The pandemic has been the ‘Great Accelerator’ of relationships, propelling a couple forward, or expediting its demise.
If you’re in the latter category, here are some tips on how to navigate your COVID-19 edition, conscious uncoupling.
Do not keep investing in a dead-end relationship because of sunk cost fallacy
A dead-end relationship is one where it’s stuck in a negative pattern and shows no signs of improvement or moving forward. The relationship lacks connection, empathy, teamwork, friendship and mutual investment or two people want very different things and cannot reconcile the gap between.
But people often stay in relationships they are unhappy in because of sunk-cost fallacy – a tendency to invest in something more, even if it’s a bad deal, because we’ve already invested time/energy/money into it. So we hold out, waiting to get a return on our investment, hoping that things will change.
We get attached to past investment versus focusing on future VALUE
If this resonates, remind yourself that the time and energy invested in the relationship is gone – you can’t get it back. Ask yourself – if you were to make the same decision today – would you choose this person again?
Channel your inner Marie Kondo
Delete old messages and photos and unfollow their social media accounts. Block their number if you have to, so you don’t obsess about them not contacting you.
Before you stroll down memory lane and binge on old videos and photos of your romantic dates, stop and ask, “Am I being kind to myself right now?” You know the answer. Replace the urge with another behavior that forces you to be present. This may mean you go for a jog, take a virtual dance class with a friend, or write a letter of gratitude to someone you love.
Sure, there will be a time when you can see a reminder of your
ex and not get triggered into an emotional spiral, but now is not
the time to play with fire. During the early stages of separation, the attachment is still too strong and the emotional charge too high, and thus a complete detox of the ex is required.
If you work together or coparent and cutting off communication isn’t possible, then the goal is to keep interactions to a minimum and without any positive or negative charge.
Set a boundary for your sanity’s sake
Breaking up during a pandemic brings extra challenges because you don’t have your usual go-to methods of getting community support or embarking on your own Eat-Pray-Love vacation.
When stress is high, it’s natural for you to want soothing and crave your ex’s comfort. You might even rationalize it’s okay to be friends right after the breakup. But the relationship needs some breathing room for it to transition from romantic to platonic, and the only way to achieve this is time and space apart. Your ex might miss you too, and try to be friends, but for your own self-care, it’s necessary for you to draw a boundary. You can let them know that you’re taking this time to heal, to focus on your self-care, and ask them to respect your wishes of no-contact.
Throw yourself a ‘get-well’ party
No this kind of party doesn’t involve cake and champagne. It involves you getting creative in order to adapt to this time where you can’t turn to your regular ways of healing. What’s important is that you find something you can focus on – whether that be a new hobby, an online class or volunteering – so that you can redirect your energy from your ex, to something that empowers you.
Set up a weekly video call with your closest friends and instead of usual chit-chat, take turns asking questions that foster bonding and connection. For example:
What’s one of the greatest lessons you learned from your mom/dad?
Tell us about a time where something didn’t go according to plan only for something better to come along?
If you were to write a letter to your younger self, what would you say?
Meta, I know, but you’ll be surprised at how questions that give people an opening to be vulnerable can foster deeper bonds and a feeling of connection.
Remember, you’re not alone
It sure as heck might feel like it, but know that there are other people, who are experiencing the same pain, hardship and roller coaster of emotions. If you can, try to find support groups, or workshops where you can connect with other people going through the same thing. Check out a virtual breakup bootcamp while you’re at it! Whatever you do, do not emotionally isolate. Reach out for help. Talk to someone. We may not be able to gather IRL, but you can still get support from people who love you.