How to Cope After a Long-term Relationship Has Ended

Written by Pam MS, NCSP | Fact checked by Psychology Dictionary staff 

The end of any relationship is hard, but losing a long-term relationship is exceptionally stressful and painful. You miss your partner and the things you shared. You also grieve for your lost hopes and dreams. For instance, perhaps you expected to get married, have children and grow old together. There is no way to rush through the process of mourning the loss of a long-term relationship, but there are coping strategies that can help you get through the day.

Make the Separation as Complete as Possible

After a breakup, you may be tempted to keep your ex in your life as a friend. That's usually a bad idea, especially in the immediate aftermath of the relationship ending. Having your ex around on a regular basis only prolongs the pain. Work with him or her to settle practical issues, like joint property or bank accounts or child custody arrangements. Then walk away to continue your own life.

Take Care of Yourself

After the breakup, you may not feel much like keeping a neat living space, eating healthy foods, staying on top of personal hygiene or even getting out of bed. It's important, though that you make self care a priority during these difficult days. Use your imagination to make things as easy for yourself as possible. For instance, if cooking for one feels too intimidating, purchase healthy frozen dinners that you can microwave whenever you feel hungry. In addition to caring for your basic needs, try to nurture yourself as well. Go to a movie with friends or buy a book you've been longing to read.

Avoid Isolation

When you're involved in a long-term relationship, it's easy to lose touch with friends and family because your partner meets your needs for socialization. When the relationship ends, you may feel lonely. If your friends and family don't call you, reach out to them. You don't have to talk to them about the breakup if you don't feel like it. Some days, you may be more in the mood for an afternoon of window shopping or a hard game of tennis. If you feel like you don't have many friends, consider joining a group that interests you. You may be able to meet new people there.

Beware of Depression

It's normal to feel sad and empty when a long-term relationship ends. You may even lose interest in your favorite activities for a while. If these symptoms last for more than a few weeks, though, it's time to talk to your doctor or to a counselor. This is especially true if you're feeling worse instead of better or if you start having thoughts about physically hurting yourself or someone else. The days after a long-term breakup can be a difficult time, but the pain will fade and you will be able to get on with your life.

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