Breaking up is not just hard to do. Ending a relationship can be one of the most horrific experiences in one’s life.
But after the dust settles, the post-breakup period is an extremely important transition time that presents opportunities that can help you find the right person the next time around. Through thoughtful reflection, and brutal honestly with yourself, you'll soon be able to move forward stronger and even more ready for a healthier relationship.
Here are six important pieces of wisdom you can gain from a break up, according to relationship experts, and insight on how these lessons can translate into a richer romantic future.
1. Find Clarity for What You Really Want
Think of it in terms of a making a deal: What are your negotiables and the non-negotiables?
According to Certified Relationship Coach Chris Armstrong, few things are more important than understanding your needs and wants within a relationship. "A relationship may not have worked out but we can come out of it adding things to our list of needs while getting clearer on our wants," he explains.
When you're not sure of the qualities you really need in a partner, you’re in danger of going out with someone just because they’re interested in you. Instead of being selective, you allow yourself to be selected – and usually end up less than satisfied. That's why it's important to analyze what must-haves your previous relationship didn't fulfill once it's over.
"With this clarity, once you're ready to be in a relationship again, you can focus on attracting someone who meets your needs," says motivational speaker Desh Dixon, author of “No More Broken Records: 5 Tips To Change Your Tune and Transform Your Life.”
2. Recognize the Red Flags
In the sweet honeymoon phase, it's all sunshine and butterflies. And it’s easy to ignore warning signs that your partner may not be right for you, and it’s also when lots of unsavory behaviors get excused (at least for the time being).
You now have chance to look back at those red flags you brushed aside. "Take the breakup as time where you can examine your patterns and look at what you need to learn," says relationship expert Susan Elliott, author of “Getting Past Your Breakup: How To Turn A Devastating Loss Into The Best Thing That Every Happened To You.”
"Are you attracted to the same 'type'? What 'mistake' have you made time and time again?" Get ready to move on the next time those same red flags pop up.
Therapist Michael Drouilhet, LCSW, author of “When ‘Happily Ever After’ Isn't: Creating Sustainable Love Through Essential Partnership Skills_,”_ recommends asking yourself these crucial questions: "What did I get into denial about? What did I not want to see about him/her? What of his/her behavior did I not take seriously, or did not bring up as a problem for me?"
Ignoring or overlooking red flags might point to another detrimental dating behavior -- a lack of asserting oneself, for fear the relationship may end. Drouilhet says, "If these fears are not clarified, they are likely to be repeated in the next relationships."
3. Take Accountability
Sometimes a breakup feels really one-sided -- one person wanted to end things while the other wanted to work things out. But that’s not actually the truth. Both people typically contribute to a relationship's demise.
"As part of your healing, you should be doing some self-reflection," Dixon advises. "You have to take accountability for your role in the relationship."
Counselor Kali Rogers, founder of Blush Online Life Coaching, adds that it's important to reflect on your relationship weaknesses. "If a relationship fell apart over communication, and you know that you weren't as vocal as your partner, this is something you need to work on before you jump into a new relationship," she explains. "If vulnerability was the problem, lean into that.”
Whatever some of the issues were, think about whether you can improve on things that you can control in order to create a stronger relationship in the future.
4. Be Transparent About Your Relationship Goals
Were you not ready to take the plunge? Being clear and upfront about your plans and intentions in the beginning of a relationship is an important lesson to learn that can save you from wasting your time – and someone else’s.
"Be honest, forthcoming and genuine about who you are and where you are," says relationship expert and motivational speaker Alexis Nicole White. Be clear from the beginning about your goals, and don’t be afraid to walk away from any potential relationship were your purposes aren’t aligned.
While it might seem a bit forward to lay all your cards on the table from the get-go, doing so will allow you to weed out which prospective partners are right for you and which ones to walk away from.
5. Understand How to Have Tough Talks
How did the breakup go down? Did one of you do a slow fade out? Or was there a big blow out and then you never talked again? The actual act of breaking up can tell you a lot about your communication style.
How to have a difficult conversation with your partner and how to continue talking about your issues are skills you want to have. Talk about #relationshipgoals. Analyzing how your breakup discussion unfolded can lead to immense growth that you can build upon the next time around.
"I have had several clients tell me that the break-up conversation in one relationship helped them learn how to have healthy conversations during conflict in future relationships," Armstrong says. "Some of us will have a drag-out break-up discussion and we will not like how it made us feel and where it ultimately lead to. Others will be more sensitive to our words and tone during a fight because of the effect a break-up had."
In short, whether you did the breaking up or were broken up with, mastering the conversation can actually improve your overall ability to communicate during tough times.
6. Be Comfortable With Being Alone
The post-breakup “me time” is not easy. It can be super lonely, but it allows you to get back in touch with yourself: Who you are, what motivates you and how you'd ideally want to your life to unfold.
If you've lost yourself in your previous relationship, as many often do, use the time after your breakup to revisit your goals. "A break-up can show you where you weren't loving yourself," Dixon says.
"Now that you're single, you can get back to all of the things you love. You build yourself back up. You take care of you. The more you give to yourself, the more you'll love others and you'll feel good."
Learning how to live fully without a partner actually helps you attract the right type of person for your next relationship. "The happiest, healthiest people have full lives full of hobbies, friends and outside interests," Elliott says. "They're attracted to others who are not desperate for a relationship or for it to answer all their problems."
She also adds that, when you do get into a new relationship, be sure keep your well-rounded life. "A healthy, loving partner will support that," she says.