How can I stop breaking up during therapy?

After the breakup: how do I cope with my feelings?

“I am leaving you” - there are few words that are less tangible to us than these three. If they are uttered by our partner, regardless of whether cautiously, out of anger or in the form of a text message or a note that he has left unkind, then we plunge into a separation crisis. Then a long way begins for us to overcome this crisis. Only those who have already grieved during the existing partnership and have internally said goodbye to their partner will not get into emotional difficulties after the separation.

Phases of separation

All people go through different phases after the breakup shock. Even our partner, from whom the separation started, experiences these phases. But he has a time head start. Usually during the time of the partnership he has already started to transform love into friendship and to break away. For us who have been abandoned, the time for separation had not yet come, and so we are emotionally unprepared for the separation.

The phases that we go through after the end of a partnership are comparable to the phases that are also experienced when a person is lost through death. The different phases are characterized by disturbances in four areas: in thoughts, feelings, behavior and physical reactions. Four phases can be distinguished.

Phase I: Not wanting to believe: shock and denial

The first phase is marked by denial and ignoring the ultimate separation. Often there are feelings of shock and numbness. We behave like robots or believe that everything is like a bad dream, from which we only need to wake up after a while, and that everything will be fine again. In this phase we also beg for a second chance for the partnership.

Phase II: Breaking feelings

This phase is characterized by disorientation and mood swings. Feelings of desperation, anger, fear and self-doubt alternate. In addition, physical complaints such as sleep, memory, concentration and appetite disorders as well as inner restlessness occur.

Phase III: reorientation

The third phase is characterized by the fact that we take our lives more actively into hand again and see a future perspective. Brooding thoughts about the ended partnership, hatred and longing rarely occur.

Phase IV: New concept of life

We have regained an inner balance. We have developed a new concept of life and new self-confidence and are more aware of our wishes and preferences than during the partnership. We can choose freely for a life as a single / single parent or for a new partnership.

Even if the individual phases cannot always be clearly separated from each other, do not always run in a straight line in this order and there are always relapses into an earlier phase, the knowledge is nevertheless important for us: We are not so much insecure about ours Emotional and physical reactions (many believe that they are crazy or mentally ill, judge themselves for their reactions), and we see that there is a life "after" and there is hope that we will be better.

Depending on our personality, our age, our concept of life, the extent of the changes and the support from outside, we usually have to adjust to a period of two to four years until we have achieved a new concept of life and a new inner balance. One thing is certain, the better we process our separation, come to terms with the new situation and let the past rest, the better we are mentally and physically, the better we can communicate with our ex-partner and find solutions for the separation caused by the separation Finding upcoming problems, the better we can support our children in dealing with the separation and continue to fulfill our parenting role.

What can you do for yourself to find your inner balance again?

Accept your feelings for the moment

Please don't ask yourself to “work” as if nothing had happened. It is perfectly normal for you to be out of whack right now. You must be feeling angry thinking, “My partner mustn't leave me. I gave him so much. That's unfair. He promised me love for the rest of my life. He is not allowed to let the children down or take them with him. He has to give me a second chance ”. You must doubt yourself if you think, “My partner no longer loves me. I am not adorable. I can't hold a partner ”. You must be sad, lonely and desperate at the thought, “I will never be happy again. I cannot live without my partner. It's all over ”. You must feel guilty about the thought: "I should have done more for my partner, behaved more lovingly, understanding, etc." Your body has to react with eating disorders, sleep disorders, headaches, restlessness, concentration and memory problems, etc., because you are signaling to it that you are in “serious danger” and that your entire concept of life is threatened.

Your feelings and body reactions are perfectly appropriate for the moment. They are the result of your expectations, wishes and experiences from the past. They are the result of how you assess the situation at the moment. Don't worry, you are in control of your emotions even now - even if it may not seem like it to you. You can therefore change your attitudes for the future and enjoy life again even if your partner never comes back. But for now, you have to accept that you feel abandoned, hurt, and helpless.

Express your feelings

Your feelings are painful and you express them well. You cannot forbid this by willpower. If you allow them, you will not lose control of yourself. You will stop crying too. Write your feelings in a diary, exchange ideas with other people affected on the Internet, talk to friends or your parents, join a self-help group, contact a psychotherapist or a counseling center. Allow yourself to cry and feel sorry. All paths are fine as long as you do not endanger anyone or yourself.

Listen to music that makes you feel touched and moved. Write poems or express your feelings in pictures you have painted. Attend the church service or go out into nature. Please do not use alcohol or sedatives. This only helps for a short time, numbs you, but the feelings come back after the effects wear off. Also, if you get into the habit of numbing your emotions, you are at risk of slipping into addiction.

