How to Handle a Breakup During the Coronavirus Quarantine, According to Relationship Pros
Breakups are hard. Isolation because of COVID-19 quarantine doesn't make them any easier.
Think about the last time you went through a breakup—if you're anything like me, you probably did everything you could to get your mind off it. Maybe you rallied your best friends for a girls' night out, maybe you hit the gym every morning, or maybe you booked a solo trip somewhere exotic. Whatever method, it likely helped you deal with the emotional pain in a way that made you feel a little more optimistic, faster than you might have if you just stayed at home wallowing.
Unfortunately, right now, during the COVID-19 crisis, none of those options are on the table, which makes diverting your attention away from heartbreak or other painful feelings a little tricky.
"It's absolutely so much harder to go through a breakup right now," says psychotherapist Matt Lundquist. "There are a lot of uncomfortable feelings being brought to the surface as a result of the pandemic, and if you add those emotions to those of a breakup, as well as not having your regular coping mechanisms to turn to, it can lead to a really tough time for most people." This translates to: Your feelings are valid and normal—don't panic.
But just because you can't grab a drink at a bar or start aggressively dating again, that doesn't mean you're destined for months of grief, even if you're isolating alone. Instead, take this advice from Lundquist and relationship expert Monica Parikh that can help you heal from the trauma of your breakup when you don't have your typical rebound arsenal at hand (but frankly, these tips work any time). Plus, you'll come out on the other side better equipped to manage any other stressors that may pop up in your "new normal" life.
Strategies to Deal with a Breakup During COVID-19 Quarantine
1. Reach out to friends and family.
"Is it the same as going out with your friends? No." says Lundquist. "But it's not a bad alternative. Even if you haven't spoken to a friend in a while because you were wrapped up in the relationship, I've found that simply reaching out and explaining the situation works just fine." You can also find some fun ways to connect while still maintaining social distancing, such as Zoom happy hours, taking an online workout class together, or using Netflix Party.
Essentially, more than anything, you need human connection, and even if that can't come in the form of a massive hug, just knowing that someone's there to listen to you vent and cry about the relationship can be invaluable. (FWIW, whether you're going through a breakup or not, if you're feeling alone during quarantine, making a point to connect with others will be your lifeline. (Read more: How to Deal with Loneliness If You're Self-Isolated During the Coronavirus Outbreak)
2. Find a hobby.
"I'm of the firm belief that a relationship should never be your entire life, or even as high as 80 percent of your life," says Parikh. "That's unhealthy, and just leads to codependency. Instead, your life should be filled with so many other things—like friends, hobbies, spirituality, exercise—that the relationship is simply the cherry on top, as opposed to the whole sundae."
Chances are, you have a lot more time now, and instead of using that time to mope about your ex, Parikh suggests that you pick something you're truly passionate about—whether that's a new at-home workout, something creative like painting, or cooking new recipes. This will help you establish your identity separate from your relationship, and give you something to look forward to every single day. (Related: The Best Hobbies to Pick Up During Quarantine—and After)
3. Focus on what you can learn from the relationship.
"Jumping into a new relationship right after a breakup is a lost opportunity," "Every relationship ends for a reason, and you need to give yourself the time to really process that breakup and see where things went wrong," says Lundquist. This could help inform your decisions when you feel ready for a new relationship. Otherwise, you risk just repeating the same patterns again and again. While it's naturally going to be difficult at first, try to look at a breakup as an opportunity for growth and healing, he adds.
Admittedly, though, this kind of introspective work can be difficult when your mind is clouded with hurt feelings, so Parikh suggests seeking the help of a therapist (or trusted friend if needed). "If you look at your relationship by yourself, it's likely there'll be some sort of bias there, either toward your ex-partner or yourself," she says. "But having an expert objectively look at your patterns and lovingly point out where you need to change your thinking and behavior is priceless, because most of the time, we don't even know how we're feeling unless someone asks us those hard questions."
4. Yes, you can online date—with some boundaries.
"A big part of getting over a breakup is simply getting back out there and getting excited about someone new," says Lundquist. You certainly won't feel ready for that instantly, but since you can't exactly go on a dating spree IRL right now, when and if you're ready, virtual dating is an option.
Just be sure not to overdo it on the swiping or Skyping. "Using online dating as the sole coping mechanism and spending all your time doing it isn't the healthiest way to go about things, especially if you think you'll find a new relationship ASAP in quarantine and get into it without healing from your past breakup," says Lundquist.
If nothing else, online dating can just be a chance to meet new people and communicate with them in a way that makes life seem a bit more normal, says Lundquist.
5. Process your feelings.
One thing about this global pandemic and the subsequent lockdown and quarantines is that you really can't hide from your feelings right now, says Parikh. While it's understandable that sitting with your emotions can be painful and uncomfortable, especially during a breakup, considering changing your perspective on that pain, she says. "Pain can be a catalyst for something so much greater," such as finally asking yourself difficult questions—like about what you want in life and in a relationship, she adds.
Thankfully, you don't have to literally just sit with your feelings all day every day until this is over. Parikh recommends exercise, meditation, or journaling as a way to get your feelings out (about the breakup and otherwise), and then try to understand where those feelings are coming from: Is it a belief that stemmed from your childhood, or something your relationship made you believe about yourself? You can question those things and hopefully, come to a deeper understanding of yourself and the things that trigger you. "If you allow feelings to come to the surface and begin the process, they are transformed into something else, which is part of the grieving process," she says. "And it's when you really delve into these issues that you can attract better relationships later on."