Everyone knows that breaking up is hard to do, but the hardest part might be what happens after. How do you pick up the pieces after a relationship ends and move on?
“When it was happening, I just remember trying to not have any emotion at all. Just like crying to my roommates, ‘Why am I always so trusting?’” said Rachel Marchuk.
Marchuk, 23, ended her relationship with her first college boyfriend after discovering he had been cheating on her. She said she struggled a lot with blaming herself and trying to figure out what she had done wrong.
For young people, break-ups can have a significant impact on mental health and self-esteem. A study in the Journal of Family Psychology found that unmarried 18 to 35-year-olds experienced increases in psychological distress and declines in life satisfaction following a break-up. The decline in life satisfaction was also greater given certain aspects of the previous relationship such as living together or having plans for marriage.
When a University of Memphis enrolled student is going through an emotional or psychological problem, there are resources available to help. For information about how to get counseling services, call 901-468-3633. For after hours emergencies, call 901-678-HELP.
Age and experience can contribute to an easier process of coping with a break-up.
“I was much more comfortable and in-tune with who I was. I knew who I was and what I wanted and what my needs were,” said Christopher Thetford, 57.
As he got older, Thetford said he was able to find healthier ways of working through his emotions after the end of a relationship. He said it was important for him to be honest with himself and recognize his feelings. He also found comfort by relying on his friends after an especially emotional break-up.
“A friend and I got together, and we went to my house. We watched really mindless, stupid things on television and drank these huge chocolate malts. It was like soothing my mind in other ways,” Thetford said.
Although advice and support from others can help, sometimes it takes making mistakes to learn the best way to get through the pain.
Jennifer Bear experienced a messy break-up her first year of college that she says taught her some lessons about taking responsibility and handling her emotions without lashing out. After her boyfriend left her for another woman, she broke up their relationship by seducing the other woman in an attempt to hurt him. Once she realized she still did not feel better and had hurt the woman by leading her on, she did some serious soul-searching.
“I was able to step back and get some perspective. It allows me to have some empathy for him. And the more empathy I have, the more able I am to see his side of it and forgive him,” Bear said.
However, she makes it clear that this kind of introspection is not for the ex’s benefit and that healing comes from focusing on herself.
“The forgiveness isn’t for him. The forgiveness is for me, so I can move on,” she said.