How to heal a broken heart when a long-term relationship ends

Healing a broken heart is tough because it hurts like no other pain. The sadness, loss, hurt and feeling bereft after a long term relationship has ended feels like the end of the world. Your heart aches physically, and your head can’t grasp what has happened. Thoughts get stuck on a merry-go-round, as they examine what you said, what they said, and who did what. The minutiae of the relationship are endlessly scrutinised. Visits down dark alleyways ask, ‘What did I do wrong?’ Your stomach churns, and you can’t sleep. Tears keep overflowing from your eyes, and nothing can make them stop. A broken heart is painful on every level. Yet, the process of healing your heart ultimately makes you stronger and wiser too.

Grieving the loss of your ex

In the not too distant future, you will be happy again. Knowing that your heartache will pass, helps you process the emotional turmoil that comes up with grief. As well as missing your loved one, grief often contains sadness, anger, loneliness, anxiety and sometimes guilt. So, as hard as it is to do this, acknowledge you are feeling awful without trying to ignore it or pretend that you are OK—when inside you are falling apart. Talk to friends and family—it helps to sort your thoughts out. They may also have insights about your relationship that you didn’t see. Allow yourself to grieve for the loss of your ex. Grieve the potentiality that wasn’t fulfilled. Grieve that your hopes for a future with your ex. are no longer a possibility. Let the tears flow because it begins the process of letting go.

Understand your initial attraction

When you first met your ex. you undoubtedly felt magnetically drawn to them. Pheromones, personality, preferences and future possibilities were all part of that pull. Yet another part of the attraction is one that we’re unaware of—the role of the subconscious. Without realising it, we choose someone with whom we can grow, heal old wounds, and experience life in a new way.

Presenting our best selves

Budding love is an enchanting time as we learn what our new love likes, dislikes, and how they react in different situations. We check the gathered information against our values and beliefs and begin to wonder if our dreams can entwine with theirs. And slowly, or sometimes very quickly, we fall in love.

During these first few months, both of you are on your best behaviour. You consciously pay attention to how you dress and behave, as well as being fully aware of what you say and do. As you begin to fall in love, you want them to fall in love with you too, so you make a considerable effort to nurture this new love consciously. Yet, most of life is not run consciously—it’s run subconsciously. So, when you are falling in love, it’s with their best self, and they are falling for your best self too. Our best self doesn’t show annoying habits, or get frustrated with last-minute changes, or show our foibles in case the other person pulls away. Although this sounds manipulative, it’s not. Deep down, we want to be our best self. We hope that with this new love in our life, we will become the best version of who we are—yet no-one can be so perfect all of the time.

Lessons from the mirror

One of the most fabulous rewards of being in an intimate relationship is not the great sex—as beautiful as that is. Nor is it the cup of tea brought to you in the morning, or cuddles on the sofa at the end of the day. The greatest gift of being in a loving relationship is being seen as your whole self and accepted just as you are.

Being your whole self—as opposed to being your best self—happens when you feel comfortable enough to stop trying so hard. And at this point, the parts of you run by your subconscious programming come to the fore. Being loved for all that you are—the good and not-so-good—is love at its deepest level. Being brave enough to be vulnerable to let someone see and know the real you, is what creates a deep bond between you both. Long after the initial lust has passed, it is this bond that keeps a couple together. And it is the breaking of this precious bond that hurts the most when you go your different ways.

Healing a broken heart — how long does it take?

There isn’t a prescribed time before you feel OK again. It depends on how long you were together and how enmeshed you were as a couple. As a married couple with children, property and joint finances, the practicality of untangling everything takes longer than if you were together for less than a year. Long relationships take at a least one year of firsts to heal. This is the first holiday you spend apart; first birthdays without each other; the first celebration of Christmas alone, which is particularly poignant if you have children. After you have done everything alone for the first time, then you may then be ready to move on.

Be your own best guide. Everyone is different. Listen to your inner wisdom and give yourself time to reawaken your individual self as opposed to the part of yourself that was half of a couple. Resist the temptation to rush into a new relationship, or you may find you repeat the same patterns that led to this break-up.

Five Tips to help with healing a broken heart

The following tips will help you heal your broken heart.

  • For the first few weeks, the pain will be raw. Feel that pain and cry until there are no more tears inside. Then actively choose to begin the healing process.
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  • After the first few weeks have passed, begin with all of the practicalities—arrangements for the children, property, finances and sorting out joint belongings. If you were married, you have several options. The traditional route is for you both to appoint a solicitor. Or, you can use a mediation solicitor who acts for both of you (a more harmonious route). Or you can simply separate and use a financial mediator for an independent assessment of what is a fair division of money, property, pensions and investments. In this last case, after 2-years of separation, it’s just a formality of signing forms for the court for your divorce to be official. The laws surrounding divorce are changing, and so in the future, it may be even easier if you both agree to separate amicably.
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  • After a month or two have passed, reflect on your relationship, then write about what happened to you during the time you were together. Write about all that was good, of what you appreciated and loved. Then write about what wasn’t right and what was limiting in your relationship. It can be challenging to be objective, but try to see it through the widest lens as you will learn more about yourself in this way.
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  • What if you are angry with your ex? A great way to let go of this anger is to write a letter to your ex—but that you WON’T post. Write about how angry, upset and let down you feel. Re-read it. Edit it. Write some more. Keep this letter for a week or so, then when you feel you have said everything you need to say, it’s ready. Take your letter into your garden—or any place where it is safe to burn it. As you set fire to your letter, watch the flames curl around your words as they carry your anger away. Also see my article, Hurt, angry and not ready to forgive?
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  • After more months have passed in healing your broken heart, begin to see how strong you are and begin to imagine the life you would like going forward. There isn’t another person on the planet who is exactly like your ex—but there are thousands of people out there with whom you can have a great relationship. Although you are probably not ready yet, pick a random date that you intuitively know will be a good date for you to start dating again.
  • When you feel settled, strong and have learnt what you needed to learn from your last relationship, then it’s time for you to step back into life with gusto.

    Seeking professional help

    If pain continues to be debilitating making just functioning hard, and/or you don’t have the luxury of time to heal naturally, then consider getting help. Or if the anger won’t go away or you get stuck in grief, then I highly recommend working with a counsellor or relationship coach every week to help you navigate these waters.

    For more intensive healing, also consider the option of a retreat. I offer people the chance to come to the Jasmine House for 2–4 nights on a one-to-one broken-heart retreat. I use a combination of therapies, tools and techniques, including life coaching, EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and emotional healing. A short retreat from everyday life, can bring about a massive change. My guests leave here feeling better and lighter. They also have a greater understanding of why it went wrong, can see things more clearly, and have released much of their pain. And with less weight on their shoulders, my guests to begin the process of moving on. For more information see Broken Heart Retreats.

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