• The end of a relationship can be traumatic, no matter what the circumstances

  • Therapist Chris Taylor offers his healing tips 

  • If you have experiences a relationship breakdown, you can find a therapist here

The media seems to be almost overflowing with advice about what to do if you think your relationship is in trouble.

The bad stuff makes no attempt whatsoever to reconcile and mend; preferring to take the line 'get out while you can' without commitment or getting hurt in the process. The good stuff will highlight potential areas of difficulty: you are acting out of character, leading increasingly separate lives and quite possibly feeling increasingly frustrated etc. However, the sad fact it is that for the vast majority of us we will suffer at least one or possibly multiple relationship break-ups in the course of our lives. Yet in spite of this fact supportive reliable information on how to rebuild our lives after the relationship has ended seems to be in remarkably short supply. This maybe because as human beings we have a default preference for the negative. Evolution demands we take note and act on anything we perceived as different or troublesome to our well-being. There is a grim irony here; that in concentrating on our survival we are ignoring the possibility of both thriving and growing into something entirely better than what we have lost. Nothing will ever grow on barren ground so we need to make our own individual circumstances places where we can grow once more. Before we can even consider starting the process of rebuilding our lives we need to stop running away from pain and turn to face it. As a society we have a built-in predilection to avoid pain but if we avoid pain it will stay with us and even become part of us, often only thinly masked by the use of both alcohol and drugs. The important thing is the pain is still there and we cannot move until it moves.

So how can we move on to a more positive future?

First things first; we need to acknowledge this is not going to be an easy process, we will get hurt and we will probably slip back before before we start move forward again, the important thing is to acknowledge the reality of the situation not ignore it. By all means let yourself wallow in your misery for awhile, cry yourself to sleep, indulge in your favourite comfort foods and buy up a five-week supply of tissues. However, this period will pass but not before we are prepared to acknowledge our feelings and allow us the time to feel hurt.


Stick with the decision; if it was you who made the decision to break up with the other person, you may feel regret afterwards. Normally this is due to the fact that your life has changed dramatically and you have not had the time to adjust yet. If you do start to feel regret and worried that you made the wrong decision, remember how much time you spent thinking about it before you came to that decision. Remember the reasons you had for wanting to break up in the first place and write them down if necessary. If you do not think you can be objective about the negatives in your relationship ask a friend who was aware of how unhappy you were who can remind you that it was the right decision.


If you do decide to try and make things work, take your time over making that decision and focus on working on the aspects that caused the break-up in the first place otherwise they will just resurface again in the future. If it is possible to get back together with an ex and if that is something you both want. It is usually a bad idea to do this shortly after breaking up as your judgement is inevitably clouded. If you think you might want to get back with an ex take some time to weigh up the pros and cons of that decision and decide if the issues that lead to the break up are ones that can be worked on. You need to think long and carefully about getting back together, the wrong decision could reopen old wounds and take you right back to square one.


Now something you can do actively; remove reminders from the environment. Getting over someone is that much harder when there is evidence of the other person all around you, so seriously consider removing those triggers. This can be one of the hardest steps in the wake of a breakup and only start considering this when you feel strong enough but remember it is only going to get harder for you the longer you leave it and consequently harder to move on. Anything that in the long-term you may want to keep, give to a friend or family member to keep safe until you're ready to have them back.


Beware of hope; it can be a terrible thing, keeping you firmly stuck in the past. Start considering filling up all this new space in your life. Breaking up with someone leaves your life with a whole and lot of time and space. Try filling this new found freedom with worthwhile pursuits - things you always wanted to do but never had the time for before, now is the time and what is more it is a healthy way to move forward from your relationship. Reconnect with old friends, take up a new hobby, throw yourself into your work or even do something that scares you. Anything that makes you feel happy, fulfilled and fully alive again. Turning the break up into a positive change that will help you get your life back on track.


Seek support if you feel you need it and you probably will. It is perfectly normal to feel terrible after a break up. If you can try to remember you are not alone and do not be afraid to ask for help. Talking to close friends and family after a break up can be extraordinarily helpful. After all they will have been through the same thing and will be able to offer advice or a shoulder to cry on. If you do not feel like there is anyone in your life you can talk to, confidential counselling may be able to help you work through this difficult time in your life. Talking to someone is a brave step; opening yourself up to someone can be a daunting step to take however, the support you will receive could prove very useful particularly when it comes to checking your own thoughts and conclusions about your particular situation. We cannot always control what happens to us but we can control how we respond to it. 

Further reading

Life after a break up part 2

How therapy helped me after a bad break up

Breaking up with a sociopath

Relationship therapy saved our marriage