If you happen to be in a relationship that is close to breaking apart or has already broken, you may find yourself feeling lonely and worrying about being alone. The loss of our lover, companion, spouse, or friend leaves a hole in our lives. Whether it was our choice or not, we miss at least something about that person we shared language with, that person who knows us best.
It’s at this point in the breakup process that it becomes super important to connect with others.
As part of the sequence of recovery from a relationship breakup, connecting to others helps provide grounding and support. It can be the first thing you need and one of the first things you do: you reach out to someone you know to tell them the news.
If you picture yourself stretching your arms out to the sides, that’s the axis of present-time connection. It’s connection to peers, family, and support professionals (like a therapist). Many people find a lot of value in present-time connection. You’ve got people in your life to bring you a meal, text you some words of encouragement, or help with childcare or financial concerns. If you can identify even a person or two right now that you trust, connecting with them is important.
However, you might feel like you don’t have a lot of friends or supporters you can lean on; your family might not be nearby or understanding. It could also be that your partner was the one with more present-time connections.
For many reasons, it might not feel possible to make sideways connections. Luckily, there are three more directions you can look in.
When I got divorced, I found that it was important to look inward and connect on the internal axis. In other words, I needed to find out who I was separate from my partner and the roles I played in that relationship and our social/family circles. Internal connection may be easy for some people; they have a strong sense of identity and are confident in their persona. For others, this internal connection can take months or years, or it may never be a priority or a possibility.
The third axis, the re-connection axis, is one I have some very recent experience with. In the last month, three different people that I had three very different relationships with have popped back into my life. One came via LinkedIn and the two others came via Facebook, which reminds me the power of social media. One gave me a chance to see that the person has had a really fulfilling life since I knew them. Another gave me a chance to show them that I’ve had some really great things happen to me. The third gave me an opportunity to apologize for something and help with something else.
I don’t know how far into the future any of those three connections will go, but they might turn into long-term re-connections. One thing I do know is they all provided me with a chance to revisit who I was in the past and compare her to who I am now. They helped me connect with people and a time that was once very important to me.
The last axis of connection involves looking forward. It can seem daunting and difficult to try to cultivate connections in the future when you’re so necessarily focused on the past (What went wrong? What could I have done differently? Is this my fault? Did I fail?). Think about the value, though. If somehow you’re not connecting well in the present and you don’t want to connect with the past, combining a connection with yourself with a connection to future people can be just what you need in order to weather this breakup. Finding new people for your future can include signing up for classes, joining a faith community, moving to a new neighborhood, or increasing your involvement with your children.
What about you? Who are you connected to?
Think about your situation. Considering all four axes of connection: Which one gives you the most support right now? Which one might give you support you’re missing? What strategies can you use in order to increase your level of connection to others and yourself?
Jenni McBride McNamara, MA LAMFT
Jenni McBride McNamara, MA LAMFT is the owner of TouchingTrees Counseling and Relationship Services in St. Paul. She is also a member of the Cooperative Practice Network of divorce professionals, a member of the MAMFT Pre-Clinical committee, and has completed advanced training in Discernment Counseling. Prior to becoming a therapist, Jenni wrote several books about self-discovery and divorce. Jenni is dedicated to compassionately helping individuals and couples in relationship crisis maintain their integrity through a life-altering process.