It is a fact of life that nothing lasts forever, and this applies to marriages and long term relationships, almost as much as it does to material things.
Are you suffering the shock, pain and heartbreak of your partner walking away from your relationship?
Handling Feelings of Rejection
If you are not the one who has called it quits, you will most likely be feeling the pain of rejection, and your mind will invent all kinds of torture for you. It doesn’t matter if the relationship was on its last legs or you saw it coming, or if it was a relatively brief or a long-term relationship – nobody enjoys being rejected.
And you are certainly not alone, with 46,604 divorces granted in Australia in 2016 [i] alone.
There are many books, articles and novels written on the subject; some of these may help you. The well-known founder of Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), Albert Ellis, developed his program of healing largely from his own experiences of rejection. With each rejection, Ellis was overwhelmed with low esteem and self-doubt, which developed further into feelings of blame, anger and low grade depression.
Healing After Separation: Rebuilding when your Relationship Ends
One book which you may find particularly helpful is Rebuilding When your Relationship Ends[ii], by Bruce Fisher and Robert Alberti, which I will discuss in the rest of this article.
It is common if you are the ‘Rejected’ partner, to feel like a ‘victim’. However it is important to remember that you are not the target.
Like catching a cold, or winning a lottery, relationship breakups just happen. Partners for whatever reason, just grow apart.
It is usually not helpful to look at the other partner, or yourself, as a target for blame. Blaming can not only scar you emotionally and mentally [iii], it can also adversely impact your children, relatives and even friends.
A good start to overcoming rejection, and the feelings of hurt, victimisation, and pain, it can trigger, is to practise mindfulness.
During the painful doubting period of separation, there is much benefit to taking the time to enter a period of mindful introspection, without blame or accusation. This self-reflection can be uld be an opportune time to speak to a psychologist or couples counsellor; not only could you learn mindfulness techniques to enhance your self-examination, but they can also help you to deepen your understanding of yourself, making you less vulnerable to repeating the same mistakes.
As you ask yourself some of the tough questions, it can help you to see yourself in a more objective way and bring new perspective on the relationship. Some of these questions could include: What role did I play in the breakdown of the relationship? What was my stance toward things? Did I truly share the values, beliefs or interests of my partner? Is it possible that I filtered what they said via my own baggage from the past?
Taking stock of your strengths and weaknesses in this way allows an opportunity for you to alter the way you relate to other people.
Working with a psychologist and/or practising mindful introspection will help bring some Emotional Distancing (or Defusion), helping you to realise that the separation is not solely your fault. There are many, many variables that enter into a decision to join together and many more involved in the parting of ways. An important factor is the ‘previous baggage’ which both partners bring into any partnership from the get-go.
Choosing whole heartedly and early on to do therapy will enable you to realise that because a relationship ends does not necessarily mean that you come to an end.
With the help of a therapist you will come to see that “breakup” does not equate to “I am inadequate”, “I failed my partner and children”, “I am inferior”, or “I will never be loved again or find another suitable partner”.
But I’m Still in Love!
According to Fisher and Alberti, it is common to still be in love with you partner after they have called it quits, and the divorce papers are filed.
Their solution is to accept the fact you now have the de facto role of Dumpee, and start telling those whom you can trust and who love you, that you are in the process of permanent separation from your former love partner. Don’t delay things via denial.
They also again recommend finding a couples or marriage therapist at this key time.
Moving On After Separation
While it is important for your mental, emotional and physical health to “let go” and “move on” after separation, like grief following a death, this is a very individual process and is not to be rushed. Research shows that healing is enabled or progressed with the engagement of a good therapist and as you reconnect to others via (gradually developing) new relationships and activities[iv].
New relationships (via friendships, clubs, church groups, volunteering) can help most if they are “growth-relationships,” say Fisher and Alberti. These are relationships that help you discover who you are, without you unnecessarily burdening the other. Finding and working with a therapist can be a Growth Relationship.
It is best to avoid finding another partner or romance on the rebound, or in an effort to prove your worth.
Growth relationships allow you the space to honestly and unashamedly share your feelings and get honest feedback; and this should eventually lead to a faster recovery:
- less anger talk (of getting even);
- less hurt (of what you think your partner did to you);
- and more ‘distance’ (objectivity) regarding the facts of the break up.
Once these start to happen you have started on the road to recovery and getting over your ex.
Getting such healing underway will have the important side benefit of making your divorce or mediation proceedings less of a drama.
If you commit to doing the internal work, when you try to meet your ex-partner to arrange child support or divide assets, you will be more settled, more objective, and less prone to over-reaction. You will also be more open to seeing a positive future, “a light at the end of the tunnel”.
Author: Dr Terry Olesen, BA (Hons), M Psych, PhD Psych, MAPS.
For over 25 years, Brisbane Psychologist Dr Terry Olesen has been helping people via psychology-based counselling. He finds it particularly rewarding to work with people with a ‘life situation knot’: feeling stymied, distraught, sad or angry, while facing external challenges such as job loss, health issues or getting over an ex. The topic of his doctoral research was work-life adjustment and mental health, which, in addition to his years of clinical practice, gives him the expertise to help people with a range of career and relationship-related difficulties.
To make an appointment with psychologist Dr Terry Olesen, try Online Booking – Loganholme, or call M1 Psychology (Loganholme) on (07) 3067 9129.
- [i] Australian Bureau of Statistics, Retrieved 3/12/2017. http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/3310.0
- [ii] Bruce Fisher & Robert Alberti, Rebuilding When Your Relationship Ends: , California: Atascadero Books
- [iii] The Mayo Clinic, Retrieved 4/12/2017. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/forgiveness/art-20047692
- [iv] Andrew Reeves, An Introduction to Counselling and Psychotherapy: From Theory to Practice, London: SAGE Books, 2012