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Breakup and Divorce – How to Learn to Live Again

28.06.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

“I recently broke up with my husband. There seemed to be no special reason, we didn’t fight at all, but he has found a new woman. It is insulting and terribly painful. Just everything crumbled in a moment. I don’t know how I can survive this betrayal and divorce. I don’t want to drink, and then to be treated from it. Are there any legal ways to reduce pain?”

– Elena, 25

How to Learn to Live Again

A natural reaction of a person to a breakup is worries and pain, even if it was expected, and did not happen suddenly, like with Elena. It is unlikely that it will be possible to completely avoid worries, but it is possible to reduce them and shorten the time of “recovery”, to make the separation period less painful. Today we’ll talk how to learn to live life to the fullest after a divorce or separation and will analyze the main issues that arise during this period.


“Why does it hurt so much because of a breakup? It probably shouldn’t be like that?” 

Why does it hurt so much because of a breakup

A breakup is hard for many people. Why? There are 3 main reasons.

1st reason. We are social animals and need other people in a social group where they will recognize us, love, and care. Our partner or spouse is the same social group where we feel we are needed. And suddenly this group, the most beloved and desired, breaks up. The loss of important social contact can cause not only mental, but also real physical pain. [1] We have lost an important person, and so far there is nothing in his/her place.

2nd reason.  Very often, when parting, not only a person leaves, but also some part of our ordinary life. Trips to shops and movies together, hugs at bedtime, dreams and hopes, mutual friends. Not only our status is changing, but the whole familiar life is changing. Naturally, we get lost and feel bad. For example, we are used to walk together before bedtime, and now there is no such possibility. This sensation can be compared with a withdrawal syndrome – we do not get what we are used to and suffer from it.

3rd reason. Sometimes experiences can turn into a habit. A person constantly returns to them – and the brain gets used to suffering. [2] Despite the fact that after parting we mostly remember good things, such an obsession with the past makes it difficult to live on. As a result, the period after parting becomes very painful and can stretch for a long time.

“It’s been 3 years since we broke up, but I can’t forget him, I constantly remember, go to the places we visited, watch the movies we watched together, follow him on social networks, watch who he likes, I can’t fall asleep if in the evening I see that he is not online. And how to survive a breakup with a beloved man, if literally everything reminds me of him? He seems to be getting married soon, I don’t know what will happen to me after that”.

– Marina, 34 

“And I was not very sad after a breakup. Is everything fine with me?”

Of course, separation is not always painful. A breakup in relations can even cause a feeling of relief and joy: “Well, finally it’s over! Finally, I can live on quietly”. This can happen if the relationship was traumatic or came to naught gradually, on its own. And if this happened to you, then everything is all right with you, too. People are different, and can react differently to breaking up. 

“In general, I think I was very lucky. We were living together for 2 years, but there were no relations last year – we had different friends, different hobbies. We were like neighbors – hi, bye, we both have cooled down. And then she was offered a job in another city, and of course I did not go with her. Now we are friends, no grievances and claims, we separated peacefully and mutually”.

– Ivan, 29

“What if I have an unhealthy addiction?”

People call very often an addiction any desire to be with another person. Are you sad? Addiction. Are you bored? Same. But drawing a conclusion on the “unhealthiness” of a relationship is better based on considerations of harm and benefit for each individual. [3] Being bored and sad after breaking up is normal. Addiction begins when all life is built around one person, and your own needs and desires are forgotten.

— “I can’t eat or drink until I see him”.

— “I don’t want to go anywhere and do anything without him”..

— “She does not have the right to communicate with others and should always be devoted only to me”.

— “Without him, my life collapsed, and now I am not capable of anything”.

— “I’m ready to do anything to be together, even a crime”.

Such a painful craving is infrequent, but significantly worsens the quality of life, so it is worthwhile to direct efforts towards an early end of this condition. 

“I’m very worried. Is there anything to do with this? Maybe it will pass by itself?”

Maybe it will pass by itself

Sometimes it can really “pass by itself” – time heals. But often this “passing itself” is delayed for a long time, a year or two, or even more, and causes severe pain. The period of separation can turn from the usual stage of life into a familiar long-term state. Therefore, it is better not to let things go by chance, but to learn to manage your condition and your life, for example, to make new friends, replace lost habits with new ones using the 7Spsy behavior modification technique, create a new hobby, etc. This is especially important if you already right now understand that you can’t cope on your own, that experiences drag you in like a swamp, and you don’t have enough strength to get out.

“I have few friends, so when she paid attention to me, I was absolutely over the moon. But now something terrible is happening. She constantly pushes me away, and I run like a dog, beg for attention like for a gift. I would have another day with her, another hug. And she seems to play on purpose. She must be pleased that I, a grown man, am in love like a boy. I’m already tired of this game! I’m a living person, not a yo-yo that can be swung back and forth! How to get rid of cravings for her? How to survive a breakup with a loved one, with a beloved girl, to forget and not return to her more?”

