The sting of a break up or divorce is painful and disorienting. Adrenaline courses through the body and the mind races. The suffering party thinks "This can't be happening." And with that thought paramount, the individual seeks corrective action: talk it out with the ex; identify the fix that will salvage the relationship; buy time--compromise, temporize, paper over, whatever it takes.
The single best way to accelerate the healing process after a break up or divorce is to...
Stop contact with the ex.
If you are trying to recover in the wake of a relationship ending, this advice may be difficult to accept.
And when that is the case, you are likely working over time to rationalize why it is actually okay for you to stay in direct contact, You may say that you have to give him/her their stuff. Or, you think it is best to keep living together, for a while at least. You may say that you have to check in on your ex's family members. Perhaps there is a birthday coming up or some other event. What harm can it do to see what the ex is up to on social media? You assure yourself that you can break up and still stay friends.
In reality, the only legitimate reason contact should not be entirely avoided is if you have children and must communicate about co-parenting responsibilities. Even in that case, maintain boundaries by limiting conversation to matters pertaining to your children. Otherwise, continuing or attempting to continue with the other only prolongs your suffering and prevents you from beginning a productive process of letting go.
Whether it's on day one after a break up or if it's been six months or a year, here are four reasons to stop contact:
1. You Can't Heal: Ending relationships are difficult, but the difficult feelings are not permanent. You will feel sad, you will feel angry, you will feel a sense of shock that life has taken this cruel turn against you. As I describe in Breaking Up and Divorce: 5 Steps, these feelings are normal and are part of the recovery process. Eventually, if you allow it, a kind of acceptance will come into your life. However, if you persist in contacting or attempting to contact your ex romantic partner you are working against the recovery process in favor of a self-defeating strategy of denial. Denial may buffer the blow but it cures nothing. It just allows you, by pretending, to put off fully accepting difficult feelings and your new circumstances. Confronting the difficult feelings and accepting the fact that your ex is no longer there, means you are now on the path to healing. There is comfort in this and as you persist your world will grow brighter.
2. You Can't Let New Energy In: Even if you are not entirely aware of it, if you are still in contact with your ex then you are giving your energy over to this relationship--a relationship that can no longer be what you need and want. Each time you talk to your ex, work to make contact with your ex, or think about when you will be in contact with your ex next, you siphon off the energy needed to pursue new life experiences.
3. You Live Off Fantasy: If your relationship ended then it ended--what you had with your ex no longer exists. It will never be the same. Continuing the connection means a part of you is still hoping that in some alternate universe there is a chance you and your ex could be together and be happy. As a result, you live off moments of closeness. But each time you come in touch, you are soon reminded that you no longer have your ex and you face crushing disappointment all over again. This roller coaster gets in the way of real life with its actual, opportunities for happiness.
4. You Relive Your Mistakes: Part of what is so hard about managing relationship endings is that the injured party tends to blame themself. In some ways, a relationship ending is an opportunity for personal growth. However, it is a mistake to remain or attempt to remain in contact with your ex in the hope of achieving a redo of whatever you believe you did wrong. Like Groundhog Day, you wake up with the same fears and upsets about yourself as you did the day before. This is because maintaining contact keeps you stuck in limbo, you can't be with your ex and you can't entirely move on. Once you let go, completely, you gain the freedom to live, mostly, unencumbered by the regrets and hurts of yesterday.