TIP SHEET FOR
COPING WITH A RELATIONSHIP
The breaking up of an intimate relationship can provoke a variety of difficult
feelings and responses which vary according to the nature of the break up.
What are common reactions to a relationship break up?
• As the ending of a relationship is often a significant loss, grief reactions
such as sadness, depression, insomnia, anxiety, concentration difficulties
and a loss or gain of appetite are common.
Other feelings and thoughts that may accompany a break up
• A sense of abandonment, rejection and loss of self-esteem.
• A feeling of relief that the relationship is over.
• A preoccupation with blaming, either oneself or the ex-partner. You may feel
angry towards your ex-partner for causing so much pain or you may
experience feelings of guilt and responsibility for hurting your ex-partner.
• A sense of personal failure that the relationship has ended. You may blame
yourself for the problems in the relationship and continually replay past
conflicts, saying to yourself, “If only I had done or said this differently”.
• Fear of the future without the ex-partner, in particular the fear that you will
never love or be loved again.
• Feelings of loneliness can be quite acute and many people describe their
experience as akin to living in a vacuum. This can be particularly distressing
if you have lost friends whom you had previously met through your ex-
• Feeling overwhelmed and frightened by the intensity of your feelings.
• Confusion surrounding the cause of the break up and a need to make sense
of it all.
• Difficulty in letting go of the relationship and finding any opportunity to
contact the ex-partner.
• Fluctuating feelings towards the ex-partner, ranging from relief that the
relationship is over to intensely missing the person.
• Viewing the relationship in ‘black and white’ terms. This can involve either a
preoccupation with the good or the bad aspects of the relationship.
• Anxiety about finances and housing if previously shared with the ex-partner.
• Concern about parenting issues if children are involved.
Ways to Cope after a Relationship Break up
• Accept painful feelings – their intensity will subside over time. Experiencing
such overwhelming feelings does not mean that the relationship should not
have ended. It is normal that you grieve for the ‘good things’ in the
• Gain support from others. Surround yourself with non-judgemental family
and friends with whom you can freely express your feelings.
• Try to understand the reasons for the relationship breakdown. If you have
questions regarding the reasons for the break up or you feel that you need
to directly communicate significant thoughts or feelings which are
preventing you from moving forward, it may be helpful to arrange a meeting
with your ex-partner. This is not however always possible or appropriate,
particularly if the relationship was emotionally or physically abusive. An
alternative can involve either communicating via email or writing a letter.
• Trying to make sense of a relationship breakdown can be confronting. This
can be a time for self evaluation which may be challenging. Understanding
the causes of the relationship break up can prevent similar mistakes with a
• Avoid regular contact with your ex-partner. This can just prolong the pain
and delay the healing process. If you decide to recontact, first give yourself
time for the painful feelings to subside.
• Reduce your expectations. Accept that you may not be able to function at
your best but remind yourself that this will be temporary.
• Try to avoid beginning a new relationship while you are still grieving from
the past relationship. Unresolved issues from the former relationship can
adversely affect the new one. Making decisions about the suitability of a
new partner can also be problematic at this time as you are likely to make
your decision in terms of what was lacking in the past relationship rather
than all the characteristics of the new relationship.
Coping with Study
• Maintain your attendance at lectures, labs and tutorials. Skipping classes
will only cause you to feel worse.
• Allow for a reduced ability to concentrate and loss of motivation by giving
yourself lots of breaks when doing assignments.
• Take extended breaks by exercising and involving yourself in interests and
hobbies as much as possible, even if they are not as enjoyable as before.
• Discuss your study with other students. Apart from assisting you
academically, it will improve motivation.
Where can I get help from others?
• Talk to a counsellor at the Newcastle campus (0249215801) or at the
Central Coast campus (0243484060).
• Make an appointment to see your doctor.
What other resources are available?
Book Bruce Fisher & Robert Alberti (2005) Rebuilding: When your
Relationship Ends : Impact Publishers.
Produced by the Counselling Service, The University of
Newcastle, May 2009.