How do you cope when a close relationship breaks down?

Our relationships are such a key part of living a happy life, it can really hurt us when a close relationship falls apart

How do we cope when our close relationships go wrong? Do we try again, do we give up, or do we fall apart?

What makes a healthy and happy life

Most doctors, psychologists, and gurus of life would probably agree on:

  • Good Nutrition
  • Regular Exercise
  • Restful Sleep
  • A meaningful purpose in life
  • Giving back to society
  • Connections and Relationships

Most of us build our lives around work, family, and friends. What is integral to all areas of our life is the connections we build through our relationships. Relationships are important within the family network, with a partner, with friends, in a community, and at work.

Some people are natural at building strong, lasting, and meaningful connections, and some struggle through life to build a good network around them to help support them through life’s ups and downs.

Good connections and relationships are key to feeling happy and content in life, and I would suggest that quality rather than quantity is preferential!

However, even those who make friends and connections easily will be let down by someone close to them at some time in life. It is a fact of life that relationships change, we change. People disagree over many things – religion, politics, money, expectations, love, behavior, children, housework, traffic – well, just about anything really. It is endemic in human nature. But have you ever really been let down by someone close to you, someone who was central to your life, someone you trusted, someone you thought you would be close to all your life? It could be a partner, a family member, or a close friend.

I know so many of my friend’s relationships that have broken down with close members of their family or friends which has really devastated them. A mother who no longer talks to her son due to his unthinkable behavior exaggerated by drugs. A sister who no longer communicates with her only brother due to a fallout over inheritance money, during which too many hurtful words were exchanged. Previously close sisters no longer speak due to a confidence being broken leaving a trust issue that was too important to one sister to forgive. Long-term friends who are no longer friends due to one stupid disagreement. A friend who gave up their job, due to having to report to a boss who had such different values at work to hers, that the relationship was unmanageable. Sadly, it is part of human nature, so we will all suffer from a broken close relationship at some stage in life.

What can we do when a close relationship falls apart?

Understanding the Why

Is the why important?  Well, I would suggest the Why is important. It makes a difference if someone close to you broke your heart, your trust, lied, cheated, stole from you or you just disagreed on something relatively trivial But should the intention make a difference? If the consequence was unintentional does that change anything? If someone has made a genuine mistake and regrets the consequences, should you forgive? Can you forgive? I think it helps to know the why, because the real reason may be very different from the most obvious reason. It could be that a simple argument causes a break in a relationship, but in effect, the relationship has been falling apart for some time. It could be that the connection you used to have with that person is no longer there and the argument was simply the last straw holding you together. Or it could be that the differences have been festering for some time and they have now come to a breaking point.

Understanding the why allows you to find the best solution for you and the best path moving forward

Take a break to reflect

It is always worth taking time to reflect rather than act on emotional impulses. It is easy to lash out in anger, frustration, or hurt, but taking time to understand what is happening on both sides of the relationship is usually helpful before making any final decisions on the relationship breakdown You obviously, fully understand your point of view, but have you taken the time to understand the other person’s point of view and reasoning. Most relationship fallouts will be caused by issues on both sides, and it is a sign of emotional intelligence if you can consider that and reflect on what your part was in the situation.

It can be helpful to ask yourself the question: What did I do to contribute to this relationship breakdown?

So, how does that help

Well, it then gives you a deeper awareness of how you were in that relationship and if you are willing to take some responsibility or if you are willing to make any changes to your behaviour moving forward or not!

What is the impact on you?

It hurts when someone close to you lets you down and trying to pretend that it doesn’t is generally not useful! However, allowing the hurt to overwhelm your life has also a limited use! I have seen so many people pretend that it does not matter to them when it does, so again, being honest with yourself is important. Emotions are complex but facing the pain and discussing the impact this is having on your life can help.

There may come a time however when acceptance is the only step forward

Should you try to resolve the relationship breakdown or accept that it is over? Once you think you know the reason why, you have reflected on your own part in the relationship breakdown, and you understand the impact it has on you, then it is time to decide what to do next! Do you make an effort to resolve the breakdown of the relationship, or do you accept it is over and move on? Not an easy decision and of course it also depends if you actually have that choice depending on the other person’s viewpoint.

