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Life after a breakup

Strategies for coping and healing

by Roger Whittler, LPC, retired Missouri Lawyers’ Assistance Program clinician 

Valentine’s Day is a special time to reflect on our special relationships. Sometimes, however, relationships do not work out. We can experience a breakup that profoundly disrupts our psychological state and puts us in a tailspin. Coping with a breakup is tough; each person chooses whether they seek constructive resources or destructive ones to cope. Activities such as doing Facebook surveillance on the former or actively seeking to punish that person can only lead to escalation and ongoing problems for both parties.   

Gender can also play a role. Several investigations have revealed there are some general differences in the way men and women cope with the breakup of a close relationship. Men tend to turn their emotions inward. If they communicate at all about the breakup, they keep it to surface material only. Women tend to show deeper emotions outwardly and communicate their feelings to close allies or support systems.   

Depending on the type of breakup, there is a body of research that indicates constructive repair. Constructive repair is evaluating what happened and learning how we can improve for future relationships. Even for the person who wanted the breakup, there is still learning to be done, because they chose to enter the relationship, likewise so did the other person.   

Moving forward after a breakup can be a time of emptiness, loneliness, and sadness – or it can be a time of reflection, communication, and growth. If you are feeling empty, lonely, and sad after a breakup consider these tips: 

  • Whether it was your idea, the other person’s, or a mutual split, consider what can be done now to make your life happier. Are there goals that you may have set aside or other positive relationships that you can give more attention to now? 
  • Take pride in your independence by clarifying your own boundaries, who you choose to spend time with, and for what reasons. 
  • Take joy in your own autonomy. 
  • Consider volunteering for an organization that you support, such as animal shelters, after-school programs, social service organizations, or charities. 
  • Be cautious about new relationships. Some researchers found that people navigate towards personalities that are familiar to them, which can lead to the same dynamic as the previous relationship. 

If you have experienced a breakup and want to discuss ways to cope, communicate, and experience growth, don’t hesitate to contact MOLAP at 800-688-7859.  Services for Missouri lawyers and their family members, as well as law students, are free and confidential. 

Feiring, Candice; Markus, Jessica & Simon, Valerie, (2018) Narratives About Specific Romantic Conflicts: Gender and Associations with Conflicts Beliefs and Strategies, Journal of Counseling and Development, Vol. 96. 

Updated 1/10/2022