making new friends. Stay busy. Take up a new hobby and you won’t have time to think about her, plus you will be doing something cool and new that you can talk about and boost your self-esteem with.

“as i go about my life these days, making (sometimes exciting) plans or looking forward to different things, i become convinced that something is destined to go horribly wrong.”

This is just a feeling. Feelings can feel very real but you must remember they are ultimately bullshit. No one can really tell what you’re thinking on the inside no matter how transparent you think you are. Feelings are not reality.

Good luck.
posted by quincunx at 2:06 PM on December 29, 2013


I used to deal this by reminding myself of why I THOUGHT breaking up was a good idea and asking myself why I now FEEL like it might have been a mistake. Almost always there are lots of reasons for the first and just a couple of sort of vague feelings for the second.
posted by srboisvert at 2:24 PM on December 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


You taking care of yourself means no longer defining your life in terms of your ex or that relationship.

If your ex again tries to put some of her emotional ish on you, you need to be clear that you are no longer ok with those sorts of interactions. Like just say you won't respond to it and then do just that. She might not know how else to relate to you, but that doesn't mean you have to go along with it. Any interaction with her that feels like it's falling into an old crappy pattern, give yourself permission to peace out a.s.a.p. and not even worry about what she thinks/will tell people.

For me it was really important to take all of the uncomfortable feelings I had stewing from my relationship pre/post breakup and process them relative to myself. Whether or not another person's behavior was about me, I had to decide how I felt most comfortable handling the feelings I had about that situation and my own actions. I found Captain Awkward comment thread discussions on social anxiety and communication to be super useful.

I dunno, otherwise it sounds like you need a good therapist to work with you on your anxiety in terms of you. It doesn't seem useful to frame your current anxiety in terms of your ex or that relationship anymore. You should be centering your treatment/coping mechanisms on how you can best take care of yourself now and in the future.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 3:31 PM on December 29, 2013


It comes in waves. Being over a breakup isn't a level to complete. You're gonna cycle around for a while until someday you realize you haven't thought about them in a while.

I ended a 3+ year relationship about 10 months ago and I still miss him everyday. The pain just gets to be less, urges weaken and you move on with your life.

Don't be afraid to feel the emotions; you don't have to act on them.
posted by Katine at 6:58 PM on December 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


I feel your pain. You will question your decision for a while. It's been 5 years for me, and I still doubt myself! Always try to move forward... take a vacation, try a new hobby, make new friends... the world is a big place and there is much to explore. Don't let guilt or uncertanity hold you back, it's hard at first but time will make it a lot easier. You can't rush healing and that's what you are doing now. Be kind to yourself!
posted by Bohemian Sailor at 6:58 PM on December 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


As everyone is saying, it's just about time. My divorce was at my instigation and, years and second marriage and kids later, I still feel bad about it but at a distance. Your situation's difficulty is exacerbated because you run in the same circles. Unfortunately, this is just one of those things that you just have to live through. Just be good to yourself.

As Garrison Keillor used to always say, when he gave relationship advice on Salon a long time ago... this could be a good time to learn a new language.
posted by papercake at 9:18 AM on January 8


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