It’s hard enough to deal with a break-up if you see it coming; if you haven’t been getting on for months, or your love life has long since ceased to exist.
Even the discovery of clues that a partner is having an affair, while devastating, can act as a kind of preparation for an eventual split.
But what if the break-up comes out of the blue, at a time when you thought all was well? That certainly seems to have been the case for Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.
Nicole has since spoken of how stunned and shocked she was by the announcement and her husband’s subsequent refusal to discuss what had gone wrong.
Painful as it can be, we all need some sort of explanation or reason for why a relationship has ended. So when we don’t get it, how do we come to terms with the shock and go about preparing ourselves to love again?
Dr Pam Spurr, thinks the most important thing is to stop asking yourself why your partner acted the way they did, and start understanding that the problem is theirs, not yours.
She says: ‘When I see people in this situation, I try and build up their self-confidence so they can admit to themselves honestly: ‘I may never know why we broke up. But I do know that this rejection doesn’t reflect on me but my ex. My ex found communication difficult so it’s their problem, not mine.”
Dr Spurr explains that those who take a shock rejection the hardest tend to be those who depend most heavily on others’ approval for their own self-esteem. To them, rejection without explanation comes as the realisation of their deepest fears.
Such people tend to make a shock break-up worse by insisting to themselves that they can’t move on until they know why it ended. Consequently, they’re still analysing the split months later, which is futile.
‘In an ideal world, we’d all talk to each other when we were unhappy in our relationships, and be kind and honest when we were splitting up, taking the knowledge forward to help us build better future relationships.
‘But of course, that’s not what usually happens. What we have to do is accept that we won’t always know why someone rejected us and that it’s not our problem if we are rejected.’
Dr Spurr adds that those who choose to end a relationship without warning tend to be ‘non-communicators: people who let issues build up without talking about them, to the point where they decide leaving is the only option. In many of these relationships, the partner left without explanation is a good communicator – which is why the break-up is so difficult for them.’
How to survive a shock break-up
1. Don’t blame yourself.
Remind yourself regularly that the relationship ended because your partner had the problem with communicating, which was nothing to do with you. You were willing and able to talk about your problems but your partner couldn’t deal with that… which is their loss.
2. Take up something new.
It’s important that it’s completely unrelated to your ex, and even better if it’s something they didn’t want you to do! So many people who’ve had these sort of break-ups keep doing the same things they did with their ex, which just increases their pain. Leave those things until much later, when the pain of the break-up has faded.
3. Date for fun.
Now’s not the time to look for another meaningful relationship. Enjoy your friends, go out with interesting people, but put all thoughts of a replacement relationship out of your mind.
4. Don’t be a relationship bore.
Spend more time with your friends and family by all means, but try not to keep going over the break-up with them again and again. Much as they love you and want you to be happy, even they can’t be expected to stick around if you’re constantly going over the same ground. You need your friends, so don’t scare them away!
5. Work on your ‘I don’t care’ attitude.
Even if you do still deeply care about your ex, with practise this will really help speed up your recovery. Focus on all the annoying things they used to do; try and decide what used to irritate you the most. Soon you’ll be amazed to find you really don’t care any more.