It’s a truth universally acknowledged that break-ups fucking suck. Even if it’s for the best and you’d outgrown each other and blah blah blah blah, if it really meant something and the love was real, ending it can affect you on a level that feels soul deep. After experiencing pretty much *exactly* this, I asked my therapist why break-ups can truly feel like the end of the world, and what to do about it when you’re really going through it. Here are the main take-aways.
You could be experiencing schema-activation
In psychology, a schema is a cognitive framework that helps us make sense of the world around us. They organise events and external stimuli and are directly affected by experience. Childhood and our lives prior to the relationship can play a *huge* role in how we think and feel about it ending. Have you ever thought “omg it’s happening again” or “I’m the kind of person that this shit happens to”? It’s likely that something in your current situation is activating an existing schema, or a traumatic memory, meaning you’re projecting your own beliefs about the world and yourself onto it.
If you feel that your reaction isn’t necessarily proportionate to what’s going on, try and write down what your brain is telling you about yourself. What core self-beliefs are being activated? The reason these moments can feel so horrendous is that they’re actually a pile-on of a LOT of other moments you’ve been through as well.
Do you know your attachment style?
If you’ve been sitting in a less-than-ideal or downright toxic situation for longer than you’d like to admit, this could be down to your attachment style. Feeling mentally unable to let go of something that no longer serves you and craving attention or approval from someone who has consistently hurt you are both key signs of an anxious attachment style.
Did you find yourself constantly fearing the end of the relationship, despite it not making you happy anymore? Were you worried you weren’t good enough, even though they’d done things that weren’t good enough for you? If this sounds familiar, you might have an anxious attachment style, which is nothing to worry about. It’s estimated that 20% of the population sit on the anxious end of the spectrum, and there’s SO much great material and research on attachment theory that can be really, really helpful in understanding your own feelings as well as any future partners’. Attachment theory is actually a WHOLE other article, but here’s some excellent resources to get you started.
- The Power of Attachment by Diane Poole Heller PHD
- Attached by Amir Levine, M.D., and Rachel S.F. Heller
- Polysecure: Attachment, Trauma and Consensual Non-monogamy by Jessica Fern, M.S.
What’s going on in the rest of your life?
A healthy relationship should add to your life, not *be* it. All relationships alter your life, and chances are you’ve adopted a whole new set of friends, daily rituals, world views…. The list is long, and change can feel scary, even devastating. However, it’s important to be aware of whether you were using the relationship as a crutch to prop up a life that could use a little work. Hiding within relationship issues and blaming the other person for how you feel can be a sign that you’re avoiding issues within your own life. Someone in your life should be an enhancement, not the sole purpose. If you’re putting too much pressure on the relationship to work because you feel you have nothing outside it, chances are it’s not going to work.
Spend some time thinking about what you as an individual person want out of your life. Make a list of things you’re good at. Identify areas that feel less good. Self-reflection and being honest with yourself are hard, they don’t call it “doing the work” for nothing. And remember that this too shall pass, the darkest hour comes before dawn and that even if it doesn’t feel like it right now you are going to come out of this stronger, with a better understanding of yourself and be more than okay.
If you’re really struggling and having thoughts that feel too difficult to deal with, please know you’re not alone. If you can, speaking to a trained professional can work wonders in helping you see the way out of your grief. If that’s not an option for you financially or logistically, there are several other really excellent services that can help you through this frankly shit time.
Article Written by Ianthe Jacob
Article Image Credit @oaknarrow