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Surviving and Thriving After a Bad Break-up

Surviving and Thriving After a Bad Break-up

When we are in a relationship with someone we love, we sometimes lose ourselves. What “I” need suddenly gets taken over by what “we” need . . . well, let’s be honest, by what “he” needs. This can be good in a healthy relationship . . . putting the other person’s needs before our own. But in a bad relationship, this can become unhealthy.

What happens, then, if your lover decides to leave you? You may become desperate. Why, why, WHY would he want to leave you when your whole world revolves around him? You might try anything to get him to stay. You may think, “If he only knew how much I love him, he wouldn’t leave.” Or, you may begin begging him to stay, making promises to give him even more than you already do. Or you may get angry, telling him you don’t love him and never have.

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

These are natural reactions, but do they help? Unfortunately, no. The harder we try to keep our lover from leaving us, the more anxious he is to leave. Our only choice is to let him go. I know, this is not what you were hoping to hear. Sadly, I don’t have a magic wand to wave that will make it all better. (I don’t have a golden pumpkin either.)

What now? As my therapist used to say, “Take a bathtub moment.” Crawl into a warm bath, and cry your eyes out. You will need more than one of these. Rinse and repeat.

Your first task is to grieve. Yuck. I know. No one wants to grieve. However, if you don’t, your grief will come back to haunt you later. “We don’t bury our feelings dead, we bury them alive.” We think they are buried and gone, but they will rear their ugly little heads later. Perhaps, at your best friend’s wedding you will begin sobbing uncontrollably. Not a good look for a bridesmaid. Perhaps when you are giving a presentation at work to your boss, her boss and her boss, you break down. Not a way to move up the ladder. Trust me.

What does purposeful grieving look like? This will look different for each person. Some will crawl into bed, and stay there for three days. Others will want to journal their feelings. Still others might take long walks, or sob on their best friend’s shoulder. Whatever works for you, do it. If you feel yourself falling into a serious depression (feeling depressed every moment for more than two weeks), seek some counseling—you might need an anti-depressant for a while. Though it may seem counter-intuitive, allowing yourself to feel the pain will make it go away faster in the long run.

Grieving will take longer than you want it to. But, doing nothing but grieving is not a good way to move on. Neither is hooking up with your hot next-door neighbor. Finding a new man right away might feel good, but it is not good. It will only distract you from your pain for a time; remember . . . feelings are buried alive. Your buried grief at the loss of your first man won’t endear you to a second.

So, besides grieving, which let’s admit it will suck, what else can you do? Try some self-care. Begin doing things you like to do that maybe you stopped doing while you were with your lover. Do you like eating vegetarian, but he loved steak? Do you like to watch sappy romances, while he only wanted to watch action films? Was he a night owl, and you are an early bird? Try to remember the things you loved to do before you met him, and begin doing them. Reconnect with (girl) friends you might have dropped when he came along.

In addition to this emotional self-care, do some physical self-care. Exercise can relieve depression. Maybe you were never a marathon runner, but you can take a walk around the block. Maybe you once enjoyed yoga at the gym, but your lover always wanted you to lift weights with him. Getting outside, or around like-minded others and doing some physical exercise will truly lift your spirits.

Don’t pig out on potato chips or chocolate or alcohol. This won’t elevate your mood in the long run. Stepping on the scale to see you’ve gained 10 pounds, or waking up with a raging hangover won’t help. Be kind to your body . . . it has been through a lot, too! Eat healthy food, exercise, and make sure you get a yearly check-up with a doctor, or see the doctor if you get sick.

One more thing that can really help, surprisingly, is to volunteer to help others. Stepping outside yourself can do wonders for you. Helping someone who has a harder life than you can help you put your troubles in perspective. Who do you have a heart for? The homeless? Volunteer at your local rescue mission. The elderly? Did you know that many nursing home residents never receive any visitors? Children? Try volunteering at your local public school, church Sunday School class, or community after-school program.

What are some other benefits of volunteering? You might meet new friends who are passionate about the same cause. Volunteering can also lead to paying jobs, either because those who work there see your dedication to their population, or you might meet and impress people who will offer you a job elsewhere.

Once you have done all this work getting your life back, your ex-lover might come sniffing around again. The fact that you are strong, know what you want, and take care of yourself might seem very attractive to him. Ask yourself . . . do you really want him back, or are you better off without him?

The decision is yours.


by Caroline Abbott