Welcome to the Ex Games: a content series about love lost. Whether it's the realization things need to end, the act of rejection, the reality of being single, or the resurrection that is moving on, the Ex Games has every stage of a breakup covered.
And to really bring these stories to life, we've launched the Ex Games podcast, where we delve into the two sides of a break-up story with a new couple each week, and aim to end up somewhere near the truth. Because when it comes to affairs of the heart, everyone plays, but does anyone win? Let's find out.
Indeed, we've all gone through a breakup at some point or another, so we can easily commiserate. But often, as no two breakups are the same, we're left scratching our heads about where things went wrong, what we could have done differently, and what lesson we're supposed to learn amidst all the suffering.
We attempt to draw connections to experiences from prior relationships, but that can be fruitless. Meanwhile, friends and family weigh in with their own advice — but all they have is their own personal experience to draw from, which may not be relevant — or helpful for that matter.
That's where therapy comes in. Before you roll your eyes, hear me out.
A study published in Social Psychological & Personality Science found that discussing a breakup can be helpful in making it easier to move on.
Sure, you could keep talking your friends' ears off — but only to a certain point. First of all, they may eventually get burned out by all your obsessive ex talk. But, more importantly, they may not necessarily offer the kind of unbiased wisdom you need to reflect, grow, and heal from the experience.
Therapy, unfortunately, has a certain stigma around it. Many people are too embarrassed or proud to pursue the help they need because they believe the end of a relationship isn't a worthy enough reason to do so.
A breakup is a devastating loss, though, so there's nothing dramatic about seeking out professional help. An outsider who understands the psychology behind breakups but also has a totally objective perspective on you and your life can make a massive difference in your ability to overcome the loss and move on.
Still unconvinced? Read on for the key role therapy can play in recovering from a breakup.
It Helps You "Find Yourself" Again
Sure, it sounds clichéd, but breakups spur some serious identity questions. Since your hobbies, lifestyle, and goals begin to merge with your partner's, you may be left with some major confusion once they're not a part of your life anymore.
The big question becomes “Who am I without them?” So unsurprisingly, research suggests that the key to moving on from the end of a romantic relationship lies in regaining a solid sense of self.
In fact, according to the study, which was published in the Journal of the International Association for Relationship Research, a failure to redefine yourself promotes post-breakup distress.
Seeking therapy is a great way to delve into these tough questions. Specifically, person-centered therapy can be helpful, because with this system, you're encouraged to take more of a lead during your sessions. The therapist, meanwhile, serves as a non-judgmental, compassionate listener who keeps the discussion flowing without interrupting your thoughts.
This approach promotes self-esteem and an overall stronger sense of self because it empowers you to make discoveries about your own emotions, decisions, and habits.
It Can Make You Cope With Negative Thoughts And Feelings
It goes without saying that a breakup can cause anger, guilt, and grief — in some cases triggering depression or anxiety. These feelings can be tough to grapple with, and depending on their severity, can start to interfere with your ability to function at work, in your friendships, or in other capacities.
A therapist can play a crucial role in the healing process by offering a safe space to identify those negative feelings, as well as decide the best course of action for treating them.
In particular, it's very common for people to practice negative self-talk after a relationship ends. This might entail blaming yourself for why it ended, focusing on all your faults or inadequacies, obsessing over other rejections or failed relationships, and generally putting yourself down.
This negative self-talk can be extremely destructive, preventing you from being able to make peace with what happened and move on — but, moreover, it makes it difficult for you to be in a happy, healthy relationship down the road.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is an excellent option for dealing with this, as it focuses specifically on identifying negative thinking. Once you begin recognizing unhelpful and irrational patterns in your thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes, you'll be able to gradually change them.
While CBT may not be for everyone, a recent study led by academics from the University of Bristol found that 43 percent of participants who received this type of therapy saw an improvement in depressive symptoms — and they reported at least a 50 percent reduction in those symptoms.
It Focuses You So You Can Filter Out All The Noise
When you're dealing with the aftermath of a breakup, you're bound to get a whole lot of advice from every direction. From friends and family members to coworkers and your hair stylist, everyone is going to have an opinion, which can be confusing and distressing when many of these opinions are contradictory.
A therapist is someone you can then bounce some of this input off, allowing you to identify what's helpful and filter out what's unhelpful.
Very often, if a person's two cents is harsh or unnecessarily negative, it has a lot more to do with their own baggage than your particular situation. On the other hand, a person who is close to you might be too afraid to be honest with you and conceal their opinions about your breakup for fear of hurting you further or losing your friendship.
The advantage of having a therapist is that they are a neutral sounding board and, unlike the other people in your life, their own personal experiences and hang-ups won't come into play.
You can rest assured that you're getting an impartial and straightforward take on what you're going through.