Breaking up may be hard to do, but getting over it can be even harder. When an intimate or long-term relationship ends, you might feel a combination of sadness, anger and loneliness. A breakup is a significant loss and a mourning period is important. But take heart—you won’t be miserable forever.
The most effective way to get through the distressing roller coaster of feelings following a breakup and termination of a relationship is to both to honor and process one’s feelings, but, at the same time, institute behaviors that rein in the feelings that keep you in the “hamster cage” of obsessive negative feelings.
Right after the breakup, give yourself an opportunity to vent. Cry, shout, spend a self-indulgent weekend wallowing in memories, and then start thinking about moving on. “Closet yourself up with mementos and talk to everyone about (the breakup),” suggests Sherry Amatenstein, the Dating Doyenne of ivillage.com and author of the book, Love Lessons from Bad Breakups, “but then you want to let it go as much as possible.”
Using a behavioral approach helps quicken the eventual healing and resolution of the loss. Balancing the acknowledgement of one’s pain with positive behavioral techniques can quicken your path to eventual resolution and moving on.
Strategies for Surviving a Breakup
• Find a neutral party to talk to, preferably someone who is patient and understanding as well as being “on your side.” Having someone to “talk you off the ledge,” so to speak, and give you perspective is very helpful. Instead of calling your ex, call your “break up buddy” instead.
• Do things to take care of yourself. Eat well, exercise, get massages, see a therapist. As you begin to feel better, act to help others. Volunteer to help others who are less fortunate. Give back and pay it forward. Volunteer work often alleviates depression, while sharing your talents with a worthy cause provides an instant self-esteem boost.
• Do not jump into any rebound or committed relationships. Socializing and friendships are important, but keep any physically intimate relationships limited. Do not jump into any romantic relationships.
• Get busy doing the activities you may have put aside or explore interests that you may have or had a passion for in the past. Take time for extended family and spearhead pro-social events. Reacquaint yourself with old family and school friends.
• Breakups, like divorce or death, can have a range of complicated issues for yourself as well as for your children. If you feel stuck in your grief, please consider giving Dr. Standal a call. Healing takes time, but every broken heart mends. Reach out to family and friends, take care of yourself and start to enjoy your independence.
Keep in mind Paul Simon’s song, “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”: “Get out the back, Jack, make a little plan, Stan, and split.”
Below is a short, concise behavioral recipe that may help you let go of a relationship more easily. It may seem to be brutal in its directness and simplicity and in some ways not exactly “politically correct,” but it will end bondage and get you out of a negative involvement fast, whether it is with a person, an object, or a self-destructive way of thinking. This will save you valuable time that can be spent in establishing more productive relationships. Good luck; you’re on your way!
Step 1: Make a Decision
1. Do you want to stop the pain? It’s your choice. You can feel whatever you choose to feel. There was a time when you didn’t love him/her: Remember it!
2. No one except you controls your feelings. Exercise that control. If you’re telling yourself that you’re helpless, you’re selling yourself a bill of goods. You are decisive; repeat it until you believe it. And remember, the very act of making a suggestion has great power.
3. A bad decision is better than no decision. Nothing is more crippling than indecisiveness. Conflict is the major source of all anxiety. A decision will end the conflict.
4. You will get over it, and you will feel better.
5. Don’t delay. As soon as you’ve made the decision to get out of your failing relationship, don’t delay! Move! A thought not actualized soon dies.
Step 2: Act “As If”
6. Act the part of someone who no longer loves their lover.
7. Don’t wait for your feelings to change. Behave as if they already have.
8. Change your behavior first. Your attitude will change later. Appear unaffected.
9. Play it cool. A partner who means nothing to you is incapable of moving you. Your partner now means nothing to you. You do not love him or her.
10. Don’t argue with them. They’re not worth the effort.
11. Don’t speak of injustices or wrongs that have been done to you in the past. You really don’t care how they treat you. Their approval or disapproval is absolutely meaningless to you.
12. Indifference is your final objective. You wish to conclude this relationship without loving or hating them.
13. Laugh when you feel like crying.
14. Laughing or smiling whenever they say something to hurt you will lessen the pain somewhat, as well as help you learn the role of someone who is out of love. A positive emotion always blocks a negative one. Smiling will make playing the part easier.
15. Do not be rude. That only shows you still care.
16. Do not bother about your looks.
17. Do not worry how your clothes or hair appear to him/her. Your “ex” is going to become just one of the crowd. Do not give them the power of being someone you want to impress or look special for.
18. Fight the tendency to make them see what they are going to be missing.
19. Forget the old Hollywood scene where the tables turn when the deserting lover sees how beautiful the hero or heroine has become after some time has passed. This happens only in the movies!
