Ending a Romantic Relationship
When every effort has been made to re-establish a relationship and one or both partners decide that it is still not working for them, the choice may be made to end the relationship. Ending a romantic relationship can be complicated – therefore it is wise to get clients to try and end the relationship amicably.
An important aspect to consider when counseling an individual or a couple going through a break-up is the loss and grief associated with ending a relationship. It is normal for an individual to go through stages of grieving. However, if an individual is unable to work through the stages of grief and function “normally” in everyday life, depression or other psychological issues may arise and could require further help. Ensure that, as the counselor, own limitations are known and the ability to refer on is used when necessary.
Stages of grief when ending a romantic relationship
The following are the stages of grief (Geldard & Geldard, 2001):
Usually occurs when the person is not prepared for the loss. This stage is characterized by the person being “numb” and not being able to function.
The person finds it hard to believe what is happening. He or she may deny what is going on.
3. Emotional, psychological and physical symptoms
Feelings of “depression, despair, hopelessness and worthlessness” are often experienced at this stage. Physical symptoms may include “insomnia, inability to concentrate, loss of appetite and physical ill-health.
If the person was the one that ended the relationship, he or she may experience of guilt for reasons such as hurting the other person or other family members. If the person was on the receiving end of the break-up he or she may also experience guilt for reasons such as not doing what he or she could to stop the break-up from occurring.
Clients who feel rejected by ex-partners may become angry and want to get back into the relationship.
Often both partners in a separation may idealize each other. This is, they both forget about the negative issues and focus on the positives.
7. Acceptance, Readjustment & Personal Growth
This is where the client accepts the loss and begins to look towards the future. New experiences and personal growth come during this stage.
As the counselor, when dealing with clients going through a break-up, allow the client/s to express his or her emotions and to grieve for the loss of his or her relationship.
The following is a handout that could be used in the counseling process.
Seven Tips for Dealing with a Relationship Break-up
1. Accept your sadness and be kind to yourself
Do not put undue pressure on yourself. Take time off from work if necessary. During this mourning period, learn to accept that this person was put in your path for you both to learn and grow and remember the good things and value them. Buy books or attend workshops that support the idea of letting go and feeling good about yourself.
2. Formalize a farewell to end the relationship
When someone dies we have formal funerals but when a loved one leaves we have no such comforting ritual. If you can, let go of things that remind you of what is no more. Letting go of the material goods helps to let go of the memory. Don’t be tempted to keep souvenirs and pore over them – it will only make the memory want linger on.
3. Treat and indulge yourself
All the books and experts tell you that indulging yourself from time to time is good for you – but it is particularly good to do when you are feeling emotionally unstable or vulnerable. Food might be the first treat that comes to mind, but be moderate – indulging in food may make you feel worse later. Allow your body to tell you what to eat. Think of the type of exercise you would most love to do and start doing it. Buy some aromatic bath oil, light loads of candles and soak in a warm bath for as long as you need as often as you need or read a great uplifting book.
4. Ask yourself each day what you have to be grateful for
It is very healing to give thanks for all that is good and wonderful in our lives – a roof over your head, a job or friends and family that love you allows you to focus on what is possible and not on what is no longer.
5. Make a list of all the things that are great about you and tell yourself those things
Say to yourself: “What I like about me is…” Make a list of all the qualities a new partner will get when they come into your life and re-read and add to them whenever you think of something else.
6. Go on a personal development workshop that will boost your positive self-image
You’ll also meet new people who are also trying to improve their lives and they are more likely to have positive attitudes.
7. Surround yourself with people who give you hope rather than who drag you back into the past or drag you down
Avoid people who pat you on the back and say stuff like ‘oh how awful’ and seek out people who say things like ‘so, what’s next – what wonderful people are out there for you to meet’.
Source: Relationship Breakdown CE Course