Editor’s Note: Strong relationships are at the core of a happy life, but sometimes, dealing with the people in our lives is tricky. That’s why Thrive Global partnered with The Gottman Institute on this advice column, Asking for a Friend. Every week, Gottman’s relationship experts will answer your most pressing questions about navigating relationships—with romantic partners, family members, coworkers, friends, and more. Have a question? Send it to [email protected]!
Q: I recently got out of a 10-year relationship with my boyfriend and am trying to adjust to getting back to the single life, but I’ve found it difficult to feel like myself again. Where do I go from here and how can I start anew and reclaim myself after a difficult breakup? — G.L.
A: Of course it’s difficult to feel like yourself again! You’ve had a major life shift. Ending a long term relationship is a death of sorts and involves moving through the grieving process. What you’re feeling is very common in the aftermath of a separation.
Difficult breakups rattle us at the core and disconnect us into isolation. Here, the person who was supposed to be your life partner is no longer. And there you stand aware of this void and the mourning process begins.
Now, to find “you.”
Take the best possible care of you. Now is a great time to reflect on what you’ve learned from this past relationship. Is something more important to you in a partner than you originally thought, like a personality trait or lifestyle choice?
Taking this time to “get on the balcony” and understand what happened between you and your ex can really help you grow and be a preventative measure moving forward. All that you have gained over the last ten years of experience from your relationship needs to be synthesized into the new you. And this newly integrated wisdom will help you build the foundation of who you are today, which will come out in small and big ways as you seek hopeful new experiences.
Here are some suggestions to reclaim yourself.
Turn towards yourself
Give yourself time to feel and be patient that you will feel better. Be gentle and loving and embrace radical self care.
Talking to close, trusted friends can be helpful in making sense of your “new normal.” This is also a great time to start counseling. An objective other can help you understand what you see on the balcony of reflection.
Learn something new
Pick up a new hobby or learn something new, like a language, painting, drawing, skiing, or yoga. This can engage the brain and/or body in different ways.
Get the body to release those positive endorphins. For example, hiking in the beauty of nature is very therapeutic.
Try to laugh
Oh boy, is this the best medicine. Go to a comedy show or see a funny movie. Surround yourself with people who make you laugh.
Write to make sense of your inner world. Writing can be very useful in exploring the many emotions that you may be be feeling. Emotions are like waves, they can rise in intensity but they also fall again, understanding this process can support your emotional regulation.
Find the magic in everyday life
There is wonder all around us. It’s up to us to see it. Connect with your five senses. If you are blessed to have children or pets around you, take a moment and play. They are wonderful guides for us grown-ups, helping us focus on the here-and-now rather the there-and-then.
You are not who you were 10 years ago, but if you allow the grieving process to teach you, you will come out at the other end a stronger and wiser you. Going through this process will help you find out who you are now and prepare you to love again.
More from Asking for a Friend here.