Gerry Heisler Ph.D.

Relationship Boot Camp

How to Get Through a Break-up

Here are some suggestions about how to recover from a break-up

Posted May 11, 2011

After a break-up, there can be the initial horrible nightmare stage. Thoughts such as "I can't believe this is happening!", "Should I call?", and "I wonder who he's with now..." begin to run rampant in your head.   Overtime, this shock can go away. The question remains what should I do now that the relationship is over? Process the loss or begin dating soon ?

It's normal and often necessary to work through the loss of a significant relationship. Some even offer a formula, that for every year you are involved, you should not date for one month. For example, if you dated someone for two years, after the breakup, you shouldn't date anyone for two months.

Many can feel like they were hit by a truck when a relationship ends.  They miss and long for the warmth, love, and how things used to be.  Songs, which remind them of the past love, can intrude and disrupt the day.  People who look like him, cars that resemble hers, or driving past places you went to as a couple, can refresh memories you wish would fade.  No new person may seem to compare and nothing may appear to be as meaningful. 

It's like part of you has died.

When a relationship ends, you may become more aware of what can be done or learn what to avoid the next time.  It's not only advantageous to learn from the past, it's absolutely crucial. How else can you start to identify what satisfies you in a relationship if you don't have a range of experiences.

Remember, all of us are flawed. We have to learn how we contributed to our relationship problems. Stop and ponder what you did to cause your loss. After going through some pain, and growth, you can feel more ready to start a meaningful encounter.

Take a look at Terry's experience for example.

It was traumatic for Terry after Anna, whom he had seen for three years, suddenly broke off the relationship.  Without warning, she had told him that it was over because she no longer felt the way she wanted to about him.  She described how she always wanted to be "in love" with someone, and had hoped to find a person she could feel this way about forever.  Though she liked and loved Terry, Anna insisted that she was not "in love" with him and wanted to begin seeing other people.

He felt distraught, like he was going through a nightmare.  He had had no inkling that something was amiss between them.  He cried and kept wishing she would come back.  After some initial attempts to call or write, he soon realized that she had meant what she said and was going her own way. 

 He felt extremely depressed and described how many times in the morning he would wake up and just cry.  His moving description of how he would be sitting at the breakfast table and break into tears has remained a lasting memory.  He reported feeling resentful whenever he saw other couples enjoying one another; he would think about his loneliness and be filled with regret and disappointment.  He didn't feel that he was ready for a superficial relationship.

 Slowly, he began looking at himself and his interactions with Anna.  Instead of repeating the same mistakes blindly by beginning to date someone immediately, he started to realize that he couldn't discount what she had wanted and that he wasn't able to provide it for her; he was unable to be the person with whom she would be "in love" for the rest of her life. 

He also became aware of what satisfied him in a relationship.  He hadn't been willing to compromise.  He, for example, liked watching television and would spend free time in front of the tube, when Anna wanted to do other things.  If he were to make a future relationship work, he decided he would have to be less controlling and more compromising and flexible.

It wasn't long before Terry started to enjoy the freedom of being alone.  He began doing more of what he wanted without worrying about whether other people's plans fit into his.  If he got an impulse to do something, he did it, regardless of whether others were able to join him. 

Instead of spending long periods of time waiting for others to call, or hoping others would include him in their plans, he initiated activities.  He began reaching out to more people, and when he did date, he didn't become involved with only one woman.  He started forming networks of friendships with men and women and his need to have one special person with whom he could relate lessened.  He became happier with himself. 

After a while, he expressed how he felt more ready for a good relationship because he could now be less dependent on his new partner.  He also realized that he wouldn't expect as much in his next relationship.  He had taken the time to become aware of what he wanted, and had learned to be able to nurture and support himself.

Terry's patience and discoveries represent an important example of what many people need to do, but don't allow themselves to experience.  He required less of another person and, thus, was able to maintain a better relationship.  His potential partners wouldn't have to provide as much to satisfy him.

As you can see with Terry's story, loss can provide a time of pain and soul searching. For many, hopefully, it can present an opportunity to develop.  The suffering may provide a better conduit to bring some closer to their Higher Power as they understand what's happening isn't just some random incident but may have some deeper meaning.

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