Break-ups are difficult. Some report it feels like their hearts have been ripped out of their chest whereas others think it feels like a never-ending rollercoaster of intense emotions.
Regardless of how your clients describe the ending of their relationships, the reality is that it is likely an emotionally painful, confusing and trying time. Indeed, there are no shortage of strong emotions.
Your client will want to understand why the break-up occurred. He or she will want to know why they feel the way they do. They will want the feelings to end, and unfortunately, they will find maladaptive ways of dealing with them like drinking, overeating and sleeping all day.
As you are well aware, your clients will need to deal with their feelings and thoughts if they are to get back on track. Sure, for many, the pain will go away with time. But for most, the pain can be eliminated or reduced earlier if they actively confront their situation. Here are some tips for doing so while avoiding bad decisions.
Talk it Out with Someone
During difficult times we often forget that there are many people who are willing to help us overcome the challenges life often throws at us. The simple act of reminding your client of this fact will suffice. But, in some cases, you will have to actively explore who those people are and how your client can engage them and ask for help.
They will want to lean on someone who they trust and is known for giving “good advice” and is not afraid of “saying it like it is.” Compassion is important, but most people do not respond to empty platitudes. Honesty from someone who has also struggled with the end of a relationship, but come out better for it on the other side, is key.
Keep Away from the Ex-Partner
One of the biggest mistakes people make is relying on the former partner as a source of support and comfort. This only prolongs the pain and confusion. The last person your client should be leaning on is the person who is partly responsible for the current situation he or she find themselves. In my opinion, it is best to encourage your clients to avoid any unnecessary conversations with their ex until they are in control of their emotions.
This approach is more difficult when there are children in the picture and complete avoidance may not be possible. Just encourage them to avoid discussions about the relationship.
Do Not Forget Your Obligations
No matter how much pain your client is in, life does not stop. Bills still need to be paid, the grocery shopping needs to occur, and the house has got to be maintained.
Encourage your client to stay organized and resist the urge to put things off. Even the slightest procrastination can snowball into creditors calling for unpaid bills or reprimands at work for calling-in sick or getting behind on tasks.
Neglecting family, social, and occupational responsibilities will only lead to a worsening of your client’s mood. It will fuel feelings of failure and lead to additional stressors, which will only compound his problems.
Learn to Think Straight
When we take an emotional hit, sometimes we make things worse for ourselves. We are experts at taking the blame for things, even when we are not at fault…at least not fully at fault.
My point is that like most people, your clients engags in irrational thinking which leads to continued distress. The following are examples of unrealistic/irrational thoughts that your client may be engaging in. Teach him to be aware of these thoughts and how to push them out when they come around.
- I am no good or I am not good enough.
- It is all my fault.
- I will never find someone as good as him/her again.
- My life is over.
- I will never find someone to love again.
- Why does this stuff always happen to me?
- God must be punishing me for the bad things I have done.
When couples fight, there are a lot of strong emotions on both sides. Sometimes, this leads to some temporary passion. Tell your patients not to allow themselves to be seduced by their ex (and tell them not to try and seduce their ex either). Sex between people who are going through a break-up is a bad idea and will only serve to prolong their painful emotions.
A few minutes of feeling good is not worth the emotional fallout. Sex will not solve their problems. And it will further cloud their thinking. It is nearly impossible to take an objective view of a situation when sexual feelings are the driving force.
*This article is adapted from Dr. Moore’s column “Kevlar for the Mind” published in Military Times.