Category Archives: breakup

How to get over your ex and get on with your life

The painful experience of a breakup can stick with us, preventing us from showing up fully for our lives and creating a great life that we can be excited about. There are a couple of patterns that we can get stuck in: We can find ourselves pining after our ex, idealizing our past relationship and believing that this person was perfect for us. Alternatively, we can believe they were the worst, and hold on to resentment for what they did to us. Neither of these patterns allows us to be present. Fortunately, you can learn to get over your ex and get on with your life.

Keeping the old flame alive

Guy (names are changed for privacy) was convinced that Laura was the only woman for him. He had never really fallen in love before, he was ready to have a “real” relationship, and he felt like she was the perfect person for him to share life with. When Laura broke up with him, she broke his heart. For weeks that turned into months, his friends noticed that he was struggling, and they were surprised, as they had never seen him so vulnerable. His first instinct was to try to win her back. They faltered for a few more months, but finally it became clear that they were not going to make it. He suffered, and then he realized he had two choices: hang on to idealizing Laura, living in the past; or let her go, realize that their relationships was not as perfect as he wanted to believe, and move forward with his life. He finally chose the second option. He started going out with friends, then started dating, and in about six months he was ready to open up to the possibility of falling in love again.

Holding on to a hot coal

Grace was so angry with her ex; she felt betrayed and was sure that she would never forgive him. He had cheated on her and broken up their family. She told him that she would hate him till the day she died, and she meant it. When she ran into him at their children’s sporting events, she gave him dirty looks, barely spoke to him, and made it clear to everyone who saw them that she despised him. Her children couldn’t help but notice, either.

None of this made the situation easier or healthier for anyone involved ― especially the children. Grace didn’t care. Finally she realized that she was stuck in the past, and that this was not serving her. She realized that her children were hurting because of her animosity toward their dad. Grace understood that she would never be able to open up to a new love if she held on to this anger. Buddha said that holding on to anger is like holding onto a hot coal: we are the one getting burned. Grace understood this, and chose to let her anger, and her ex, go.

Cultivate the opposite

Yoga sutra book 2, sutra 33 tells us that when a negative thought is present, we should cultivate its opposite. Guy and Grace both chose to recognize their negative thoughts and to replace them with the opposite. Guy reframed his experience, practicing telling himself that Laura was not perfect for him. If he wanted a relationship, he would certainly find another love. Grace practiced telling herself that while her ex’s actions were hurtful and destructive, she choose to let it go anyway. She chose to leave the past in the past, and allow herself to be happy for what she had. This created the opening for new love.

During the first months after a loss, it is perfectly healthy and normal to feel the full range of feelings: denial, anger, bargaining, guilt, depression. For more on the stages of grief after a breakup, read my last post here. Eventually we need to get to the place of acceptance. This allows us to show up in a big way in our lives, be fully present with the people we love, and make the contributions we are here to make.

Breakups hurt. They also make us stronger, if we let them. You can get through it!

The stages of grief over a breakup

The loss of a significant relationship throws us inelegantly into a deep grieving process. The stages of grief over a  breakup are sometimes thought of as unfolding in a neat, linear progression, with one step following after the other to their inevitable conclusion of acceptance.

That’s not how it works. Grieving is messy. Its stages are circular, not linear, as we move back and forth among them and visit them again and again. There are probably more than the five stages Elizabeth Kubler Ross set forth. How many among us, for example, have felt guilt after a breakup? At the very outset, how many of us experience shock?  Most importantly, some people can get stuck in a stage (often anger or depression) without ever experiencing acceptance and hope.

The stages of grief over a breakup

It can be helpful to have a sense of the terrain ahead, in order to know you are not alone, and you certainly are not crazy, as the grieving process moves through you. Here are some pointers:

Shock.

No matter how bad things were, when the relationship comes to an end you might be in shock, especially if you are the one being left. You may find yourself literally shaking, experiencing a physical manifestation of shock. It can be very hard to assimilate your new reality. Be kind to yourself. This is a painful stage and one that you will not likely stay in for long, or revisit very often.

Denial.

This can be denial of the breakup, or denial of your pain. When we experience denial, our subconscious mind is protecting us from our new reality. As Pooh said, you are braver than you think, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. And you will get through this.

Guilt.

It is actually important to acknowledge the ways in which we contributed to our relationship’s demise, or we will be doomed to repeat the pattern. As we know, our lessons become more painful until we finally learn them. On the other hand, holding on to feelings of guilt causes stagnation. Better to learn the lesson and leave the guilt behind. In the final analysis, you and your ex came together in order to teach and learn, and grow and then …go.

