7 Therapist Tips on How to Handle a Pandemic Breakup

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The Pandemic Has Fuelled Breakups. Here's 7 Therapist Tips on How to Handle One

Let's dig into this – very difficult – reality

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In a year in which everything has been humming with stress, be it high level (combining a full-time job with overseeing home school; being a key worker) or the lower kind (knowing that you personally are safe but fearing for the general state of the world), you don't need to be a relationship therapist to know that this time has been hard on couples.

Last year, Citizen’s Advice reported a spike in searches for advice on ending a relationship. Meanwhile, British law firm Stewarts saw a 122% increase in divorce enquiries between July and October of 2020 – evidence that it’s not just the newly-formed unions and casual couplings fuelling what’s now known as the 'breakup boom.'

So, why the increase in breakups?

An uptick in separations from significant others makes total sense. The pandemic caused our entire lives to be put under the microscope and confronted us with many harsh truths. It also added heaps more pressure, the likes of which no couple – not even the Obamas – could’ve prepared for.

‘Mostly, the increase in breakups comes down to people being forced to spend more time together, exposing issues that were glossed over or never had the chance to surface before,’ says psychologist and psychotherapist Francesca Moresi.

‘Pre-pandemic, these people probably led somewhat separate lives, which perhaps helped to distract them from relationship difficulties,’ but now, with life stripped back to loungewear and endless trips to take the bins out, red flags have been brought into sharp focus.

Of course, it’s not only couples happily living in denial that have fallen victim to the breakup boom. Some have been subjected to unthinkable stress which has made their relationships unsurvivable; some have realised they simply aren’t a good fit whilst others, Moresi says, have had the opportunity to become more aware of their wants and needs, which has led to a breakup for the better.

Hopefully this is not your circumstance, but if your partner ever makes you feel anxious or threatened, you cam call Refuge or Women's Aid on 0808 2000 247

How to handle a breakup during a pandemic

There’s no getting around that, more often than not, breakups hurt. And, sorry to say, the fallout might feel even worse amidst a pandemic when stress is heightened and our usual vices are out of reach.

‘It’s important not to rush into anything that could be even more stressful,’ Moresi advises. ‘Give yourself – and your ex-partner – the time to settle into this new situation, whatever that may look like.’

The trouble is, sometimes stress is inevitable – particularly when the breakup involves filing for divorce, dividing assets or agreeing on custody arrangements for children. In these more complex scenarios, Moresi recommends reaching out for additional support to help with the transition and take care of your mental wellbeing.

‘I think that people who are going through a divorce, especially those with children, could really benefit from personal therapy, parenting support or mediation,’ she says. ‘Depending on the person’s needs, professional help could provide support in dealing with the stress, assistance with communicating relationship changes to children and, in some situations, facilitate communication with the ex-partner if it’s otherwise too heated.’

Here's Moresi's top tips on navigating a separation, during this sticky time.


7 tips for getting through a pandemic breakup

1. Go easy on yourself

      Breakups are rotten; even more so when lockdown limits access to loved ones, so Moresi advises you give yourself the time and space to grieve as you need. Schedule some activities that make you feel good, whether walking, working out or binge-watching Disney movies and try to, where possible, prioritise your wellbeing by fuelling up on nutritious foods, keeping hydrated and maintaining contact with family and friends.

      It’s easy to forget our basic needs when we’re overcome with heartbreak, so set reminders on your phone for things like topping up your glass of water or prepping a meal.

      2. Declutter

      ‘You may decide to declutter your home after going through a breakup to let go of all the objects that may be negatively associated with your ex-partner,’ Moresi says.

      And on the subject of decluttering, don’t forget to clear out your socials too. Unfollow your ex-, if you’re going for a clean break, and mute their friends if you want to avoid seeing snippets of your ex-partner’s life post-lockdown.

      3. Don’t neglect the important stuff

      Of course, breakups aren’t all Ben & Jerry’s and burning sage. Sometimes, assets will need to be split, new accommodation will need to be found and, if you have children, custody arrangements will need to be agreed upon.

      Write a list of all shared assets and debts – savings, investments, furnishings – and try to split as fairly as possible (note that fair will mean different things to different couples). If you’re having a hard time agreeing or taking a rational approach (completely normal when the feels are a-flowing), this is when Moresi recommends finding a mediator to help move things along and get an outsider’s opinion – particularly when deciding on living arrangements for children.

      Document your agreement so everyone involved knows what’s up, and invite a mediator back whenever revisions are needed. Citizen’s Advice is your go-to for separation support and advice on filing for divorce and when to involve solicitors.

      4. Journal

      ‘I find that keeping a journal for your emotions can be a very positive way to be more aware of your feelings, and can also help you to let go at the same time,’ says Francesca.

      Journaling doesn’t need to be complex or profound. Try these prompts next time you sit down to scribe:

      • Something that made me feel good today
      • A challenge that I overcame today
      • Something I am grateful for
      • Something I am looking forward to

        5. Try healing rituals

        You probably won’t find any scientific research raving about the benefits of rituals for dealing with a breakup, but it’s worth a go, no? ‘Some people find rituals very helpful for coping with heartbreak,’ Francesca says. ‘Try writing a letter to your ex-partner – including everything you’ve been wanting to say to them – then read it aloud and (safely) burn it to let go.’

        6. Ask for support

        Here’s your reminder that you don’t have to suffer through heartbreak alone. Schedule virtual meet-ups with loved ones to maintain connection during lockdown, and arrange one-to-one walks (as per government advice) for a double-whammy of heart-to-hearts and endorphin-release.

        There’s no shame in asking for support, and seeking professional help doesn’t mean you’re in any way 'losing' the breakup. ‘Therapy can be really useful for people who either struggle with their feelings and letting go of the relationship or simply want to bring more clarity to their relational patterns,’ says Moresi.

        7. Make plans

        ‘During the pandemic more than ever, planning things ahead can be quite reassuring, so absolutely do think about the many practical details that can facilitate the separation from your partner, but also schedule some things that you can look forward to,’ Moresi advises.

        Obviously, lockdown is kind of crapping on breakup rites of passage since bars are closed and we can’t even get a haircut on a whim. That said, there’s no reason you can’t plan post-breakup activities for post-pandemic.

        Pencil in a park picnic with pals for when restrictions ease and dream up a trip to take when travel is considered safe. In the meantime, schedule video calls to cook with friends, take a virtual group training class or map out a room revamp for your home – anything that sparks excitement.


        Need extra support?

        • Talk to a Relate counsellor via phone or digital communication relate.org.uk
        • If you need help with divorce proceedings, speak to someone at Citizen's Advice citizensadvice.org.uk

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