Step 3: Dealing with Your Rival
20. If you know for a fact that another man or woman deliberately took your lover from you and should you run into them, you must act cordial.
21. A rival is not worthy of your anger. This relationship isn’t worth being upset over. You’re above that now.
22. Be thankful. Your rival rescued you from a person you do not love. Remember, this is the part you are playing. And you must behave as a method actor would in your role.
Step 4: Pretend You Are Falling Out of Love
23. You are falling out of love. Imagine it. Think that it’s actually happening. Pretend you no longer love this person.
24. Images have great power. Images are what put you in love in the first place. The thought of how wonderful, appealing, and sensitive he or she is and how right they are for you are all images.
25. Change your imagery! Change your self-image. You are a person who is not in love with anyone.
Step 5: Don’t Believe That You Are Loved
26. Don’t listen when they say they love you. What could be a bigger lie? Love doesn’t cause this much pain. You must believe this truth to break the bond.
27. Imagine they don’t love you. Tell yourself they don’t love you. Believe they don’t love you!
28. A primary reason people remain in negative relationships is that they believe their ex-relationship can’t make it without them. They are then usually amazed at just how well the other half can survive alone, often better than they do themselves!
Step 6: Imagine You Are Desired by Someone Much More Attractive Than Your Present Lover
29. The more pain the relationship causes you, the lower your self-esteem is going to fall. And often the less you think of yourself, the more you think of your lover. By comparison, your ex appears to be more and more of a catch for someone as unworthy, unattractive, unassertive, and unassuming as you.
30. You created your lover’s pedestal. Now knock them off of it! Their image and desirability is soaring at your expense.
31. You can do a lot better than your present lover. They only bask in the regard you give them. Practice an image every day in which a much more appealing person yearns to be your lover. Create a whole scene, an entire situation, and as you come to believe it, the dazzle of your current love will dim.
32. Believe you have no rival, even if you do. Make your own reality. And never try to find out if another person is competing with you. It is better not to know. That makes it easier to imagine that there isn’t one.
33. The chief cause of unhappiness in love is jealousy. Imagine you have no competition, and you will not be a slave to this green-eyed monster.
34. Remember that thinking of your lover’s affection for another always increases your own desire.
Step 7: Imagine He Lies in Bed Alone
35. Imagining the person you loved in someone else’s arms can be the most agonizing of all love’s barbs. For the sake of your own sanity, as well as ending your feelings of love, you must imagine that they sleep alone.
36. Imagine not being attracted to your lover.
37. Once a day, rehearse an image in which you meet your lover on the street and you feel absolutely nothing—no desire, no love, no physical attraction, and no anxiety.
38. Every sensation you’ve ever experienced is permanently recorded in your brain. You have the ability to replay any of these sensations, experiencing them as vividly as you originally did. You also have the ability not to play these recordings. The love you feel for your lover is recorded in your cortex, but you must refuse to recall it.
39. If you can imagine seeing your lover and feeling nothing, you can do it in reality as well.
40. Do not read romance novels with characters who are also suffering; it only leads to more pain. Don’t do it.
Step 8: Avoid Affectionate Couples
41. Newlyweds and couples who show how in love they are should be avoided. You don’t want to pick up on their feelings, because you can only direct them back to the person you no longer wish to love.
42. For the moment, you do not want to be in love at all, so stay away from anyone who might display these feelings.
43. Avoid romantic movies, love stories, and poetry.
44. Resist the enormous temptation to be self-indulgent. Why is it that people with broken hearts watch the saddest soap operas and read the thickest paperback romances? Why do people love to “cry in their beer” so much? Maybe it’s a relief to feel sorry for yourself for a while or to notice it in others on the screen. Identifying with someone who is brokenhearted will only make you more depressed.
45. Unattached singles are your best companions at this time. Many of your friends may be married or dating or living with someone special, so they are not good for you now, even though they mean well and will try to help ease your loneliness. It is better to be lonely than it is to be constantly reminded of what you do not have. Explain this to them and they will understand. Your condition is only temporary.
46. Associate with people who feel the way you want to feel: secure, independent, and, most of all, not in love.
Step 9: Believe It’s Over
47. Repeated rehearsal of being out of love leads to the belief that you are.
48. How does someone in love act? Visualize yourself doing the opposite. Then do it in reality!
49. Rehearsal is over. You are now the character.
50. Be with friends who are out of love. Not being consumed with love sickness is a good model for sanity, as well as a source of support.
By Lauren Greenwood de Beer © 2001 Achieve Solutions Source: www.ivillage.com; Love Lessons from Bad Breakups by Sherry Amatenstein. Perigree, 2002; After the Breakup: Women Sort Through the Rubble and Rebuild Lives of New Possibilities by Angela Watrous and Carole Honeychurch. New Harbinger Publications, December 1999.
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