Processing your own feelings after a breakup can be hard enough without the added guilt of your parents' own sadness. Of course, it's understandable. When a relationship is serious, the emotional bonds between you and your partner can extend to close friends and family, especially if you're around them regularly. So, if your partnership goes south, it's important to realize that your loved ones might also go through a mourning period. If your parents are sad about your breakup, knowing how to navigate this emotionally tricky situation without unnecessary conflict is key.
According to Dr. Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, it's quite common for parents to experience a feeling of loss after their child goes through a breakup with someone they themselves were attached to. "Parents can mourn the loss of an individual who has become a part of their lives and now will exit," Dr. Klapow tells Elite Daily. "They can feel sad, even heartbroken. However, it is their job and their duty to support you as their child, and to not let the distress over the loss of your partner consume them." At the end of the day, you shouldn't feel like your parents aren't on your side. It might be tough, but it's possible for parents to be sad about your breakup and still put your needs and feelings first.
Dr. Klapow explains that your parents' feelings about your breakup should also be coming from a place of love and concern for you. "Parents’ reaction to your breakup has everything to do with how long and how attached they have become to your partner," says Dr. Klapow. "That being said, while it’s appropriate for them to be upset, their [being] upset should be about the challenges you may both have to face moving forward, and the difficulty they see for their child." They should do their best not to let any personal baggage interfere with the situation.
Although it may feel strange to be consoling your parents about your own breakup, try to help them understand why you decided to go your separate ways. It can also be helpful to get their input on the situation and let them express their opinions, even if you've already made your final decision, says Dr. Klapow. Just having one opportunity to articulate how they felt about your ex, and how happy seeing you in love made them, can be a really healing experience. Reflecting on the good times and the bad is a normal part of moving forward, and this process might be something you can share with your parents.
However, once you've had a heart-to-heart, they need to accept and support your final decision. Romantic relationships are personal, as is the decision to end them. "In the end, this is not about their relationship," adds Dr. Klapow. "Respect their position as your parents and listen to their input. Then politely let them know that while you do appreciate their concern, the relationship is yours to navigate and what you need from them is support."
If they're still struggling to be supportive, it's OK to put your foot down about how their comments or behavior is affecting you. "Let them know that you're trying to move forward with your life and that them talking to you about their disapproval of the breakup or their struggles with it is not helpful to you," explains Dr. Klapow. "You can let them know that you’d rather not be a part of the conversation if they're not in a position to support you." Setting this boundary might feel harsh, but after a breakup, your emotional health can be extremely vulnerable to outside input. Being able to lean on people you love and trust is such a vital part of the healing process. Don't be afraid to be clear about your needs.
Acknowledging that you and your ex might not be the only people hurting after your breakup is important. But if your family's issues coping with the loss and disappointment of your breakup are starting to get in the way of your healing process, take note. The best way to deal is to be honest about what you're going through, and if your parents are unknowingly making moving on difficult for you, don't be afraid to speak up.