Women often struggle to understand why men deal with break-ups in a different way to us. One female just last week said to me ‘women just care more don’t they?’ That’s not true of course. Men and women simply react differently. Women tend to lean into their emotions and want to talk things out, whereas men generally (I’m not saying all) cope by distancing themselves emotionally and making it appear like they’re getting on with life as normal whilst concealing the pain or burying it. We’re genetically designed to think and behave differently when it comes to emotions.
I work with many men who are going through break-ups and so I understand that they care just as much and feel the same pain, anger, hurt and loss as women. There are a few ways in which I work with guys to help them get through it and deal with the emotions they are experiencing.
If you’re struggling with a break-up at the moment, here are some of my tips:
1) Accept what you’re feeling
It’s ok to feel sad, lonely and/or angry. It’s completely normal to feel any emotion that you are experiencing. There’s no way to dress it up; break-ups are crap, uncomfortable and painful so it’s better to accept that for a while at least, you’re going to be riding an emotional roller coaster. Don’t try to fight it, bury it or go out of your way to avoid feeling all of these things you’re experiencing. You’ll recover far better from a long-term perspective if you face them head on.
2) Focus on your physical health.
In it’s simplest form – eat well, sleep well and exercise (running and lifting weights are a great place to start when it comes to exercise). The more you let any of these things slide and allow your stress levels to consume you, the more your cortisol (stress hormone) levels will increase and your testosterone levels decrease. Not good! Going through a break-up will inevitably mean that any or all of these might slip, so be mindful of at least keeping them in check as you’ll then feel physically stronger to deal with the emotional turmoil. Plus you’ll also feel and look better, which in turn, will amp up your confidence.
3) Go easy on the alcohol
Sometimes a night out with a few beers and the guys when you’re feeling low can be a great boost but don’t rely on alcohol to numb your emotions. It will cause havoc with your sleep pattern and quality of sleep and lead you to do things you wouldn’t do in a logical state of mind. Plus the hangovers will encourage other unhealthy behaviours that aren’t congruent with taking your life forwards positively.
4) Don’t wallow
Whilst facing your emotions is important, don’t use this as an excuse to wallow or sink into a victim mentality. Do something small every day to create new habits and keep moving forwards. If you’re really struggling, write down all the ways in which you could view being out of the relationship as a positive. What freedom does it provide you? What have you learned? What are the things that you won’t miss that you don’t have to put up with now? What is the one thing that you could go and do right now that will make you feel even a tiny bit better? Go and do it (unless it involves contacting your ex – don’t do that!)
5) Spend time around friends who bring out the best in you
It’s important that you have one or two people around you who you feel comfortable talking to openly. This doesn’t mean that it’s necessary to talk endlessly for hours about the break-up and your ex, but just reaching out to a friend and simply expressing how you are feeling in itself can be very healing. Chose to hang out with people who are going to encourage you to be your best self and who you feel great around. The ones who are going to spur you to do things to push yourself, make you laugh and who you will have a good time with. Avoid spending time with people who probe you to talk badly of your ex and suggest you get straight back out there to spite her. The focus is on solely moving forwards in the most positive way possible for you now. Not on revenge or doing things that you’ll likely regret.
6) If you don’t have many friends, build up your network
When you come out of a relationship it can suddenly reveal how socially isolated you’ve become. Now is the time to start to widen your social circle so think of ways you can make this happen. Accept invitations out that you would normally decline, reach out to friends you haven’t spoken to in a while, join interest groups, take a class or course, engage in a new team sport, join a new gym. Anything that will involve you meeting new people. Aim to do something different every week. This is great for making connections and friends as well as finding new interests and creating fresh routines.
7) Avoid contact with your ex
Regardless of whether contact needs to be continued after your break-up, in the first 2 – 3 months at least, it’s integral that you don’t make contact with one another (unless children are involved). This is in person, by text, email, social media, pigeon carrier or via any form of communication! Even if you have been wronged and want to lash out, as hard as it will be, don’t. You both need this time to reflect, heal and see things from the real perspective no matter how cold and harsh that might feel right now. The moment contact is initiated it will cloud vision, unnecessarily conjure up painful emotions and will be like reliving the entire ordeal over and over again.
8) Work on your confidence
After going through a break-up, your confidence can plummet. A useful exercise is to write down all your strengths. What are you really competent at, what characteristics do you have that make you a great person, what do your friends like about you? Make the list as long as you can and include every single thing you can think of no matter how insignificant it may seem. The act of writing all of this down will help re-affirm all the strong, positive things about you and might help you rediscover passions that you could well have lost in the relationship. It might actually reveal some things you forgot and give you an unexpected boost.
Another way to instantly increase confidence is to do things that push you out of your comfort zone, which is where my next point comes into play.
9) Set time-based goals
If you’re going through a break-up and reading this not knowing how to start to make yourself feel even a tiny bit better, write down 3 things that you’d like to do – for you, but have never got round to doing. It can be anything from working towards a 10K run to going to a new class, finding a new job or setting up a business. Something that you need to work at over a period of time. Once you’ve decided on your 3, write down the first step in making them happen and commit. Set a plan, get it booked or start now. Ideally, these should be things that push you out of your comfort zone, will end in you feeling some form of achievement and get you out of your usual routine that you might associate with your past relationship. Remember to make them things that you can still realistically work into your current lifestyle.