A breakup can make you want to turn into a human bed burrito and never emerge again. It can make you cry at the drop of a hat, it can make you super nostalgic, and it can also make you really effing angry. Even if you saw the split coming, bitterness after a breakup is normal, and it often happens as a result of heartbreak and pent-up frustration toward your ex. This feeling is completely valid, but if it persists for months, it could get in the way of your post-breakup healing. If this is sounding a bit too familiar, it might time to examine your feelings more deeply.
Breakup coach Natalia Juarez says there are several reasons why someone might feel bitter after a tough split. The first is because they perceive they were wronged in some way. “The result of feeling bitter is related to having a victim mentality — meaning that we’re stuck in a mental story that something was done to us," Juarez tells Elite Daily. If you were harmed or mistreated by your ex, either physically or emotionally, there is help out there for you. A trained mental health professional can be a sounding board for you to work through your past experiences.
If you're bitter because you feel like your ex didn’t try hard enough when you were together, it’s probably a sign that the relationship was unbalanced. “When we are in a healthy relationship, we feel an equal sense of giving and taking,” Juarez notes. “We feel supported by our partners, [and like] our needs are being met by ourselves and our partners.” She explains that sometimes, people can “over-give," leading to an unhealthy dynamic where one person is more invested in the relationship than the other.
Another situation that can cause bitterness is when one partner blindsides or betrays the other. “In cases such as these, it’s totally understandable that someone would feel bitter and resentful, but those emotional states are like poison,” Juarez says. Of course, it’s valid to feel angry if your ex broke your trust — but that doesn’t mean this anger is serving you. Juarez recommends spending some time processing all your emotions. "The best thing to do is to let yourself feel it all — the good, the bad, and the ugly — and find healthy outlets to express these emotions,” she explains. “This can include journaling, and if you’re scared of putting things in writing, you can shred or burn these journal entries. Also, [you can try] speaking with close friends and/or a professional, and physical activities such as yoga, kickboxing, or even a rage-room experience.”
On its own, anger is not a negative emotion. In fact, the American Psychological Association states that assertively (not aggressively) expressing your anger is the healthiest way to deal with it. But if anger starts controlling your ability to move on from your breakup, you may need to seek out professional help from a licensed therapist or breakup recovery coach. “Having angry, fiery feelings can be a healthy part of the healing process,” Juarez explains. “That said, it’s important not to get stuck in this frame of mind. I don’t believe we can heal in anger.”
If you’re trying to date again, but still holding onto bitterness toward your ex, it might be smart to take a break from dating while you work through your anger. “In order not to carry residual resentment into your future relationships, you need to fully process the breakup,” Juarez says. “This means you need to go through the healing process to get to a place of ‘integration.’ You know that you’ve fully healed when you can look back on your relationship with gratitude for the time you spent together and all that you learned. You feel you’ve grown as a person and you wish your partner well.”
Only when you’ve let go of that anger can you truly get over your ex. “The process of working through any bitterness is to get clear on what’s at the heart of it all for you, then deep-dive into those feelings and let them out,” Juarez says. Devote your time to the people and causes you care most about, and if needed, talk with someone who's trained to help you work through your emotions. Only then can you take a deep breath and say, “thank u, next.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, call 911 or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1(800) 799-SAFE (7233) or visit thehotline.org.
Natalia Juarez, breakup coach and dating strategist
Controlling Anger. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/topics/anger/control.