So you’ve broken up, and you think that it’s the worst mistake you’ve ever made, your life is over, and nothing will ever be the same again. Against the backdrop of the emotional pain you are feeling, you decide the only thing you can do now is find out how to get him or her back. Stop right there!
Just because you think breaking up was a bad thing, and you’re feeling huge amounts of emotional pain…. doesn’t necessarily mean you made a mistake, believe it or not. Because everyone who goes through a breakup goes through a period of pain and distress. So read our tips here about how you can avoid taking action hastily, and making the wrong decision.
And if you really do want to get your ex back, then you might be interested in the story of Michael, who came to see me in a state of panic, more or less thinking his life was over, and wanting to get back together with his ex. Here’s some of what we explored.
Five Helpful Steps To Get Back With An Ex
1 Get over the pain and distress (well, at least as much as you can)
2 Consider the truth of “charges” against you
3 Change how you operate
4 End the old and start anew
5 Find out how to reconnect in a mature way
Let’s look at these one by one….
1 Get over the pain and distress.
It’s likely there’s been some kind of showdown between you and your ex, something that resulted in one of you leaving, either physically, or sometimes just emotionally, so you’re still living in the same space, but both full of hostility, anger, and contempt.
Whatever the situation, whatever happened to cause the breakup, whether you’re living together or separately, the emotional distress can be devastating.
If you’re in therapy, either together with your ex, or on your own, at least you have an outlet in a safe space to describe how you feel and share it with someone.
Video – Break Ups Don’t Have To Leave You Broken
And if not, expressing that sort of emotion with friends can be difficult for them to cope with – one or two good conversations with a close friend is about all you can expect them to take, even if you feel an urge to repeat the material over and over again, as you sit your sense of injustice, and thinking you’re the wounded party (which is how most people who’ve broken up see it!)
What To Do?
One thing you could do is write about your feelings – either on paper or, if you want to email them to your therapist, online.
(I need hardly say, I’m sure, that it’s definitely inadvisable to write your feelings down in an email to your ex-partner. If you think that describing how much pain you are feeling will help you get her or him back, think again – it’s one of the worst things you can do. To your ex, it will just show how egocentric you are and how little concerned you are with their feelings – and that’s probably part of why you broke up in the first place. Just don’t do it, OK? It won’t win her back or win him back, that’s fore sure. You can read about steps to get back together here.)
We know that nothing can match the pain of breaking up with a loved one. That’s a given. It’s part of the human condition. You could be overwhelmed with feelings of loneliness, perhaps anger, and you may even feel that life isn’t worth living. Believe it or not, these are natural responses to the ending of a relationship. (Read about tips to survive a break up.)
If you’re the one who’s been asked to leave a shared home, you might believe you’re the one being punished. You might even be locked out of your own home, living in a small pokey flat or apartment, without all the things which make life comfortable. None of this is going to help your self-esteem, and of course living like this can reinforce any sensation of failure, unhappiness and loneliness.
Ironically it’s at times like these where you have to exert a lot more emotional effort to get over the pain – just when you’re least capable of exerting that emotional effort. Yet behaving like a victim of circumstance isn’t going to help you either, no matter how much you want the feelings of pain and loneliness to go away.
In times like this, putting your thoughts down on paper, or emailing them to a therapist, can be incredibly helpful. You’re going through the natural grieving process; loss is one of the things that really triggers the human nervous system to produce painful emotions.
The first stage of this process is something like disbelief; the second anger. In the case of a breakup, you might be thinking “How could they do this to me, the ****?”
But it’s the wrong question to ask – at least at this stage of the process.
At the moment, it’s more important to work through your feelings of pain and anger and whatever else you’re feeling. You need to get this emotion out of your system, to discharge the tension and lower your level of pain, so you can stop feeling like a victim start acting from a place of strength and clarity.
Of course you don’t like feeling the way you feel after a breakup; no-one does.
No-one wants to feel alone, miserable and isolated or to lose intimacy, love and affection…. that’s painful…. painful… painful. You want to bring your ex back. That’s understandable. But you have to be patient…
Video: Real Things People Do After A Break Up
One of the things which plays into how you react after breaking up is how you learned to respond to similar situations as a child.
When you’re alone after a breakup, it can feel like being abandoned as a child in your family of origin. And, as a child, nothing is more important than getting back together with your family – a child’s very survival depends on being part of a larger group. This survival need is why the emotions you feel in response to this kind of threat are so strong: they are designed to drive you to take action.
Trouble is, in the emotional storm of the end of a relationship, the action you take can be irrational and unhelpful.
But as an adult, the strength of those emotions can overwhelm you and lead you to make mistakes. As an adult you need to contain those feelings and discharge them in some way so that you can see the situation as it really is, and make a decision about what’s best for yourself and your ex-partner.
If you think back to the way you were treated in childhood, in your family, and how you responded to that, you might find there are parallels between what’s happening to you now and what happened during childhood.
To see and understand how you might be reacting to the current situation through the filters of your family of origin, where physical or emotional abandonment might have been frequent, and where love might been lacking, or where put-downs and slights might have been the order of the day, can be very helpful in understanding what is really different about the current situation.
For one thing you have plenty more options than you did as a child. You don’t want to regress into a state of childhood powerlessness – you want to stay in a place of emotional maturity and access your own strength.
For it’s in your strength as an adult that your hope for change actually lies. Bear in mind your ex-partner probably doesn’t want to cause you pain by leaving or telling you to leave – he or she probably just wants something better and doesn’t really know how to get it.
When you’re trying to talk to an ex-partner you in order to find out how to get him back (or get her back) you’re going to be more successful if you speak from a position of strength and self-respect. I think we can all understand that.
Another aspect of human relationships comes into play here as well: the more confident you are, the more your ex-partner is likely to respect you. The more you grovel, the more self-demeaning you are, the less likely you are to impress them in any positive way, and the less likely you are to get back with your ex.
Writing down your painful feelings or sharing them with a therapist will not only stop you continuously thinking about your ex, but it will enable you to let go of anger and find some self-respect. If you want to attend a workshop so much the better. You can find workshops that may be helpful to you here.
As you reclaim your power and strength, you will feel less vulnerable and weak, and you’ll develop more self-respect. So this doesn’t mean demonizing or victimizing your ex. It means getting back on your feet by connecting with your friends, making new friends, perhaps, as you pursue new interests.
Sure, you’re going to feel some emotional pain from time to time, but only by taking action and asserting yourself in the world will you begin to feel better, more of the time.
And as you do that, you’ll find the urge you have to go over and over the break-up and how the relationship was ended, while finding fault and justifying your anger, gets weaker and weaker.
With such a change in perception, you’re likely to find that your view of where you are living and your circumstances also changes – particularly if you’re holed up in a small apartment or flat. Once you can begin to enjoy your own space, you’ll know that you’re really really regaining emotional strength and power, and it might be time to begin to consider the facts of your breakup in a more objective way.