Accept your behavior for the moment

It may be that you hardly recognize yourself at the moment. You may have been used to making few mistakes, being understanding and serene, eating moderately, being reliable, taking care of your appearance, etc. - and now you are behaving in exactly the opposite way. Do not judge yourself for it, but accept that you are not "perfect". You are not a robot, but react to the current situation. Let the boss or colleagues know that you are in a phase of separation. Give yourself "extenuating" circumstances and lower your expectations of yourself.

Only live for a day

When you feel completely powerless, perhaps even thinking of suicide, choose to live only for one day at a time. This is manageable and your strength is sufficient for this.

Treat yourself lovingly

No matter how difficult it is for you, try to eat a reasonably healthy diet. Your body needs this especially in such a stressful situation. Drink at least 2 liters of fluids (mineral water, herbal or fruit tea) per day. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products. Refrain from smoking. Try to incorporate physical activity into everyday life. This helps you to relieve tension and anger as well as to overcome depression.

Take stock

The following questions will help you understand the breakup. Both partners are usually involved in a separation. It is best to write down your answers:

  • What has been achieved in our partnership recently?
  • Did we trust each other?
  • Was I ready to accept my partner for who they are?
  • Did I feel accepted by my partner?
  • Did we have common interests, hobbies and attitudes towards life?
  • Were we able to talk about conflicts and different opinions?
  • Was it possible for me to develop personally?
  • Did we have friends in common?
  • Did we compromise when we had different views?
  • Could I rely on my partner?
  • Did we allow each other time to be alone?
  • When we got angry, did we talk about it, did we hide the anger, or did we try to hurt each other?
  • Did I feel comfortable in the partnership most of the time?

Change your point of view

Whenever you find yourself struggling with thoughts like “My partner mustn't… that's mean”, replace them with the thought: “I am ready to accept that my partner has left me. I am ready to accept that my partner behaved like this ”. At first, everything in you will lock itself against it and you will feel as if you are lying to yourself, but with more repetition and practice you will also find inner approval.

The aim is not that you approve of your partner's behavior. It's just a matter of accepting reality. You can no longer undo the past. Even if it hurts you, your partner has the right to act according to his ideas and needs. So you are not his victim. You can learn to let go of your expectations of him. Direct your gaze to your future instead of quarreling with the past: What should my future life look like? What new perspectives can I find? What can i do for myself now?

Whenever you reproach yourself for having done something wrong in the partnership, counter this with the thought: “I am ready to forgive myself. I did what seemed right to me at the time and what I was able to do ”.

Whenever you think that in your life you will never experience love and happiness again and that you will never find a partner again, replace these thoughts with the following helpful attitude: “I am lovable the way I am. The fact that my partner broke up has nothing to do with the fact that I'm not lovable. He split up because his expectations and who I am no longer matched. " Do you consciously look for the opportunities that a separation might bring for you: What have you given up or put aside for the sake of your partner? Which friends have you always wanted to contact again?

Whenever you become aware of thoughts that frighten you, such as, “I can't do this on my own. It would be terrible if… I can't stand that ”, interrupt them and replace them with encouraging thoughts: Remember what you've already achieved so far. Find contact with people who have also broken up and can be a positive model for you. Ask yourself which advice center, which expert can support you and where and how you can acquire the necessary knowledge or skills. What others have achieved, you can too!

Give yourself time

Adjusting to the new situation as a single parent or person living alone takes time. You have to learn a lot of new roles that you are usually not well prepared for because you did not expect a breakup. You have to cope with a lot of losses and rearrange yourself:

  • the loss of the partner,
  • the loss of common plans for the future,
  • the loss of the role of wife or husband,
  • the loss as a lover,
  • loss of status as a couple,
  • possibly the loss of children,
  • the loss of a house / apartment,
  • the financial loss as well
  • the loss of friends.

First of all, you just know what you are missing. You now have to put energy into it and specifically develop a counter-model: What should take its place? How do I look without ...? Where can I get my satisfaction from instead?

But you already have all the skills to develop a new life model. I wish you a lot of strength and success.


If you would like to work more intensively on yourself and would like more specific exercises and assistance, take a look at my guide “When the partner leaves. Ways to cope with separation and divorce ”, published by PAL-Verlag, Mannheim. You will find more information here.


Dr. Doris Wolf is a freelance psychological psychotherapist and author of numerous Lebenshilfe books.


Dr. Doris Wolf
Practice for psychotherapy
At the upper Luisenpark 33
68165 Mannheim

Tel .: 0621/415740



Created on August 9th, 2004, last changed on September 4th, 2014