If there’s one area of dating and relationships that has always fascinated me, it’s the dreaded break-up. The way it affects our behaviour, the way we lose all common sense and at times even a little bit of self-respect, it’s difficult to predict just how we’ll react to being dumped. However, for every funny story about how we’ve dealt with the end of our own relationships, there’s a much more serious side to it, a side that presents the dangerous combination of social media and mental health.
Concerns have been raised by a number of leading relationship experts who believe the influence of social media is increasing the impact of break-ups on young people and their mental health. In fact new research shows that a staggering 48% of 16-24 year olds have suffered a negative impact on their mental health as the result of a break-up.
The research commissioned by statusonline.org amongst 1,000 16-24 year olds, reveals that although 90% of the above age group think the best way to end a relationship is face to face, in reality, the temptation to hide behind a screen is too much: 41% have been dumped by text, 33% on social media and 28% have been the victim of ghosting.
The increasing influence of social media on society has meant that young people not only have to deal with the initial impact of the break-up, but also some technological ‘side effects’ as well. The research goes on to show that:
· 38% were sent hurtful private messages
· 27% were harassed with frequent contact online
· 23% had hurtful comments posted or shared about them online
· 14% had nude photos/videos shared publicly by ex-partner
Sarah Abell, relationship expert for statusonline.org said, “The way we use our devices is damaging our ability to break up in a healthy way. If you are in the jungle miles away from your partner or if you are wanting to escape an abusive relationship – texting might be a good idea. But in most other instances, it isn’t.”
“The golden rule is treat people like you would want to be treated. Would you like to be dumped on Snapchat? The majority of young people in the survey said they would want to be told face-to-face but sadly their responses show that isn’t happening as much as they would like. We need to encourage more young people to be kinder and more courageous and not hide behind their screens.”
There was one other statistic revealed in the research that particularly resonated with me:
“62% of young people who have been in a relationship have wanted to end a relationship but not felt able to end it.”
This was something I endlessly struggled with in my teens and early 20s. I just couldn’t do it. So how do we best deal with a break-up? First of all it’s important to remember that there IS a better way of doing things and there IS help out there.
The experts at statusonline.org are offering continued support and advice to young people who are struggling to deal with a break-up, a service which is long overdue in my opinion. Never be embarrassed to seek help in this area, as a mental health ambassador I’ve seen organisations like Status Online have a massively positive impact on young people. Seeking help is brave, and frankly it’s just common sense. Break-ups are a tough part of life and a tough part of growing up, there’s no shame in struggling with it.
In my younger years I have never good at dealing with break-ups, but in all honesty there wasn’t the help on offer that there is now. In fact, have a look at the guide below provided by Status Online, this is some seriously sound advice.
1. Look for the tell-tale signs that it’s over
Some conflict in a relationship is normal but if you’re arguing more often than not, something may need to change.
Consider the causes of the conflict – it may be that they’re actually external pressures such as stress from work, studying or pressures from friends and family.
If can’t be yourself with them or don’t trust them to be there for you when you need them it may be time to call it a day. If you don’t feel safe or if they are abusive, call the police or contact an organisation such as Relate who can connect you with the right support.
Cheating doesn’t always signify the end. Relate counsellor Dee Holmes said, “If your partner has cheated this is often a sign that there are issues in your relationship which need addressing. You may decide you want to end the relationship entirely or if you’re both willing to work at your relationship and have the right support, it’s possible to rebuild trust.”
2. Choose your moment to bring up the subject
Let them know in advance that you want to talk to avoid it being a shock. Be honest, direct but considerate and kind. Choose a time to talk when you’re both sober, calm and away from distractions and try to avoid blame or loaded language.
You might start the conversation by saying “I’ve noticed we don’t seem to be getting on as well and think we need to work out what to do about it.” or “I am not happy”, or “I am not feeling good about the way we are.”
Relationship expert for statusonline.org Sarah Abell suggests “Think about how you would want to be told if someone broke up with you.”
3. Let them down gently
Saying “It’s not you, it’s me” risks sounding cliched or insincere but what is behind this commonly used phrase is how you feel. Talking about yourself can avoid sounding critical – so rather than saying “I don’t like you now I’ve got to know you properly” you could say “I’m not feeling enough of a connection between us”.
Couples therapist Kate Thomson from Tavistock Relationships said “Your partner is unlikely to be in the same place emotionally as you. It may take them some time to catch up. Try to confront difficulties as they occur rather than store them up and finally cause them to explode with frustration or anger. If you can understand and talk about your more vulnerable emotions, it may well make the break-up less stormy.”
4. Talk face to face
There may be situations where you have to end a relationship by text, email, or instant message for example if you haven’t known them for long, they don’t live nearby or you’re escaping an abusive relationship.
However texts and messages can often be misunderstood and interpreted wrongly. Face to face and in private is usually best.
Sarah Abell said: The golden rule is treat people like you would want to be treated. Be kind and courageous and don’t hide behind a screen.
5. Protect yourself from bitterness and online recriminations
Think very carefully before sharing intimate photos or details with another person and don’t do it if you feel under pressure. Your ex could publish any sexual content online which will be entirely outside of your control. Actions like this are a criminal offence so if you find this has happened, contact the police.
If somebody posts something bitter on social media or humiliates you publicly, avoid retaliating publicly. If you do choose to talk to them about it, take the conversation offline.
Be aware that posts showing you ‘having fun’ may create more unhappiness for your ex. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have fun but it’s worth being aware of the impact social media posts could have.
Couple therapist, Kate Thomson from Tavistock Relationships said : Break up in a way that both of you acknowledge the part you had to play in the relationship and how it ended, sharing the loss. That will hopefully eliminate the need for ‘revenge’ acts, the idea that one party was more wronged. If you have been left, the old saying, ‘the best revenge is living well’ may have quite some truth to it – so have fun, rather than sinking to cruel behaviour that you may later feel ashamed of once your life has moved on”.
6. Tread carefully if you want to stay friends
Giving each other some space and time to heal at first may make it possible to remain friends in the long-run. Be honest about new relationships and remember to be kind to and about each other.
Ask yourself, do you need to stay friends? Think about the pros and cons to maintaining contact. It might make you feel less guilty but actually isn’t helpful to them.
Look after yourself – take positive steps like talking to any mutual friends and ask them not to take sides. Accept this is a process that you have to go through and that it will help you to learn about yourself.
Relate counsellor Dee Holmes said “Try to be calm, reasonable and don’t ‘sweat the small stuff’. If breaking up means splitting belongings, ask yourself if it’s really worth an argument over who keeps a pair of sunglasses.
*For more information head to statusonline.org or follow them on Twitter @heystatusonline and Instagram @onlinestatus