Women

Surviving A Relationship Break-Up

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When a relationship ends you can't speed up the healing process, but you can take control of your grief

You spend weekends at home alone. You pick up the phone 10 times a day. And when Adele sings "sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts Instead," you're right in there, crooning away into your hairbrush. Whether it was the love of your life or the love for right now, working through the pain of a break-up can sometimes last longer than the relationship itself. And while there may be no way to actually speed up the process, it is possible to turn heartache into a positive experience, says Tonja Evetts Weimer, a US relationship coach and author of Thriving After Divorce (Simon and Schuster, $24.99). Unfortunately, for most of us, the pain of rejection leaves us stumbling around, making mistakes.     

When a relationship ends you can't speed up the healing process, but you can take control of your grief

"You're not rational when you break up with someone," Weimer says. "People come out of a break-up and they want to run right out and start dating again. People are so desperate to be validated again and to see if anyone can care about them because they feel so unlovable. You're just crazy and you don't know what you're doing."

Yet there are strategies you can use to help you recover and move on with your life.

Accept the heartache

Fatalistic as it sounds, it's important to understand and accept that, good or bad, love will end whether through divorce or death. And when it does, it will undoubtedly hurt.            

"If one person doesn't want you - the person who knows you best, knows you inside and out, and looks you up and down and says 'nah', it's humiliating," says Piver. "The probability of heartbreak in a love affair is extremely high, because eventually it's going to end.

"So if it's inevitable, we can relax. We can stop trying to make ourselves safe. When you connect to the reality of impermanence, love blossoms. Nothing lasts forever, so value it for what it is, experience it, dive into it and don't take it for granted."

Take time out

Tempting as it may be to accept the first date you're asked out on, now is not the time. Instead, says Weimer, take time to decompress and pamper yourself.    

Rather than pressure yourself to jump into the dating game straight away, do things that make you happy, bring out the positives in your life and leave you feeling fulfilled. Join a gym, take up a new hobby or take that adult education course you've been eyeing off. "Be a good mother to yourself”, she says. "I'm too fat too old, too ugly. Who would ever want me?" According to Susan Piver, author of The Wisdom of the Broken Heart (Simon and Schuster, $40), those are some of the most common things the newly heartbroken tell themselves. "My big heartbreak happened when I was 32 and I thought, "Who will want a 32-year-old bartender?'" she laughs.” You think you're not sexy enough, or womanly enough or talented enough."

“You think you're not sexy enough, or womanly enough or talented enough

“You think you're not sexy enough, or womanly enough or talented enough"

Yet overcoming self-doubt can be tough. "[We] think of ourselves as unworthy and the world constantly piles on messages about how we're not pretty enough or thin enough," says Weimer. But, she adds, every time you hear yourself reciting a negative phrase, reframe it. If you think you're too fat, think, 'If I don't like my weight, I have the power to change it' or' I’m not too old to have fun, be loved and have friends'.       

"Negative self-talk comments are cruel and they're not true, and they undermine your heart and your spirit, "Weimer says.

Ditch the drainers

If your ex-partner got the lounge room furniture and the toaster in the divorce, give him something else as well: all those friends who mask their jealousy and negativity as 'friendly advice'. "If every time you walk away [from these friends], you feel tired, even though they have wonderful things about them, let them go, "says Weimer.

And negative friends are just the start, she says. "Clear out your cupboards, tidy the kitchen table of paper, declutter the garage - whatever drains the energy out of you. Get rid of people and things that aren't healthy for you." Tidying your home will be easy - ditching a long-time friend who always manages to get in a dig won't be. Either let them go by natural attrition as you move forward in life or have a conversation with them. "You bless them and send them on their way, "says Weimer.

Time into your pain

You may live with the pain of loss every day, but unless you really face it you'll delay your recovery. "If you pretend it's not happening and you displace your sorrow into anger, it prolongs the situation," says Piver. "The path to healing is feeling." In other words, Piver advises tuning into your pain when it strikes. Is it a hot, burning feeling in your stomach or a cold patch over your heart? By locating where your pain sits physically, you can focus on that rather than how it got there in the first place.

The minute you start to tell what Pivercalls' a story' -'I wouldn't be feeling this way if...' or 'I'll never find love again. Dismiss it and focus on the feeling again.

"You've allowed the feeling to be there," Piver says. "It's like making friends with someone you don't like but rather than ignoring them, you talk to them. This is really about descending from the head to the heart. And there's wisdom to be found in a broken heart, "she adds.

Let go of unfinished business

The last word - everyone wants it. But even if you had it during your break-up, there are always unfinished conversations in your head that, once started, never seem to end. 

When it comes to healing a broken heart, cyclical thinking is dangerous. By dwelling on issues that will never get resolved, you can't move forward. 

Let go of unfinished business

There are two solutions:  either pull yourself up the minute you jump on board the merry-go-round or sit down and pretend to have a chat with your ex, says Weimer. "Sit in a quiet room and say everything you want to say - you may uncover what it is you really want to say. It probably doesn't have a lot to do with him."

Close the circle

Like so many relationships, sometimes you know it's wrong and yet you just can't help yourself. So ask yourself why you were attracted to him. Did he have a quality you admire, but are missing? Is there something about him that reminds you of a past heartache, maybe from your childhood?           

According to Weimer, closing the circle and finding resolution won't come through anyone but you. You might search for someone who will give that thing to you, she says, but that's the wrong approach. "Try to identify what he represented. [For example], it could be affection. You think he's the one to give it, but when he doesn't you repeat the pattern of searching for it. Instead, start giving it to yourself."

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