Have you seen the Netflix film ‘A Marriage Story’ yet? The Oscar-nominated film describes itself as exploring how ‘a stage director and his actor wife struggle through a gruelling, coast-to-coast divorce that pushes them to their personal and creative extremes’  Praised by critics as presenting a very real take on the breakdown of a marriage, it portrays the struggles- both physical and emotional that are often attached to our personal relationships.
But if you and a loved one are either struggling in an unhappy marriage, or have reached the point of separation but are unsure of how to make the transition, what steps should you take to protect your mental health?
Tip 1: Give yourself time
You have probably heard the cliché ‘it hurts a little less everyday’ and ‘time is a great healer’? Well, in the case of a relationship breakdown, there is some truth to this. At the beginning it will feel very raw- you may feel numb, struggle with anxiety and self-doubt, or face uncertainty about how to build a new life separate from the one created with your partner. These are all perfectly normal emotions, but if you allow time to adapt, you will find you are more resilient than you think. How much time you need varies from person to person, but a general rule is to allow a year- to grieve, to process the breakup, to accept it and be in a healthy headspace to move on. Too often people jump into a new relationship to try and suppress the emotions they feel, but in the end, this will only hurt more when it inevitably ends.
Tip 2: Prioritize self-care
Perhaps in your relationship you spent far too much time putting the needs of your partner before your own? Now is the time to put YOU first- not just for your health but also for your mental wellbeing. By ensuring you have a healthy diet, are exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and doing small things you love every day you will give yourself the best possible chance to fight those negative emotions when they do arise. If you are trying to process a lot of complicated thoughts, meditation or yoga can help clear your mind, as can journaling as a way of removing any complex doubts or worries from your brain.
Tip 3: Stay social, but don’t emotionally exhaust yourself
There is a fine line between keeping yourself busy and social engaged because its good for your mental health and using it as a distraction from your true thoughts and feelings. Make sure you are aware of the difference- whilst it is important have activities to focus on, you don’t want to suppress your emotions and end up burnt out. Choose to socialize with people whose company you enjoy or partake in activities you find engaging and fulfilling- perhaps now may be the perfect time to try that new hobby you have been putting off for years!
Tip 4: Put some distance between yourself and your partner
Whilst it may be tempting to support each other through the breakup, speak on the phone all the time and be in constant communication, at least for a little while it’s a good idea to put some distance between you both. This doesn’t have to be forever, but certainly at the beginning, you need separate space to be able to process the relationship breakdown and learn to function without relying on the other for emotional support. This will make you both stronger and more understanding people if you do want to have a friendship in the future, or if there are children involved which you plan to co-parent.
Tip 5: Finally, speak to someone
It can be tempting to bottle your emotions up because you are ashamed the relationship broke down, or it is too painful to talk about it. But speaking to someone you trust can be an important step in moving forward after a breakup. You could talk to a close friend or family member, or if you would prefer someone removed from the situation, a counsellor or other professional can help. Whoever you decide to open up to, remember expressing your feelings and getting the support you need is an essential part of the process.
If you are struggling in a relationship, our Choices Personalized Retreats program can provide the ideal opportunity for a couple to work through their issues, get to know themselves better and learn evidence-based strategies to build themselves on healthier grounds. Find out more here: https://www.choicesretreats.com/couples-issues/