This is also the time to reflect on if this relationship in normal times adds to the value of your life or detracts from it, no matter who they are. Sadly, some close and long-term relationships may not be good for us, and it could be time to re-evaluate their future  It could be that the distance you have taken after the breakdown period, has given you a perspective you never had before, and it allows you to realize that this person is too significant to you to sweat the small stuff and you think it is important to find a resolution to the breakdown.

On the other hand, it could be that you realize the relationship never did add value to your life or the injury the other person caused you is too deep and therefore you think it best to cut this person completely from your life Whatever option you chose, it is always worth having a conversation with the other person to explain your perspective and try to understand theirs. You need to be willing to explain your why, accept your responsibility in the break-up, and discuss what options or conclusions are open to you both.

It is also at this stage that you need to accept the fact that the other person may have a very different perspective than you or that they are not even willing to discuss the situation. Not everyone is emotionally intelligent, not everyone wants to question why or reflect or even find a solution.

Some people pull the drawbridge down once they have been hurt or when difficult things have been said and that is just the way they are, and you must accept and respect that and move on. A couple of points to consider before coming to a decision on the breakdown. You may wish to use an independent third party as a mediator, however clearly this needs to be someone both parties respect and trust. You must also allow that person to be honest with you even if they are saying things that you don’t want to hear.

Another point is, that time is often a healer! There is nothing like time to broaden your perspective and allow you to look at the bigger picture in life, so maybe time can help heal the rift.

Time is often healing

However, sadly it is true that there are times when close relationships end, however hurtful that is. You will need to accept that life moves on and there will be new relationships that need nurturing. That life is full of opportunities for connection which can add new value to your life. As we evolve and change in life, so will our connections. What we valued in a friendship at the age of 21 is not necessarily what we value at 51. What our family relationships gave to us in our teens will not be what we need from our family connections in our forties. Acceptance of changing relationships is needed. Accept that people will let us down as we are all human with flaws. Take responsibility for any relationship breakdown, learn from your mistakes in life, then move on to re-discover new relationships which will bring joy into your life!

Allow me to conclude with some relevant quotes:

“If you are brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new Hello!”

Even if you cannot change all the people around you, you can change the people you choose to be around. Life is too short to waste your time on people who don’t respect, appreciate, and value you. Spend your life with people who make you smile, laugh, and feel loved.”
(Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart)

Pamela O'Donnell
Professional Certified Leadership and Wellbeing Coach
Pamela is English, however she has been extremely fortunate to have lived and worked around the globe during her career in the Travel Industry. This included working and living in Italy, France, Switzerland, Greece, Russia, North Africa, the Far East, North America, the Caribbean, and the Indian Ocean. Her wide travel experience has allowed her to develop a global awareness of different cultures and perspectives. She can speak Italian, French and German to various levels and is learning Spanish! She spends her time living both in the UK and on the beautiful Island of Menorca in Spain.

Pamela has worked as a Global Leader, with 30+ years’ experience of managing teams around the world. Her last position was as Director, Global Customer Resolution, leading a large team, based in 15 countries in North America, Europe, and Asia.

She decided to step out of Leadership and into Professional Leadership and Wellbeing Coaching after being made redundant, and as Covid-19 hit the world devastating the Travel Industry.

It was time to share her knowledge and experience by helping others to develop. She is interested in using her extensive leadership experience and combine it with her passion for Wellbeing to help others to maximize their potential.

Pamela is also a Yoga teacher, is passionate about learning and development, and has a particularly keen interest in Human Behavioural Psychology. This led her to study Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Psychology, which helps in her coaching practice.

She loves to swim most days even in the winter, enjoying the wonderful health benefits this brings to the mind and the body. She enjoys walking in nature, cycles, and teaches and practices yoga by the sea when she can. She is passionate about the positive effects movement and nature has on mental wellbeing.

Pamela does, however, admit to having a weakness for red wine and chocolate!
No Comments

Post A Comment

Sign Up For Our Newsletter

Be the first to hear about new events, products and all things She Is You!