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How to cope with a break-up in the digital age

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breakupA few sad letters and some subtle inquiries about how the other person is doing – that’s how a break-up used to go back in the days when there weren’t any smartphones.

Now, though, your phone will give you real-time updates on what the other person is up to. “This makes it extremely difficult to disengage on an emotional level,” says Berlin-based relationship coach Emanuel Albert.

Albert, who counsels clients in matters of love, says people who have been dumped can be deeply affected by pictures and information they receive through social media, making it even more difficult to let go.

Why was the other person still online on WhatsApp late at night? Who is the strange woman on that new Facebook picture?

Instead of focusing on themselves and processing their pain, people struggling with heartbreak tend to monitor, and in some cases even stalk, their ex through social media, Albert says.

“The information often triggers vivid mental images, because the affected party tends to read a lot into things. This may cause them to think, for instance, that their ex may still be online at night because he or she already has someone new.”

This can lead to a compulsive need to check if the other person is back online or has posted something. “It gets even more difficult if people keep liking or commenting on pictures of their ex in the hope of getting some attention,” says Albert. He strongly advises breaking off all contact if the heartache becomes too overwhelming.

Even if you’re still clinging to the hope of a reconciliation, keeping some distance can be a good thing. “If the other person has indicated that he or she needs a break, it’s important to accept that – especially if you want to give the relationship another go,” says heartbreak expert Silvia Fauck.

Distance can create a sense of longing, she says. “But if the jilted party starts stalking, they may end up driving the other person away even further.”

Albert recommends a step-by-step approach to digital separation. “First of all, I would suggest removing all souvenir photos from the smartphone and saving them to a flash drive, which should be put away in a drawer for the time being.”

To make a clean break, you should cut off contact on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. “This may hurt at first, of course,” says Albert. “But it’s worth it, because it’s the only way to keep your head from spinning.”

But isn’t it enough to just keep your distance until your head gets clearer again? “There may be some who can do that,” says Fauck. Most people, however, are unlikely to manage it.

“Being heartbroken is an extremely stressful situation in which we are controlled by feelings such as fear, anger and despair.” That’s why maintaining a clear line in the beginning is generally more advisable.

Once the dust has settled, getting back in touch virtually may be acceptable again as long as sufficient distance is maintained – and as long as the person who has been dumped is still interested once their wounds have healed.

-dpa

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