The Do's, Don'ts, And Never's Of Handling A Breakup You Never Wanted

Nothing is worse than going through a breakup that you didn't want.

How To Get Over A Breakup Or Divorce When You're Still In Love With Your Ex Jon Chambers via unsplash

Figuring out how to get over a breakup or divorce is never easy, especially if it's unwanted.

It goes without saying that breaking up is hard to do — it's even harder when you're still in love with your ex.

Even in the age of modern love where most people will find themselves having two to three significant partners during their adult life span, the heartbreak that accompanies an unwanted ending to a relationship can crush one’s soul.


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In fact, there’s even medical evidence supporting what artists, poets, and playwrights throughout the centuries have always known: that people can indeed die of a broken heart.

Dealing with a breakup and navigating an ending — particularly an ending that you would give almost anything to prevent from happening — is still uncharted territory.


Wanting to protest it however you can is totally normal — it’s just not the best strategy to help you get what you both want and need.

But, there are some basic guidelines and strategies to wrap your mind, body, and spirit around for how to deal with a breakup or face a new life after divorce.

Hopefully, you'll feel empowered, classy, and dignified as you prepare yourself for the grieving process and learn how to get over someone.

Here are 4 things you can do when someone tells you they want to break things off.


1. Ask why the other wants to end things and listen to their reasons

By engaging in reflective listening and validating the other’s perspective (only if it seems true and feels authentic to you, it will actually create a deeper connection between you and your pending ex, which can make them think twice about their decision.


2. Ask from your heart if the two of you could try to work things out

Remember, no one ever regrets doing their best and that includes you. If you really don’t want to say goodbye, then ask for what you do want.

Take the risk, let yourself be vulnerable and let the other see the beauty of your vulnerability. Then, just ask.

If the answer is again "no", then so be it. At least, you won’t have regrets for not speaking up and advocating for yourself.

3. Ask to uncouple in counseling

If your partner is agreeable to this, you can find a seasoned therapist who specializes in this. It will give the two of you an opportunity to review the course or your relationship and make meaning from the loss. It will also give you both an opportunity to say goodbye in a loving way.


This will help mitigate some of the pain you will experience when you start the grieving process.

4. Work with a therapist who can help you through the stages of grief

While many people understand the different stages of grief, what most don’t know is that grieving and getting over a breakup is not a linear process. You will cycle and recycle through these stages as some days you may feel hopeful, and feel like reaching out to your ex.

On other days you may get hijacked by anger and despair and not want to get out of bed. It’s a delicate process, one that should not be navigated alone.

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There are 4 things that won’t work in your favor (but many try nonetheless).


1. Beg someone to stay

If you have asked for feedback and asked if the two of you could try to mend things and the answer is still "no", then hear the answer. As much as it pains you and isn’t what you want, it is what it is.

And yes, being heartbroken stinks. But think about it this way: if someone doesn’t want to stay with you, it’s not their path and it’s not yours either.

There isn’t just one soulmate out there for you (if there was, then we’d all be in trouble). And grieving the loss of the other is the first step for finding your next great love.


2. Shame the other for their choice

It’s normal to be furious at the other for wanting to leave, especially if they are breaking their marriage vow or commitment promise to you.

It’s perfectly normal to want to protest this any way that you can, but the shame/blame game won’t get you what you want. Taking some time to center yourself, quiet your pain and asking the other, is a better strategy, even if the answer is still "no".

3. Use your children to emotionally blackmail the other into staying

Sadly, this happens a lot when you're getting divorced. Telling the other "You will screw up the kids if you leave!" will actually screw them up even more. Your partner may stay, but deep down, they will resent doing so.


Children are both sponges and mirrors. They absorb the energy and pain of their parents and reflect that pain back through their behavior. Some kids act out and some internalize that pain.

Troubled kids almost always signal a troubled parental relationship. It’s the parents' responsibility to contain their own pain, seek help when that’s too hard to do, and reassure the kids that no matter what happens, they are always safe and loved.

What you can do when you don’t want your partner to leave and there are kids who will be affected by this loss is, you guessed it, to ask.

You can add a twist to your ask by saying something like, "I love you and don’t want you to go. I really would like for us to try to heal our relationship, not only for us but for the sake of our family. I would at least like to be able to look our children in the eyes and tell them that we did our best. Could we at least try?"


Again, if the answer is "no", then hear it.

And finally, here 3 actions that you should never (that many still do and, unfortunately, cause them great harm).


1. Stalk your ex or act out through violence

It’s normal to get hijacked by rage and feel obsessive when someone leaves you, especially if there’s a betrayal involved.

Your obsessing and rage is a signal that you are overwhelmed by grief and you need someone to help you through this terrible time. You may even need some medication or neurofeedback to help you through this traumatic loss. And medication, therapy, and neurofeedback really do work.

Violence only begets more violence and in the long run, it won’t bring the other back or help you heal.


2. Put your children up to the task of asking the other to stay

Sadly, this happens all the time.

Whether it’s an explicit ask such as "Please ask mom/dad if we can stay a family" or an implicit ask where your children hear you say things like "I really wish we could all stay a family" or "I don’t know what I am going to do without her or him", it is a terribly unfair burden to place a child.

They will then believe it’s their job to keep the family together — which it’s not —and create all kinds of crisis in the service of this burden.


They may act out a lot by getting into trouble or internalize the pain by getting sick or becoming depressed. This happens because they don’t know any other way to do what they’ve been asked to do. And, this burden will damage them deeply.

As hard as it is, and perhaps unfair as it is, containing your pain during this turbulent time and assuring your children that "We will always be a family, it’s just going to look different", it the adult and responsible thing to do.

Again, being in a process of psychotherapy, where your therapist can hold and soothe your pain, is a must-do here.

3. Malign or alienate your ex from your children


Yes, you are angry. Yes, you feel betrayed. And, yes, you are entitled to your feelings and your process of grieving.

But unless your ex is violent or pose some kind of safety threat to your children, say through some kind of addiction that’s not being treated, then once again, keep them out of it.

The ending of a relationship or marriage and reorganization of a family is never easy for children. They deserve to have two mature, loving parents who put their wellbeing first and not be used as a weapon to hurt the one who chose to leave.

Last but not least, remember that Albert Einstein once said, "In the middle of a crisis, lies an opportunity."


An unwanted breakup is never the opportunity that you were looking for. It is, however, the opportunity that has been thrown your way. And good things can come from it.

If you take the time to heal your whole self, mind, body, and spirit as you grieve this loss, you will rise from the ashes of despair.

And not only will you survive your heartbreak, but you will also learn how to thrive in your life because of it!

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Maura Matarese, M.A., LMHC, R.Y.T. is a psychotherapist and author who helps people heal from relationships and betrayal trauma such as unexpected breakups, infidelity and she helps people understand and end toxic relationships. Her new online course: Finding Hope After Heartbreak: Learn the Secret “How” to Start Feeling Better “Now” will be available soon. In the meantime, enjoy this free Healing From Heartbreak Workbook.