Anger.

Oh, how anger makes us feel powerful! It is ego; our real strength comes from our spiritual side. Yet anger is a very useful stage in our healing process. Go ahead and get mad, especially if you are uncomfortable with anger.  Anger can fuel action and help us set boundaries. It is not a healthy place to stay, but it certainly can be a useful emotion to access when we need to draw on it.

Bargaining.

When we are bargaining, we tell ourselves we would do whatever they wanted. “It was all my fault. I will never leave a pile of clothes on the floor again; I will pick a better therapist; I will answer your texts right away; I will be your perfect mate.” When we are in the bargaining stage, we over-own our part in the relationship’s demise. This is illusion, and you wouldn’t have liked it that way in the long run. Be real with yourself, and kind to yourself. It’s just a phase.

Depression.

It is natural and normal to feel depressed after a breakup. You can move through this phase more quickly and smoothly when you engage in activity (walk, run, learn a new sport); set goals (set out to accomplish something meaningful, train for a race, learn guitar); turn to friends (join a meetup, a hiking club); and to recognize, again and again, that this too shall pass.

Acceptance and hope.

After working through all the stages of grieving after a breakup, we find ourselves in the stage of acceptance, with renewed hope for our future. This final stage is not a given, however; people can stay in the anger stage, feeling like a victim of their ex; this prevents healthy growth, forming new relationships, and does not lead to a happy, productive life. Or we can get stuck in depression, closing our hearts and shutting down our energy field, cutting ourselves off from Life. But if you are brave, strong, and smart, then you can dig in and show up for your learning. As you move through the process you will find that you are better off than you were before.

Final thoughts

When we lean in to the grieving process and do our work, we have a tremendous opportunity for growth. It hurts… but in time, it doesn’t hurt so much. When we are brave, and strong, and smart about our breakup, we find ourselves on the other side, braver, stronger and smarter than ever before.

One last thought: ask yourself, why would you want to be with someone who doesn’t make you feel wonderful about yourself? You deserve better!

Five ways to soothe your heart after a breakup

If you are grieving over the breakup of your marriage or significant relationship, take heart: When you arm yourself with the tools to get through this crisis, you will find yourself on the other side, happier, healthier, and stronger than you thought you could be. It helps to have strategies and a plan. Here are five ideas to get you started.

  1. Remember the bigger picture. We humans grow through pain. (Ugh.) Of course, not everyone takes advantage of the opportunity for growth that our painful experiences contain. More’s the pity. For those of us who lean in to our experience, hold ourselves to account, and ask ourselves, “What am I meant to learn from this? How do I want to be after going through this?” there is a terrific opportunity to become more of the best of what we already are. Reframing your breakup or divorce in this light helps keep things in a healthier perspective.
  2. Take care of yourself. Going through the pain of a breakup or divorce might be the best time in your life to get good self-care: regular massage or facials, to get back to your yoga mat, to try Reiki or Healing Touch or SRT or energy work or energy psychology. Take a class. Paint. Play the guitar. However you choose to do it, make time and commitment to take care of yourself. You deserve it.
  3. Call a friend. But be careful about which friend you call. There are those who talk us off the ledge, and those who make us want to jump. Pick the calming ones. And be sure to ask them about how they are doing. It is so helpful to think about someone else’s problems, instead of our own. And it makes us a better friend.
  4. Be patient with yourself. Healing takes time. Even when you are giving it your best effort, it still takes time. Some days you will feel better, and then on other days you will feel worse again. That’s how it goes. But little by little, your heart is healing. You keep putting one foot in front of the other. You hurt, you cry, and then you feel happy, and you laugh…And that’s how life goes. After the darkness comes the light.
  5. I know, it’s hard under the best of circumstances, and when we are in pain, it seems impossible to connect and sustain our attention. Try anyway. Your Higher Self will appreciate your effort, and you will find that you are sustained by your Source, even if you think you can’t “get there.” The effort is more important than the apparent result. Luckily there are so many great guided meditations available on line today, you don’t have to work so hard. In fact, this can be a great time to take up the practice, and start to connect more deeply to Who you really Are. Pretty cool.

Every crisis contains the seeds for growth and transformation. Going through a breakup or divorce is certainly a crisis: painful, common, and growth-promoting. The practices suggested here are like tilling, watering, and adding sunlight. Do this, and we can grow into something amazing, healthy, strong, and resilient. And that is beautiful.