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How to Cope With a Breakup

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Breaking off a relationship can be painful, even when both partners know it’s for the best. You may struggle with feelings of sadness, confusion, loneliness and even anger. These feelings are normal and may pass with time. Learn how to cope with a breakup by taking care of yourself, being honest about your needs and looking ahead.

Look back on your relationship

After a breakup, you may find yourself mourning what you had hoped the relationship would be, rather than the reality of what it was. Look back on what didn’t work in your relationship. This may help you adjust to and cope with the breakup.

  • Write out what led to your breakup. This might help you see the situation more clearly. It can also point out red flags that you didn’t notice before, and help you avoid them in the future.
  • Examine your feelings. Ask yourself if you miss your ex-partner or if it’s the loss of a close relationship that hurts. Knowing the difference will help rid you of negative feelings.
  • Consider the part you may have played in the breakup of your relationship. This can give you insight into what you might do differently in the future. Take inventory of your experience and evaluate the areas that you may need to work on:
    • Did you often criticize or attack your partner’s character? Work on expressing your needs using positive “I” statements. When you are annoyed with someone you are close to, list their positive traits to remind yourself why you are grateful for and appreciate them.
    • Were you often defensive? Did you tend to frame yourself as the victim? In future conflicts with a partner, accept their perspective and take responsibility for the times you were in the wrong.
    • Did you tend to avoid conflict or withdraw physically or mentally from your ex-partner to avoid conflict? If you find yourself in similar situations with a future partner, take a break and distract yourself with a peaceful pause. This can include meditating, working out, going for a walk or doing art.

Practice self-care

It’s important that you pay extra attention to your health and well-being after a distressing event, like the end of a relationship. The following can help you cope with a breakup:

  • Surround yourself with people who care about you. This could be family or friends who have always been by your side. They can help take your mind off the breakup while filling a need for emotional connection. You may realize that it’s not so much your ex who you miss, but the comfort of being with someone familiar.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Sugary foods and drinks can negatively affect your mood. Choose nutritious foods instead.
  • Get outside for exercise. Walk, run, bike — whatever it takes to get your endorphins pumping. The combination of physical activity and fresh air will help to boost your mood.
  • Sleep well. A good night’s sleep will leave you feeling refreshed in the morning. Avoid bed until it’s time to go to sleep. Put down your electronics at least 30 minutes before you go to bed. Keep your room cool and dark.
  • Read the articles Taking Care of Yourself During Times of Stress and Grief and Stress Relief Tips for more suggestions.

Look forward to the future

While a breakup marks the end of a relationship, it also signals a new beginning. Embrace the opportunities ahead.

  • Reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. Just be careful about moving too fast into a new relationship. Healthy friendships and relationships don’t happen overnight. It takes time to get to know someone.
  • Focus on goals to make a positive impact on your life. Make a list, draw a picture or create a vision board to help you see the potential of a brighter future without your ex.
  • Review your list of reasons for the breakup. Consider what you will do differently moving forward in your next relationship. Maybe it’s to set expectations early on or to be more open and honest with your partner. Write those down, so you can revisit them later when you need a reminder.

More help for relationship stress

A non-medical counselor can offer personalized support while walking you through strategies to cope with a breakup. Free, confidential non-medical counseling is available through your installation’s Military and Family Life Counseling program and through Military OneSource. Call 800-342-9647 or live chat to schedule an appointment with a non-medical counselor or to learn more. OCONUS? View international calling options.

If you are currently in a relationship and experiencing conflict, check out these relationship resources from Military OneSource. These include non-medical counseling and the free and confidential Building Healthy Relationships specialty consultation.

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