Break-ups can be a massive blow to our self-esteem with the effects reverberating through every area of our life. In extreme cases, the pain can seem unbearable. The mourning before feeling ready to love again can feel like a bereavement. Humans are social animals who usually work best in harmony with others. Being alone can feel devastating when intimacy is lost. The fall-out from a passionate fling can hit some harder than a divorce marking a relationship lasting decades.

A colleague of mine once described falling in love as ‘a kind of madness.’ Falling out of love, I believe can also seem like a temporary form of insanity. Surviving well and limiting the damage are often key to returning to normality relatively unscathed. Usually, the loss needs processing and a willingness from the sufferer to re-evaluate what happened.

Recovery is often hampered by unpleasant emotions we would rather disown. Feelings of bitterness, jealousy, and hate are commonplace. One isolated break-up can remind one of childhood experiences buried deep in our psyche and the sense that such endings will be forever repeated.

How counselling can help

Understanding your role in the drama can help you avoid its future repetition and allow you to take back control of your romantic life. You may be desperate to understand the mind of a partner, but greater knowledge of your inner self can reveal how you got there, and why it unravelled. Such inconsolable lows may one day be reviewed as significant turning points in your life – the break-up may be the signal for positive change.

Counselling lets you unburden yourself and allow development of new insight to break out of a vicious cycle. When available, friends and family can help, but sometimes their advice is tainted by their own bad experiences. Sometimes too their bias towards you blinds them to objective truth.

Thinking a relationship completes you is a common idea but often misguided. It runs the risk of putting your happiness in another’s hands – a responsibility that often weighs too heavily. A happier person may find it easier to form a happier relationship, but it is unrealistic to assume a new one will paper over all the cracks in your daily life.

We often speak with clients who are trapped in poor relationships that are sustained by nothing more than fear of facing the unknown beyond its end. Sometimes the ‘investment’ of time in a relationship makes people hang onto it beyond its natural life as if breaking-up is a weakness rather than an honest sensible response to its failings. The traditional view of marriage as a life-long contract supports the idea of longevity being a worthy accomplishment. But for whom is an unhappy house worth sustaining? Rarely for those living in it. Ending at the right time can preserve the good times in your memory. Great friendships can often emerge from the shared trials of the past.

Modern dating culture multiplies our romantic options bewilderingly. The deceptive and unrealistic promises promoted by the Internet and multi-channel TV create enticing and unrealistic expectations. Counselling can help you find the balance between appreciating what you have and what more it could be.

For struggling couples, relationship counselling helps identify poor patterns of communication to improve. This can enhance and reinvigorate a relationship. It might also clarify if a partner is not prepared to make changes. Either way, it can release you both from feeling helplessly trapped.

At least one song relates that ‘breaking up is never easy,’ but when you understand the reasons behind it, you can be ready to enjoy a better one.

Available Help

Anchor Counselling offers support for relationship problems with both individual and couples counselling. Specialist support is also available from www.relate.org.uk, which has branches in Richmond, Ealing, Barnes, Staines, and Isleworth and provides extensive information on its website for all kinds of relationship difficulties. For information on relevant NHS services in your area go to www.nhs.uk.

Many people see themselves as unlucky in love. Therapy helps you to realise that some choices may have been misguided but that a breakup is definitely not a personal failure.