– Anton, 33

“Are there any stages of separation? When will it become easier for me?”

The stages of separation are somewhat similar to the stages of living through any other grief, however, there are some peculiarities. Knowing these steps will help you survive a divorce no matter whether you are a man or a woman.

Stage 1. Despair, longing, denial. A person has not yet come to terms with the fact that he/she has broken up with his/her soul mate. One may refuse to believe in what is happening, consider everything a bad dream or an evil joke. The emotional state is unstable – from running around the walls and destroying things to exhausted staring at one point.

Stage 2. Emotional separation. The breakup is already conscious and accepted, but a person still clings to the relationship, trying to maintain emotional contact with a former partner. The emotional connection is strong at the beginning of this stage, but decreases towards the end. For example, at first a person spent a day and night on the social media, but now he/she visits it only a couple of times a day.

Stage 3. Return to ordinary life. The emotional connection is almost destroyed, a person begins to return to usual behavior – he/she almost does not follow the former sole mate, stops watching sad movies, communicates with friends, plans his/her future.

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The duration of the stages and the intensity of emotions are individual and depend on many factors: personal characteristics, duration of the relationships, their quality, suddenness of the breakup, etc. But the most important thing in these stages is that pain passes.

How not to get stuck in the first two stages and quickly move on to the third?

How to survive a breakup or divorce? 12 psychologist’s tips

12 psychologist’s tips

There are some simple ways to help you safely complete the breakup phase.

1. Do not reproach yourself

Sometimes separation is perceived as a signal “something is wrong with me, I’m bad”. Since I was left, it means that I am somehow defective or wrong. But people can part for various reasons, and even good people can. Therefore, first of all, stock up with compassion and empathy for yourself, love yourself, support yourself and take care of yourself first of all. [4]

2. Review the value of the relationship for you

Yes, we need other people, but relationships are not the only way to realize ourselves and enjoy life. And this also applies to women. Our greatest value is in ourselves, and not in relationships with other people.

3. Give yourself time

Do not keep everything inside. Moving away thoughts and emotions by willpower is a futile thing. They sooner or later will break through. Therefore, it is better to allow yourself to be sad from time to time, but do not make sadness the sole purpose of your life.

4. Do not elevate breakup to the rank of tragedy

Look at what is happening soberly. Yes, an unpleasant thing happened, it’s neither joyful nor fun, but it’s not the end of your life, even if it seems so now. Breakup is more like a temporary bad weather – sad and unpleasant, but it goes away. You can still manage your life, you are able to survive this situation and get out of it without serious losses – it is up to you. It’s impossible to fix anything with this person, but you can build a new relationship with another person who will also become close and dear to you.

5. Do not stay alone with your pain

Do not sit in front of the TV alone eating ice cream. Go to other people, ask someone to help and be with you. It is possible and necessary to cry out and worry, but not constantly. Leave some time for communication on other topics. The more people around you, the better. So you can distract and satisfy your need for communication.

6.Give up revenge

Sometimes you want to hurt the person who has left you, and you might want this pain to be stronger than yours. But this tactic is not the most useful. Firstly, you are not spending your resources on yourself, but again on another person. Secondly, revenge is unlikely to satisfy you, it is more likely that there will be a desire to take revenge further. And thirdly, revenge focuses us on parting, preventing from moving on. If the desire to take revenge is very strong, physically load yourself: jogging, walking at a brisk pace, etc.

7. Find something to do

Camping, traveling, new hobbies are an effective way to relieve pain and distract from parting. Another effective way is volunteer programs and helping other people. It is also useful to find your personal ways to help reduce heartache. For someone, listening to music makes feeling easier, for someone smells do help, such as citrus fruits and fir needles, and someone is saved by reading light entertainment books.

8. Allow yourself to leave

You do not need to prove to this person that you are worthy of him/her. You do not need to correct any mistakes and try to become better. This relationship is over, and you do not have to bite yourself and suffer in order to prove the strength of your love. You can simply go further into your new life, which you will create yourself.

“I broke up with my boyfriend not so long ago, but I’m already starting to live again. I love myself, praise and care. I try to get into people. I enjoy life and myself. Not out of spite, but because I feel good this way. I ate a bunch of oranges and tangerines, apparently, the brain asked for them. And I bought mousse with such a smell, and a shampoo. It really helps reduce pain. Yes, I can feel it, but this pain is per se. I let this man go, I do not cling to him. And my pain is more like sadness due to the lost illusions that the man turned out not what I thought”.

