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Coping With Break-ups

coping with break upsWhen you are young, being in a relationship for the first time can be an exciting and thrilling experience. It can bring much happiness, joy and fun into your life. Unfortunately, they can sometimes come to an end and at some point most of us have to deal with a break-up. Most of the time, no-one is to blame - it's just that the relationship is not working out. This doesn't mean that it is easy. Break-ups can be really difficult to deal with. It doesn't matter who you are or how old you are, it is never easy to deal with the feelings and thoughts following a break-up with someone you care about.

Many people will have different reactions to breaking up, but some common feelings are:

  • sadness
  • anger
  • relief
  • denial
  • guilt
  • fear
  • shock
  • loneliness

Sometimes, the hardest bit can be to accept that it is over. However, some people can experience a feeling of 'relief' if the relationship has been a challenging one. Regardless, remember your negative feelings won't last forever and in time you will reach a place of acceptance and happiness.

What causes break-ups?

There are lots of reasons why relationships break-up. Here are a few of these
reasons -

  • Sometimes it's because you discover that you like or want different things.
  • It might be because the relationship feels like it is moving too fast/slow.
  • You and your partner might have different expectations of what it should be like to be in a relationship.
  • When you are young, you are still discovering who you are and who you want to be. You might not know what you want in a relationship until you've experienced what you don't want.

Whatever the reason for a break-up relationships are something we are constantly able to learn from.

Deciding to break-up

Recognising when a relationship is not going where you or your partner would like or is at an unhealthy point can be a painful process. Being prepared to do this is an important part of respecting your needs and the needs of your partner if things are not working out.

How do you know if a relationship is unhealthy?

A good relationship is based on respectful and effective communication. This involves listening to each other and respecting each other's perspectives and right to an opinion. Good relationships are based on:

  • trust - this has to be earned, and may take some time
  • honesty - this is very important, but it's also important not to demand to know everything about each other
  • equality - this can be different from one relationship to the next. Mostly it's important that both parties in the relationship feel things are fair and equitable between them
  • personal boundaries - it's okay to give each other space. Not doing everything together is a healthy thing when in a relationship
  • respect - there should be no pressure or manipulation when it comes to sex. If involved in a sexual relationship it is important to feel comfortable talking about sex with each other so you know what is acceptable to each of you

Breaking-up well

What do you do when you think your relationship needs to end? Being the one to decide to break-up can be really difficult - especially if you are worried about hurting the other person. Even if you were the one who decided to end the relationship, it is still normal to feel sad. It's also common to have mixed feelings. Sometimes, it can be a relief. Your feelings may change from day to day and over time.

Regardless of how you feel, there are ways of communicating the need to end a relationship that are more helpful than others. For example, using Facebook, Twitter or a text message to break-up with someone can cause more hurt and confusion than talking about it face-to-face or even over the phone. Sometimes, we can say things in a text message or on social media sites that we will later regret, and our words can be misunderstood because the other person cannot see our facial expression, hear our tone of voice or read our body language.

Be considerate. Try to treat the other person like you would want to be treated. For example, make sure that you don't tell a third party who is not trustworthy or who is friends with both you beforehand. The last thing you want is for the other person to hear a rumour about your intentions to break up with them. This can be very hurtful.

Choosing a time and a place that will allow both of you the freedom and safety to talk about your feelings is a good idea. It is then important to be honest and clear about the fact that you have decided to end the relationship and why. Remember, it may be a very upsetting time for both of you and when people are upset, they often say things they don't mean or never intended to say. Try not to react defensively if the other person responds angrily or is tearful. It is important to stay true to yourself and your reasons for wanting to break up. It can be tempting to allow feelings of guilt or sympathy to keep you in a relationship and this is not healthy for you or the other person in the long run.

When someone decides to break-up with you

At some point in time, most of us have to deal with the feelings of pain, sadness and possibly rejection that can follow when someone else decides to end the relationship. It can feel like it's the end of the world when a relationship ends with someone you care about. These feelings won't last forever. You will move forward and the feelings will get easier and eventually pass. Some days will be easier than others - but it's important to try and take it one day at a time.

It's both normal and okay to be angry and feel hurt. Make sure that you are careful to express these feelings in a safe way. Getting uncontrollably angry, spiteful or constantly calling, texting or posting about your ex-partner is only going to make you feel worse and it could get you into trouble (stalking behaviour is illegal as well as unfair).

Also, remember that breaking-up does not mean that you are a failure. It can take time and practice to find a relationship that works for you, as well as understand how you can be happy and comfortable in a relationship. As we said earlier, the end of a relationship doesn't mean that there is something wrong with you.

Here are some ideas that might help you cope with a painful break-up:

  • Open up and talk about it with someone you trust - don't bottle it all up inside. Choose someone who is a good listener and who will respect your privacy. There are lots of different people who might be able to help - friends, parents, teachers, school counsellor or another adult that you trust.
  • Remind yourself that you are not alone and that you can overcome these painful feelings - this is an experience that most people have at some point in their lives.
  • Focus on your positives. Surround yourself with people who build you up and who can see your strengths. Remind yourself of your good qualities and what you like about yourself.
  • Stay busy doing the things you enjoy! For instance, go for a walk, get some exercise, spend time with your friends, read a book, watch your favourite movie, listen to music. Switch off and give yourself some time to heal.
  • Take care of yourself. Getting active, getting good sleep and eating healthy food will help you feel a lot better.
  • Try to learn from the experience - it's okay to be alone. Ask yourself: Do I need a relationship to make me happy? The end of a relationship can provide the chance to learn more about yourself - what you like to do and what you want out of life.
  • If you notice yourself having a very distressed reaction or beginning to feel unsafe after a break-up it's important to tell someone you trust or seek professional help. This could involve phoning a helpline or making an appointment with a counsellor.

Getting help

As mentioned above, if you find yourself struggling with overwhelming feelings, or you are finding it hard to accept the end of a relationship and move on, it is important to find someone that you can talk to. This might be a family member, a friend, a youth worker or a counsellor. Make sure you think carefully about who can talk to. Choose someone that you trust and feel comfortable with.

Talking with a Kids Helpline counsellor is one way that you can get some immediate help, guidance and practical support. There are counsellors available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 1800 55 1800. Or you can try using our web or email counselling services.

Reviewed: April 2014