Counselling West Bridgford


How to recover from a bad relationship

I do quite a bit of work with clients who come to me wanting to recover from a bad relationship.  I thought I’d share some of the approach we take to heal and be ready for meeting someone new.

I really wish someone had helped me with this when I was in my mid-20’s – lots of heartbreak could have been avoided!

What do we mean by a “bad relationship”?

I guess it might be a helpful start by describing what I mean by bad relationship.  This could be where you’re stayed with someone who treated you badly, you may have been the one that didn’t behave well, or both. 

You may feel as if you lost yourself.  What I mean by that is when people find they don’t say how they feel or what they want in a relationship.  Or they abandon hobbies or friends that they enjoyed when they were single.  It can be easy to try to mould yourself into someone that you think would seem more appealing to your partner, but that isn’t true to who you are.

Now I’m not saying we shouldn’t compromise in relationships, that’s different and part of the give and take of relationships.  What I’m talking about here is abandoning your own values for someone else.

It’s ok to feel bad

Any break-up can be difficult.  But if it wasn’t your choice, or the relationship was bad, then it can feel a whole lot worse.  You might feel sad, angry, guilty or a whole host of other unpleasant emotions.

It’s possible that you’re surrounded by friends and family who don’t seem to understand how upset you feel, perhaps expecting you to move on without a moment’s hesitation or regret.

But after a breakup there’s a grieving process and you need time to process and heal before moving on.  Not only is there the loss, but you’re left either with rejection, or a sense of being badly treated too.

Time to heal, to nourish

It could be that you’re either tempted to jump into something else as soon as possible, or abandon the idea of ever having a relationship again.

I would encourage you, in either case, to take some time rather than making any quick decisions either way.  Reconnect with old friends, try some new hobbies, have a good cry / rant / punch a pillow (or punch bag!).  Feel the feelings, rubbish though they are.  I promise it’s good for you.

Get out in nature, do some volunteering, campaign for something you’re passionate about, or thrown yourself into that project you’ve been meaning to get to.

Now I know all of that can be tough to do, but hopefully your Inner Cheer Leader can help you start to take some first steps.

Good friends and family can help you too – it really is true that talking to a good listener helps to heal so much better than going ‘round it all in your head on your own.  If you don’t want to or can’t do that with friends or family, then therapy / counselling can be a good option too – I often help clients heal their broken heart.

Time to reflect

Difficult as it may be, it’s important to take some time to look back and work out what could have been different.  Whilst you can’t change history, and you can’t change your ex, you can have a different future.

What could you do differently?  Is it about setting and holding boundaries, improving your listening skills, or learning how say how you feel or have difficult conversations (rather than avoiding them)?  Or understanding when a relationship isn’t healthy and it’s time to leave?  Or something else?

Understand your “red, yellow, and green” cards

You’ll often hear the phrase “red flags”.  My red, yellow, and green card system is an extension of that. As well as understanding the behaviours or values of a potential partner that are a definite and immediate no (red), and the great stuff that attracts you to them (green), there’s the trickier stuff that sits in the middle – the yellow card. 

The yellow card items are those things that make you raise an eyebrow, but usually you would just dismiss and give the other person the benefit of the doubt.  Those yellow card items are important to note, but also important to discuss with your partner.  You can negotiate around whatever it is that bothers you (or them) and find a way forward.  However, if they refuse to listen or say it’s your problem, then you’ll know to ditch them before things get too serious.

And you might like to apply the system to yourself!  What red, yellow, and red cards might a partner notice about you?!

If you understand what your red, yellow and green card items are, you can go into your next relationship well prepared to move into it with your eyes open, and do things differently this time.

Dip your toe

You’ll know when you’re more or less out the other side.  You’ll find you’re out with friends and you’re more engaged with what’s going on, and you’ll feel much more like your old self. 

Get your single friends together on a night out and try some flirting, smiling, speaking to people you don’t know.  I remember a few times going out with friends when we were getting back on the dating scene and we’d set ourselves a goal of speaking to at least 1 person that we didn’t know (we’re heterosexual so someone of the opposite sex). OK it definitely involved a little Dutch Courage, but we were all supporting each other, and we had lots of fun in the process!

As you get your mojo back, why not try a dating event?

Internet dating

The world of online dating can be brutal, so you’ll need to feel in a good place before you can enter the battlefield once more.  Equally, you’ll only be able to present your best self when you’re feeling on form.

Be honest about what you are looking for and your expectations.  Don’t try to be the person you think they want – be you! 

Internet dating can be really tough on you, so incorporate some self-care. 

And try, if you can, to hold in mind that in reality there are only going to be a handful of people that you click with and can develop a meaningful relationship with.  It’s true with friends so even more so with an intimate partner.  So when someone who seems perfectly nice ghosts you, or no one seems to be “normal” (whatever that means!), remember you are looking for the needle in the haystack. 

Also, don’t delay meeting in real life.  Make sure you stay safe (e.g. day time meeting in somewhere public that you know well, make sure you’ve arranged a safety call with a friend and don’t get drunk), and it only needs to be for an hour. That way you’ve not wasted your time, and I always think having a conversation with someone is beneficial even if it doesn’t go past that initial date.

A positive future

You may not feel it right now, but remember things will get better and a new, better relationship is possible.  Heal first, remember what’s important to you, then go out have some fun!

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