– Olga, 25

9. Separate reality and illusions

An exercise about lost illusions may be helpful. The main task is to look at the relationship with a sober look, to see the reality without fantasies and assumptions. So, divide the sheet into two parts, in one part write real facts and events from your life, and in the other – your fantasies, hopes and dreams. For example:

We met on weekends, he/she rarely called me, usually I called first;We watched and discussed movies together;We went together to birthdays of parentsI felt that he/she was interested in me, it seemed to me that we had a strong relationship;I was listened to and supported;Together we planned to start a family and have children

Moreover, facts and fantasies do not have to be opposed; they can be completely different things, as is the case with children and birthdays.

The meaning of this exercise is to see what we are really worried about, because of real loss or because of the hopes for the future and lost illusions.

10. Allow yourself to be short-sighted and unwise

“Almost a year ago I met a man, but he was married. He chose his wife. It hurts me and I am very ashamed. How could I be so blind and naive? I can’t tell anyone, I have always condemned adulteries, but ended up to being in a one. In this case, how to survive the breakup with your beloved man?”

– Inna, 34 

“How could not I understand that he is such a person?! I had to anticipate and understand everything at once. Then he would not betray me, and I would not suffer”. We do not have the ability to read thoughts and see the future, so it is natural that we could not notice any signs and understand in time what our relationship would lead to. If you haven’t an opportunity to share with someone – try to write about your feelings, preferably by hand and on paper, like a diary.

11. Do not believe everything that a former partner tells you

When separating, a person very often shows his/her resentment, even if he/she is the initiator of a breakup. Therefore, you can hear such words as “I have never loved you, I felt bad with you, you are my mistake”. Another reason for offensive words is the desire to shift the responsibility for the breakup. It is difficult for a person to admit that he/she also participated in the destruction of relationship, so he/she is trying to “whitewash” himself/herself. How to survive a divorce from a beloved husband or wife, if it is accompanied by such attacks from the ex? Accept the fact that one is trying to get rid of own pain in such a crooked way, at your expense.

12. Seek professional help

Supporting loved ones is an important and useful thing, but sometimes the help of a psychologist is necessary. For example, if you yourself can’t cope with building a new life, you are very homesick, “eat” your feelings, get hung up on your loneliness, a psychologist can help you see that a happy future is possible, and also help you develop new habits to cope with anguish and worries, anger and insulting yourself and your former partner. You can get the same help and result when using the 7Spsy behavior modification technique. This is a patented academic method of behavioral psychology, based on the theories of I.P. Pavlov, B.F. Skinner, A.A. Ukhtomsky and others. Courses are confidential and are held remotely, that is, you do not need to go somewhere – you study at home at any convenient time. And the psychologist will be in touch to support you when necessary. You also choose the method of communication yourself – phone, online chat or e-mail.

As a result of the course, you will be able to take a fresh look at your situation, see the prospects, master a new model of behavior that will help you survive the breakup and live on. Pain, bitterness of loss, disappointment – all that will be left far behind.

What you do not need to do after breaking up

In addition to useful actions that help us move on, there are some actions that inhibit us and prevent us from surviving parting:

  1. Living for the sake of the former partner, trying to prove something to him/her, for example, making and posting photos to social media so that “he will see how good I am”. This consumes a lot of resources and weakens. Moreover, the ex-partner rarely understands the mistake of his/her decision, which only intensifies the pain.
  2. Keeping in touch, trying to be friends in the hope that someday he/she will see who he/she has lost and will come back. As a result, hope will collapse, and the person will be disappointed and will suffer even more.
  3. Starting a new relationship. If you have not closed the story with your former partner, then it is unlikely that a new relationship will bring you happiness. Often people in this situation begin to compare their partners, complain or talk about how good it was. This will hurt you and your new life partner. 

“What if we have children? How to live further after a divorce with husband or wife in this case?” 

How to live further after a divorce with husband or wife in this case

Unfortunately, divorce is rarely calm and peaceful. Although, of course, this is possible and depends on the efforts of both partners. But commonly the ex-husband and wife fight and children are the first to suffer. There are no universal tips, because all situations are very different, but it would be nice if adults in their quarrels would not forget about children.

We are adults, we can do a lot, we are responsible for ourselves. And children depend on us, and our task is to take care of them. Blackmail, threats, pressure and manipulation with the use of children is extremely undesirable. In cases where the divorce is very painful, we recommend seeking assistance. This will help change the behavior model, learn to negotiate and be guided not by emotions, but by common sense. The 7Spsy behavior modification technique can also be useful. 

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Any parting brings discomfort, but it is in your power to make it minimal. The main thing is to take care of yourself in time and find qualified help. The 7Spsy behavior modification course is designed to help you accept and survive divorce and separation.


  1. Mental pain is similar to physical pain (https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2005-01973-004).
  2. Suffering is a habit (Yu. I. Alexandrov, “Fundamentals of psychophysiology”).
  3. Love is not always an addiction (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28381923).
  4. Self-compassion is useful (http://go.galegroup.com/ps/anonymous?id=GALE%7CA474714850&sid=googleScholar&v=2.1&it=r&linkaccess=abs&issn=15378276&p=AONE&sw=w).