Sudden Break-Up? What to Do


Break-ups are usually painful, but when they come without warning – seemingly out of the blue – they can feel devastating. Understandably, your initial reaction might be to either implode (falling into the depths of despair) or explode (spewing your fury everywhere). But, as soon as you can get ahold of yourself, your best course of action is to find a way to move forward.

You can help yourself do this in three fundamental ways:

Care for Yourself:

Choose to have self-compassion: If you tend to be angry with and blame yourself, think about this reaction. You did not see the break-up coming and certainly did not consciously choose to have it happen. No one wants to feel as you do. Whatever your part was in bringing this on, you are now in pain. So, just as you would offer sympathy and compassion for others, practice having it for yourself.

Take care of yourself: You know the drill. Maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. They really do help. If you struggle with any of these, reach out to friends or seek professional advice. In addition, make sure to socialize (even if you don’t feel like it) and to do things that you would normally enjoy, keeping in mind that it might take time before you get pleasure from these activities.

Use self-affirmations: It’s all too easy to think negatively about yourself when you feel rejected. An often-effective way to support yourself is to think about your positive traits, abilities, and accomplishments. If you have trouble thinking of any, your friends can help to highlight them – but it would still be up to you to really listen and take in what they say.

Connect with Others:

Reach out for support: Friends and family can help by offering compassion and acting as a sounding board. They can also simply do things with you, such as going to the movies or out to eat. But for them to be a support, you may need to be the one to reach out to them; and you definitely need to accept the help they offer.

If you have a friend whose idea of helping you leaves you feeling worse (e.g. repeatedly saying, “This never would have happened if only you…”), politely ask them to stop what they are doing, or choose to confide in others instead.

Help others: One of the best things you can do to feel good is to help others. It focuses you on the struggles of others and helps you to appreciate your value.

Move On:

Do a relationship autopsy: After you catch your breath, look at what happened and think about whether there is anything you can do differently in the future to keep from making the same mistakes. For instance, maybe you ignored your partner’s occasional flares of temper at the beginning of your relationship, or didn’t listen to your partner’s pleas for you to give more attention to them. Very importantly, once you learn what you can from reviewing what happened, refocus on your present and future.

Avoid the rebound relationship: Give yourself time to grieve. Jumping into a new relationship just to fill the hole in your heart will likely lead to new problems.

Coping with trust issues: If this experience leaves you with trust issues, you may need to address them in your next relationship – letting the person know what happened and asking them to support you as you work to develop trust with them.

The unexpected break-up is like getting hit by a bolt of lightning – it can burn you to your core. So, be kind and gentle with yourself. By doing all you can to help yourself heal, you will nurture yourself back to a happy life.

by Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD