In some instances, breaking up is easy. It’s the staying broken up part that’s hard.
Although arguably the best time of year, December is also breakup season. Breakups tend to spike before big events, which makes sense. What’s the point of introducing someone to your fam at Christmas lunch if you don’t see a future with them?
When you made the decision to break up, you probably had a list of cons that left you certain you were ready to move on to bigger (wink, wink) and better things. But the first time you’re feeling lonely and need some love (read: validation) you’ll see yourself sliding down that slippery slope straight back to the sub-par relationship you just got out of.
Luckily for us, we were able to speak to Christine Devoy, a therapist with a masters of social work and over 30 years experience, to find out how to keep our breakups broken (for good this time).
Even though I know this relationship isn’t working, why do I keep going back?
“We all do things that we know aren’t good for us, such as eating too many desserts or drinking too many martinis!” Preach Christine. Preach.
“Our motivation for doing anything is complex, and not always what we think it is. With relationships, this is often the case,” she explain. “We can be attracted to someone who brings something to our life that we may be missing, such as excitement or risk, or someone who subconsciously reminds us of a significant person in our early life. We might subconsciously be trying to be our own person and choose someone very different than our family or friends, or be unaware that we are creating a similar relationship to our parents.”
“Whatever the motivation, we are gaining something from being in the relationship, even one that ‘isn’t working for me.’ Add to this that the end of any relationship is a loss; the loss of what you were hoping you both could become as a couple and the loss of the parts of the relationship that were working. We are all human and we tend to be uncomfortable with change and will put up with a lot of pain and discomfort to avoid making significant changes. And walking away from a relationship is a significant change. Of course, there can be more than just personal reasons that keep people returning to unhealthy relationships. In our society, its still easier in many ways to be in a relationship; yes, even in 2019”
If we can’t stop going back to each other, does that mean we should get back together?
Once again, this depends on your motivations. Christine says, “If you can’t stay away because you’ve realised that the relationship is actually good for you, then go for it. If this isn’t the case, and you are pulled together by your loneliness or grief, work on the above. Time, support of others and focusing on your own life will help you move on.”
Can I be friends with my ex straight after we break up?
Ah, the age-old question – can anyone really be friends with their ex? Christine thinks some can, but you have to be conscious of timing.
“Some people can be friends with their exes, but few can do this immediately. If you are struggling with the loss of the relationship, this is a time of high emotions, not comfortable friendship. Until you’ve moved beyond this, you will be filled with ambivalence about your ex, the relationship and your decision. This isn’t the time to be buddies.”
Should I cut off my ex completely?
Timing truly is everything, but most signs point to yes. “If you struggle with moving forward, you may need to take a break from contact with your ex. During a time of loss, you need to do what will help you. If contact with your ex heightens your ambivalence and distress, you may be better off taking a break until you are feeling stronger.”
How do I keep some distance from my ex if we have mutual friends?
Christine says to not expect these kinds of situations to be easy. “You need your friends’ support to get through this challenging time. But they have a relationship with both of you, and are in the middle. You may want to miss out on some of the social events with groups of friends if your ex is present. A good friend in your group can let you know when your ex will be present, so you can decide. With time, you may be able to be part of the same social group. But be prepared to potentially lose some friends after the break up. Focus on the friendships that add value to your life, and the friends that help you through this difficult time. Spend time with small groups of friends and friends not in your ex’s group.”
What are your top tips for making sure your breakup stays final?
If you’re reading this article, chances are you want your breakup to last. These are Christine’s 10 top recommendations to ensure you don’t fall back into old habits:
- Be kind to yourself; this is a time of loss.
- Be aware that there will be better and worse days, hours and minutes. You will feel stronger slowly over time.
- Have a buddy system; someone to call when you are overwhelmed or tempted to call or text your ex.
- Try meditating to handle your emotions; there are some good apps or classes available.
- Draw on your own strength; ask yourself or those close to you how you have successfully coped with past challenges. Use that strength now.
- Don’t feel guilty if your ex wants to be friends and you aren’t ready or able. You need to focus on what works best for you.
- Put more energy into other areas of your life, and less on this relationship.
- Avoid drinking or other forms of coping that will make your life harder in the long run.
- Focus on the important things in life: sleeping and eating well, exercising, spending time with supportive friends and family.
- If you can’t move forward and find yourself going back time and again to an unhealthy relationship, seek professional help to break this pattern and move on in your life.
How do you make sure you’re not tempted to fall back into an ex’s arms?