Breakups are painful, both for the person who is being left and the one who is doing the leaving. To prepare for the pain and heartbreak ahead, some people find it easier to start emotionally distancing themselves while they are still in the relationship. Not only can this tactic help you to prepare yourself to begin the healing process after your impending breakup, but it can also ease the tension you feel at remaining in a relationship that’s making you unhappy.
Focus on Yourself
You can start emotionally distancing yourself by turning your attention inward and focusing on you. Start thinking about yourself outside of the relationship. What changes do you want to see within yourself and in your life? What would you do if you did not share a life with someone else? Social worker Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen of The Adventurous Life blog recommends writing down your goals and taking specific, proactive steps to achieve them.
Find New Sources of Support
Part of being in a relationship means relying on your partner for help and support. When something breaks, when you’ve had a bad day, or when you want an opinion, your partner is the one you turn to. Part of emotionally distancing yourself will mean breaking this habit, says clinical psychologist and Psychology Today contributor Dr. Seth Meyers. Start looking to friends and family for support and help when you need it, especially if the kind of support you’re looking for is emotional. When you’re detaching from someone, counsels Dr. Meyers, you shouldn’t be asking that person to keep providing you with emotional comfort.
Cut out Emotional Activities
In order to distance yourself, says Dr. Meyers, all activities that have an emotional component need to go. This means stopping sexual contact with your partner, spending more time socializing with others, no longer sharing stories and experiences, and not doing things the two of you used to love to do together. However, Dr. Meyers warns, even though you’re emotionally backing off, you cannot forget that you’re still in a relationship. This is not the time to start seeing other people. Instead, it’s time to move from emotional activities to solely pragmatic ones, like sharing meals at home and talking about superficial topics.
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Eliminate the Hooks
Eliminate the “hooks”-- the emotional factors keeping you attached to the relationship. Feelings like guilt about leaving the person and hope that each loving gesture is a sign that he is changing will only keep you attached to the relationship, counsels social worker, author and relationship coach Leslie Vernick. Instead, practice looking at your relationship objectively, she adds. She suggests asking yourself some simple questions, such as “Is this the relationship I wanted?” “Would I want my best friend to be in this relationship?” “If I had to do it all over again, would I choose him?” The answers to these questions can help you move on.
A New York native, Carrie Stemke is an avid writer, editor and traveler whose work has covered many different topics. She has had a lifelong fascination with and love of psychology, and hold's a bachelor's degree in the subject. Her psychology research articles have been published in Personality and Individual Differences and in Modern Psychological Studies.