Breakup/ Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Dealing with the breakup of a long-term relationship

Breakups suck. When Einstein said “love is a better teacher than duty”, he wasn’t kidding. Being hit by a bus, getting your heart ripped out – all suitably-dramatic descriptions for the feelings experienced when things go awry with a long-term partner. Of course, your body isn’t actually crumpled in a heap on the pavement and your heart remains firmly lodged to the left of your chest, but it can certainly feel as though your physical and emotional wellbeing is on the rocks.

Whether the dumper or the dumpee, we find ourselves under new, unspoken pressures in the immediate aftermath of a breakup, be it a panic to replicate what’s suddenly been lost or an expectation to take full advantage of the freedoms afforded by singlehood. Whatever the circumstances, it’s natural to feel a little lost at sea. Adjusting to such a dramatic shift is never as easy as flicking through a top-tips listicle or consulting the wisdom of a soppy Boar article, but it’s comforting knowing that those confused feelings of isolation, excitement or guilt are shared by others in the same boat.

As time passes, it becomes easier to laugh about the clichés and exaggerated emotions that come with a breakup

And that’s really the first, obvious step to dealing with the ending of any relationship – talking about it. Sure, it’s embarrassing to discuss why you weren’t good enough for someone, or talk about how you wasted your time with a partner who turned out to be a little bit of a weirdo, but – as with any form of emotional trauma – trying desperately to bottle up feelings deemed too embarrassing for public knowledge only worsens the sense of loneliness or confusion caused by the breakup in the first place. In all likelihood, friends and family have been there and done that, and even if they’re not particularly good advice-givers, it’s cathartic as hell to unload the emotional baggage onto those more-than-happy to share the weight.

As time passes, it becomes easier to laugh about the clichés and exaggerated emotions that come with a breakup, and having friends, especially, there to absorb the melodramatic rantings helps to quell the inevitable overreaction to what seems like the end of the world. And that’s important, because, in one respect, the breakup of a relationship is the end of a world – things won’t ever be as they were, so it’s helpful to make light of a bad situation as soon as possible (even if that means becoming a meme for a few weeks).

There’s no shame in admitting that you shared good times with someone

Of course, this won’t happen until the partner in question no longer forms the centre of your worldview. If the breakup is mutual, the two parties will likely have little trouble detaching themselves from one another – there might even be some subtle sighs of relief – but in the cases where the decision to end things is less-than-unanimous, it can be tricky to actively avoid or suppress feelings for a person who would otherwise be at the forefront of your thoughts. The old adage ‘block them on everything’ is sound advice for those looking to ditch a clingy partner or those needing to force distance from the dumper, but going cold turkey on each other isn’t a necessity for every situation.

You absolutely shouldn’t feel obliged to act as if a person who formed a massive part of your life never existed at all. They did, that’s why the relationship formed in the first place. This is particularly true of longer-term cases. If a breakup is amicable, respectful and both parties recognise the need to move on, then it really is possible to maintain a positive relationship between two people who spent years in each other’s company. It seems a shame to entirely sever a connection for the sake of appearances or the non-existent romance rulebook, and completely wiping a face from an Instagram isn’t kidding anybody. There’s no shame in admitting that you shared good times with someone; being comfortable talking about the past is a sign of maturity, after all. This doesn’t mean regularly texting as if nothing happened – it’s important to move on and build new relationships – but neither does it mean making a former partner public enemy number one, as Twitter and Hollywood would have us believe is a formality.

Dealing with such a disruptive event is never as simple as words may make it seem

But caution, naturally, is always advised. It’s difficult to properly move on if an ex remains, in some capacity, lingering in the background. The best and most effective way to cast aside old feelings and prioritise your own interests is to do just that. Get out and do things that interest you. Keeping the mind occupied with decidedly non-romantic pastimes provides an outlet for the emotional energy accrued from weeks of depressive stagnation. Improve yourself. Do something enjoyable. Find something new to enjoy. To quote Trainspotting: choose life. Get back in the gym, pool, library, studio, or wherever takes your mind off the past and onto the future, and pretty soon you’ll be back on the horse. Once the hurdles of the first few months are cleared, you’ll be left wondering what all the fuss was about – and excited to feel ‘that feeling’ again for someone new.

For all the immediate sadness that comes with the breakup of a long-term relationship, there’s a whole lot of character-building to be had from moving on. Dealing with such a disruptive event is never as simple as words may make it seem, but working through it and emerging a better person on the other side is an empowering experience. As one door closes, another opens, as they say. Just be sure to lock the old one behind you.

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