Being in a relationship is an ongoing experience of contact with another person. As humans, our systems are hardwired for attachment, and during a relationship we orient ourselves to that other human being with our bodies, thoughts, and patterns of behavior. And just as it took time to learn to love that person, it takes time to unlearn to love that person.
An important aspect of recovery from break-up is a process called “reorganization of self-concept,” which is a process of rebuilding and strengthening self-identity, independent of the relationship.
During the process of forming a relationship with someone, our identity grows and evolves. Intimacy is inherently a vulnerable process, and it involves opening up to another person and meeting another person’s history, needs, likes, dislikes, values, ideas, and dreams. When you meet someone in such an intimate and vulnerable way, you are changed by them. This does not mean that you “get lost” in the other person, although it can happen for some people, but rather our identity develops through interpersonal contact with another person.
A break up is a lot like a death. We mourn the connection we had with another person: we mourn the way that person made us feel, the rituals we created with them, the memories we shared and the visions for the future that we had with that person. It is not uncommon to go through stages of grieving after a breakup, and as you move forward in a thought process you may notice that your feelings change from disbelief to anger, to sadness, to a final and progressive state of completion and hope for the future. There isn’t just one way to grieve, and there isn’t just one way to deal with the end of a relationship.
Depending on the breakup situation, we may never know the exact reason why things didn’t work out, but analyzing your thoughts and feelings allows you to come to a feeling of closure that is satisfying enough. Even if a person initiated the end of the relationship, it is important that both parties consider what happened.
During the thinking process, it is important to ask the question “What was my part?” Without blaming yourself, explore how you contributed to aspects of relationship dynamics that you would consider “unhealthy” or “unwanted.” Ask yourself, “Do I see a relationship pattern in my life?” “
Reflecting on your relationship patterns and examining your role develops your capacity for “metacognition,” that is, the ability to be aware of and understand one’s own thought processes. If you notice any relationship patterns in your life, you can begin to think about how your early developmental attachment story might play out in your current relationships. If you notice a pattern or history of inappropriate or unsatisfactory abuse, neglect, or other patterns, you may seek treatment, such as therapy or other treatment processes, to provide support and protection.
Your ability to think through and take responsibility for what you feel is frustrating, hurtful, or unsatisfying means you can start to make new choices and adopt new behavior that brings more relationship satisfaction.