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Shaking the Foundations: Can I Survive Relationship Breakdown? #1

May 4th, 2015 · No Comments · relationship breakdown

Relationship breakdown is greatly feared and brings many people into therapy.  Are there ways to survive, and to “come through” that preserve meaning and value in life?

relationship breakdown

In this post and my next one, I’ll be looking at concrete steps that a person can take to survive and ultimately move beyond relationship breakdown.

1. Accept & Acknowledge Relationship’s Ending

This sounds incredibly simple. Yet it may prove very difficult. It can be a struggle to come to terms with our denial of an ending. Often we may intellectually accept that a relationship with a lover a partner or a very close friend has come to an end, but the emotional and feeling level parts of the self may not be ready to accept this loss, as depth psychotherapists well know.

People can go for years in a state of denial. Yet, for life to flow, it’s essential to find the courage to fully acknowledge to ourselves that the relationship is over.

It may be essential to take formal explicit steps to live out the reality that the relationship is over. This may be where a ritual or other kind of symbolic act fits in.  It’s very important to allow the deepest self to experience the visceral, felt, emotional reality of relationship’s end.

Connected with this is the need to let things go.   It can be very important not to hang on to or to ruminate over the trappings or memories of the relationship.   In the aftermath of a relationship, if a lot of our energy is going into looking through old photo albums and remembering happier times in the relationship,  or alternately rehearsing situations from the relationship and thinking about what we would have / should have / could have done,   we are running the risk of living out  the archetypal reality embodied in the biblical story of Lot’s wife, who kept looking back,  and turned into a pillar of salt (read: bitterness).

2. Be Particularly Compassionate Towards Yourself

relationship breakdown

Right at the time of relationship breakdown, it will often be very important to be very kind to yourself.

Please be aware that you are going through something very hard, and very stressful in its demands on your physical self. If you can, please do kind things to your long-suffering body and your tender, inmost self.

Do not drive yourself like a harsh taskmaster. Do not let your inner criticism rip you up. Take time for yourself. Give yourself gifts, like a warm relaxing bath, listening to your favorite music, or walking in nature.

Treat yourself like you would your best friend, because, as depth therapy affirms, you are your best friend.

3. Deepen Your Connection with Your Real Identity

As James Hollis points out, this might be an important time, in a very compassionate way, to connect with who you really are.  Certainly  soulful people will be exploring and deepening their understanding of themselves for the their whole lives, as a work in progress.  Yet, it may be very important and very healing to connect with as much of our identity as we can at a time like this.

Here are some key questions that may help with getting in touch with your core identity:

It may help to speak to someone else about this; this is the kind of work that’s often aided by depth psychotherapy.

4. Seek Out Hope & Affirmation

relationship breakdown

At the time of relationship breakdown, who you choose to interact with makes a big difference.  It’s essential to connect with people who can offer you real support.  The people who can offer you genuine connection to life and hope.  It’s advantageous to put your effort into finding people who can affirm you and your life, rather than people who will simply offer pity, or tell you how awful it is.  Often, these are people who’ve been through some real and difficult things in their own lives.

It may also be important to seek out the right kind of affirming therapy or counselling.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)