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Unexpected Break-Up? How to Cope

Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD - Blogs
By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhDPsychologistApril 19, 2016
From the WebMD Archives

Breaking up hurts – but even more so when the break-up wasn’t your idea. While there’s no way to avoid the pain, you can choose how to respond to it. You can either act from the hurt “child” within (clinging, raging, plotting revenge, or swearing to remain alone for the rest of your life), or you can determine to find a way to help yourself get back up and move on with life.

Though the path forward is not always clear, you can create it by doing the following:

Respond to your emotions with caring: You may find that your initial response to the pain is hostility, either directed at you or your ex-partner. This reaction is an effort to protect yourself from the hurt (and prevent future hurt), but it’s misdirected. Attacking your ex-partner does you no good – not only will it do nothing to restore your relationship, but it will also keep you feeling angry. While you may think you’d prefer anger over pain, it’s not really a feeling you want as a constant companion. And attacking yourself for things you did or did not do will also perpetuate feeling upset without fixing anything.

So, instead of denying your pain or indulging your anger and resentment, redirect your energy to understanding the pain and allowing for it. And accept support from caring others. While feeling cared about won’t immediately make the pain disappear, it will act as a salve on your emotional wound.

When you respond to your painful emotions with empathy and compassion, you give that part of yourself the acknowledgment and comfort it needs to feel soothed.

Remind yourself that you are more than a rejected partner: Sometimes the pain of being rejected can be overwhelming. You may feel so consumed by it that you lose a sense of who you are as a whole person. If you find this happening to you, remind yourself that there is more to you. Think about your interests, hobbies, work, and other relationships with family and friends. Turn to supportive friends and family who can help you focus on your greater worth.

Choose to engage in the world: Just as you need to look at the broad view of who you are, you also need remember that you are part of a world that is larger than you. Re-engaging in that world can be extremely healing. So, even if you have to force yourself off your couch or out of your home, choose to engage in activities that bring you into contact with the outside world. You might talk with friends or strangers, go for a walk in nature, or join a Relay for Life team (raising money for cancer).  Re-discovering that you are part of a bigger community can reinvigorate you, despite the hurt or pain you still feel.

Through these efforts you can find that being rejected does not have to leave you feeling like a reject. Even as you struggle emotionally, you will be helping yourself appreciate that there is a lot to value in yourself and your life.


Entries for the Relationships blog are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for individual professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need help for an emotional or behavioral problem, please seek the assistance of a psychologist or other qualified mental health professional.

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About the Author
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

Dr. Becker-Phelps is a licensed psychologist in NJ and NY, and is on staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset. She is dedicated to helping people understand themselves and what they need to do to become emotionally and psychologically healthy. She accomplishes this through her work as a psychotherapist, speaker and writer. She is the author of Bouncing Back from Rejection and Insecure in Love.

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