Grief and Its Impact on Relationship Selection

If you are still actively grieving the loss of a previous relationship, that grief can have devastating effects on the type of person you choose for a new relationship. Many people do not realize they are grieving when a relationship ends, which actually places them at risk of choosing dangerously while being impaired by their grief.

Some people assume that grief occurs only if your partner has recently died and if you are currently still saddened by the loss. But actually, grieving occurs when any relationship ends—whether it is anticipated, desired, prepared for, or not. The longer the relationship existed, the longer the grief normally takes to run its course.

People are often distressed to learn that there should be a ‘time-out’ from dating or future relationships when a relationship has ended. The rule of thumb is 6 months’ time-out for every 5 years of relationship. So if you were with someone (married or not) for 10 years, that would mean you take 1 year off (at least) from being in a relationship or dating. I get horrified reactions to that because most people think, “just get back out there; the best way to get over someone is with someone else.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

Many of my clients ended up in counseling with me because they did exactly that. While still grieving from a previous relationship, they made some bad choices in the selection of their next relationship which caused them even more problems and pain. When you are coming out of a relationship, you are in pain even if you aren’t acknowledging it, even if you wanted out of the relationship, even if you had planned for the ending of it. When you are in pain, you are not in your best decision-making mind. When issues of the previous relationship are not resolved, many people go on to choose someone just like the person in the relationship that just ended. Subconsciously they are trying to work out those relationship issues—but with a new person instead of the one they just left.

Drastically, many people jump from one relationship to the next to avoid being alone. Alone does not necessarily have to mean loneliness. But in these cases, people don’t really care about the quality of the next relationship. They only desire to avoid themselves and the feelings of the lost relationship. These are issues for the person to work out with a professional because people who cannot be alone are at a significant risk of choosing anyone to avoid being alone.

The baggage we carry from the last relationship has the ability to impact current and future relationships. Ideally, none of us want to hurt new relationships with our old relationship issues that are unresolved. That’s why time off between relationships helps us get some distance where we can assess the good and bad things of the relationship—our part in it, the types of people who we tend to select and whether we need to make some changes. These insights do not happen overnight or even within a few weeks. That is why following the formula listed above protects you from your own impaired relationship choices. Sometimes it allows enough time for you to see that you might need a few counseling sessions to work out your anger or fear, or look deeper at your relationship selection patterns.

The longer we wait and the more we work on ourselves between relationships, the better chances we have of bringing a more healthy self to the next relationship and being able to spot potential bad dating choices.

(**If we can support you in your recovery process, please let us know. The Institute is the largest provider of recovery-based services for survivors of pathological love relationships. Information about Pathological Love Relationships is in our award-winning book, Women Who Love Psychopaths, and is also available in our retreats, 1:1s, or phone sessions. See the website for more information.)