Breaking up is hard to do, but turning mistakes into positive life lessons doesn’t have to be. Here, Sara Davison, the UK’s leading authority on break-up and divorce, explains how the end of a relationship can be the most empowering, life-affirming event to ever happen to you.
Relationships end for so many different reasons. Some fizzle out over a period of time as you slowly drift apart, whereas others come to an explosive conclusion. For some of us, it is forced upon us and not our choice – or wish – to end it. For others it is our decision, and it feels like the right thing to do to walk away.
We face a rollercoaster of emotions, including the inevitable heartbreak and hurt, as we come to terms with the loss of a partner. We also have to deal with practical challenges as we face the lifestyle changes that break-ups bring, such as not having a plus one, taking over their household chores, becoming a single parent or even just dating again.
So, what can you do to prevent yourself from making the same mistakes again and again? I recommend a course of action that I call the “Break-Up Debrief”. This is when you take a long, hard look at what really happened and be honest about your part in the breakdown, as well as your own failings. You do this on your own to help:
- Learn from your mistakes
- Identify the warning signs
- Give you the opportunity to change your behaviour for the future
- Protect you from falling into the same traps
- Give you closure
I see so many clients who jump from one relationship straight into another, without thinking about what they really want or what lessons they could learn from the last one. Rebounding without taking stock increases your chances of being hurt again.
“If you keep on doing what you have always done, you are going to get the same results” is an age-old saying with so much truth behind it. Your break-up debrief will help you limit the chances of getting heartbroken again, and is a vital relationship procedure.
You may discover you chose the wrong partner because your values in life were totally incompatible. You may find out that your behaviour was much more of an issue than you ever realised. You may discover that you missed the warning signs, even though they were there, loud and clear.
Even if it wasn’t your fault that the relationship ended, take a step back and use this exercise as a chance to see why you were not compatible, what the warning signs may have been and what you could have done differently. It’s important to be honest with yourself and even brutal at times, as it’s all too easy to blame our ex for all the problems. But remember: it does take two to tango.
How to do a Break-Up Debrief
Step 1: Take responsibility for your part in the breakdown of the relationship. This will enable you to let go and move forward more quickly. Stop blaming your ex for everything and write a list of the things you did that may have contributed.
Step 2: Spot the communication breakdown. The most common reason for a break-up is a communication breakdown. This is often a long running issue that hasn’t been confronted. It leads to frustration towards each other and eventually builds up to resentment if left unresolved. Take a look back and see if you can identify a time when your communication started to breakdown.
Step 3: Identify the impact of the communication breakdown. Notice how it affected your relationship moving forward and the ripple effect it had on you and your partner.
Step 4: Be clear on your role. What part did you play in the breakdown? Did your behaviour aggravate the situation? Maybe you ignored warning signs? Maybe you forgave bad behaviour too many times which enabled it to continue?
Step 5: Be clear on what didn’t work for you in the relationship. It’s very easy to reminisce about all the good times and look back with rose tinted glasses. But it’s important to be clear on what you didn’t like about your relationship and what you will not tolerate from future partners. Write a list of five ‘must not haves’ to prevent you from unconsciously wandering into a new relationship which has the same issues.
Step 5: What do you learn about yourself that can help you in your next relationship? What could you do better or differently with a new partner?
Taking responsibility for your break-up will allow you to let go and move forward. If you blame your ex you are giving your power away to them and they are still able to control your emotions like a puppet on a string, even though they are not there anymore. It is empowering to learn the lessons from your break-up and identify where you went wrong.
Try it out and see what you can discover that will help you increase your chances of a finding a long-lasting and successful relationship next time round.
Sara Davison is the author of best-selling book, Uncoupling, and recently launched the UK’s first ever Break-Up Recovery Retreats. This exclusive and intimate retreat is designed to help you cope better with the break-up of a relationship. Whether you’re newly single, or feel you are still not over your ex-partner perhaps years after break-up, Sara Davison has created an immersive two-day workshop to give you the tools, techniques and strategies you need to get your life back on track and to start feeling happy again.
To take part in the Break Up Recovery Retreat, you must be available for the weekend of 20- 21 January 2018 (both dates). The Retreat location is Horsham, West Sussex. To reserve your place on the Break Up Recovery Retreat, please visit her website now.