Relationship Breakdown

Relationship Breakdown – The “HEAL” Method:

The breakdown of a relationship is one of the most painful life events to endure; wherever there is loss, the process of grief will follow. Grieving can be a very painful process, and particularly so when the person that is lost continues to live their lives elsewhere. When we are hurting it is a natural response to comfort ourselves: we may do this in unhelpful ways by turning to alcohol or drugs, becoming promiscuous, binge eating, or starving ourselves.  Whilst all of these can bring initial relief from the pain, what of the negative effects these comfort tactics can have upon our physical and mental health?  How can you regain some control?

I have developed a four step HEAL programme to help clients who are experiencing a painful relationship breakdown. This programme is in four steps, to address the stages of change that occur when learning to move forward from painful experiences.


‘H’ is for HALT

STOP – stop denying reality, stop destructive behaviours, and above all stop beating yourself up.  Denial is a very natural phase in any healing process, but unfortunately only increases suffering.  However painful, it is important to face up to the realities of this altered situation, and whilst this is incredibly painful, it will release a lot of negative tension, and prevents you from wasting precious energy on fantasies such as taking revenge, or being reunited.  Accept what you cannot change.  Some of the realities are: you are hurt, you are emotional, you are in pain, you are empty, you are lonely, your future has changed.  But remember, not any one person can fulfil your every need and create your happiness for you; you now have to learn to find your own happiness.

Questions to ask at this stage: 

What am I doing to myself right now that is hurting me and damaging my self esteem?

What behaviour can I stop right now that will increase my self esteem?

What exactly is causing my pain? What precisely am I feeling?

‘E’ is for EMPATHISE

Empathise with yourself, particularly as you stop denying and start to name and experience difficult feelings.  Start to look into yourself for honest answers, don’t judge yourself but look to how you have contributed to the breakdown of the relationship, and take responsibility. Don’t be harsh on yourself, you are trying to look for honest answers and insights about yourself, you are not trying to beat yourself up, or take all the blame.

Questions to ask: 

What did I do that might have contributed towards the relationship breakdown?

How did I behave in this relationship?  For instance, was my ex on a pedestal?  Was I too passive/trusting/needy/angry/insecure, etc?

For what reasons was I behaving in this way?  Is this my ‘pattern’ in relationships?



Accept the lessons. Learn from them. What are the lessons you have learned about yourself, your self-esteem, love, your choice of partner?  What have you learned about your fears in relationships? As you learn from these areas you are growing and preparing to let love back into your life – should you want or choose to do so.  Remember that by accepting, rather than punishing yourself, you are learning to love yourself first, and this is always an attractive trait.


What have I learned about myself and how I am in relationships? 

What have I learned about my self esteem?

What have I learned about love?  Where have these messages come from?

What have I learned about my choice of partner?

What have I learned about my fears in relationships? 



Live life at the next level! Through exploring the painful and negative experiences you have guided yourself to explore new alternatives. To start living life in a more fulfilling way try new things, look at new ways of taking care of yourself, find new interests, learn about yourself and how you relate with others.  By challenging some of your old and accepted ways you will have developed a newer, improved you. Love yourself. You can take risks and by doing so you can enjoy improved self esteem and attract positive relationships, passion, fun and love in your life.


Reflecting on the answers above, what will I do differently in the future? 

How much will I prioritise my own needs in the future? 

Now I am outside of the relationship, how worthwhile do I feel as an individual?  What can I do to improve these feelings?


Nicola is a therapist and coach who is experienced in helping others with their relationship difficulties. If you would like help from Nicola, please contact now.

The HEAL method is the intellectual property of Nicola Forshaw and is not to be reproduced or re-distributed without written permission.