There’s no two ways about it; relationships, especially those of the romantic kind, are challenging. As if the relationship itself isn’t enough of a challenge then the heart break that ensues takes us to a whole new level. Irrespective of who ended the relationship feelings of hurt and failure are natural for both parties. When a relationship ends it’s difficult to see the light of day and to feel that we’ll ever have a life again. The truth is that there IS life after heartbreak, in fact there’s a whole world after heartbreak.
So before you indulge in a tub of ice cream and message your ex saying you miss him, stop!
Here is a step by step guide to facilitate the healing process;
• Feel it and let it go
Following a break up many women throw themselves into their work or build up their social calendars to keep them from thinking about the past. It’s true, thinking about what has been or what could’ve been is destructive and sends us into analysis paralysis. In any case it does not change what has happened. The key here is not to think but to feel. Perhaps there are predominant feelings of anger or sadness? Whatever the feeling, the best way to process them is to allow yourself to feel it. This doesn’t mean wallowing in self pity but rather dedicating time to feel what you’re experiencing. If you’re sad, give yourself permission to cry. (Going out and keeping busy will not take the hurt away and may even prolong it)
If you’re angry allow yourself to express your anger (in a healthy manner of course – plotting revenge is not healthy). I’ve found a great exercise for expressing anger is to get a big piece of paper and in the middle to write “I’m angry” and then brainstorm why.
Feeling the emotion is a key element in helping ourselves to heal and move forward. Part of the healing process is to accept that you won’t feel ‘okay’ today but the more you allow yourself to feel your emotion, the quicker it will pass and the more solid your wellbeing in future. Emotion builds when we don’t allow ourselves to feel what we’re really feeling. Strong emotions suppressed over time can lead to depression or negative behavioural patterns.
• Start a new relationship…with yourself!
Women have a tendency to feel the loss of a relationship more because they tend to dedicate so much energy to relationships. Women also tend to define themselves through their relationships. When the other party is ‘no longer’ they feel the emptiness and interpret themselves as failures. The truth is that whilst a relationship is a beautiful thing; it is never a defining factor of who we are.
The end of a relationship is the perfect opportunity to start a relationship with yourself. If some of the key elements of a relationship are communication, quality time and respect, why not see how you can give these to yourself?
o Start a journal
o Spend time doing things you’ve wanted to do but never had the time for
o Do things that make you feel great – exercise is a great way to get those endorphins (the feel good chemicals in the brain) flowing.
o Spend time with people who build you up
o Take time out for yourself
It’s important to be gentle with yourself following a break up. Try not to overload yourself with work or social activity. Whilst I don’t advocate diets anyway (lifestyle is the key word here), this is DEFINITELY not the time to go on diet or to try to force restrictions on yourself. Diets tend to ‘reiterate’ the fact that we’re not perfect; remember that you’re worth loving. That said finding solace at the bottom of a few tubs of ice cream will not heal the heart ache and will only serve to make you feel worse in the end.
• (Talk it) Over and out
For some bizarre reason women interpret a break up as not being good enough. The truth is that when someone breaks up with you they may have their reasons but those reasons are established from their perspective; it’s not a matter of not being good enough – it’s a matter of not being right for that person. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you; it just means you were not right for each other.
Get perspective on the situation by talking out your feelings with someone and preferably someone objective. Deep heart ache affects us on all levels so it may be helpful to process with a therapist.
Processing with the help of an objective party can help us to see ‘the light’ and get some perspective. Whilst a therapist will help to process the pain, a good coach will enable you to move forward from a place of strength.
Processing will also help to avoid building belief systems that do not serve you such as “all men are evil” or “I’ll never open my heart again” or even “I won’t love because I keep getting hurt”.
• The road to forgiveness
If you’ve been hurt in a relationship it’s easy to get stuck in a blame game but the key to moving forward is forgiveness and that means forgiveness for yourself just as much as the other party. The truth is that 2 people contribute towards a relationship so there’s never more than 50% of the responsibility to be taken or given.
Okay great so how? Sit down, take out 2 pieces of paper and write two letters; one to yourself and the other to your ex. In the letter to yourself, write down how you feel about the relationship. Forgive yourself in the letter for any ways you may have contributed to the end of the relationship and give yourself permission to move on. When you’re done, burn it so that you get closure.
In the letter to your ex write down everything you want to say. If you think it will be of benefit to him, give it to him but where you’ve cut contact or where the emotions are too raw, rather burn the letter after you’ve written it. Before you do, at the very end of the letter make sure you say “thank you” and wish him well. Why? Well let’s talk school fees…
Since we were little we’ve been fed stories of “happily ever after” and some of us have come to think that relationships are meant to be fairy tales. The truth is that relationships are messy and often have more to show us (about ourselves) than they do about fairy tales. Only do this exercise once the raw emotion has passed but sit down and think about what the relationship taught you about yourself. Don’t worry too much about the other person but what did YOU learn? Maybe you learnt that what you thought you wanted isn’t necessarily true. Maybe you began to see some of your patterns of behaviour played out in the relationship? Relationships can be massive opportunities for growth so use it as a platform for self growth and to see what you want out of your next relationship.
Plan for the future
For some reason most women are scared to ask for what they want so they end up with whatever comes around then when the relationship doesn’t work out they wonder why. I’m not for one moment saying write a list of the type of relationship you want for your future. Writing “he needs to be a lawyer” will not serve you as much as writing down the TYPE of relationship you want. Put your list of top 3 values for example fun, integrity and quality time.
Think about the ways you most experience love and the ways you most want to experience love in the future.
Books to read
Need some down time? Heart break is a perfect opportunity to read some pearls of wisdom from those who’ve been there;
• In the Meantime by Iyanla Vanzant
• The One by Kathy Freston
• The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
• Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
• Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places by me
Lastly remember that you will recover. Be gentle with yourself and in time you’ll begin to see that some relationships end so that new one’s can begin.
Lisa is the author of “Looking for Love in all the wrong places”
For more information go to http://www.lisasteingold.com