by Kerry Hart
Do you find yourself lonely, crying sporadically, watching nonstop chick flicks and eating copious amounts of ice cream? Girl, you just got dumped. Or did you? Sometimes breaking up with someone can be a powerful statement of independence, and that, my friend, should be celebrated. Sometimes the end of a relationship is a huge surprise and you find plans made for the future quickly dissolving into nothingness. Either way, you may not be happy about the end of your relationship. It is at this time in the break-up cycle that the unhealthy patterns we have developed over the years start to trickle out. All those unhealthy coping skills we have picked up from our families of origin like emotional eating, crying in public, self-medicating with booze, food, or other unsavory substances will come to the surface. Here are some ways to avoid the downward spiral that can occur from a break up.
“The sooner you allow yourself to feel the realness of your loss, the sooner you will be able to move on and fully heal.”
Out of sight, out of mind
Cut off ties immediately with the ex. Should you decide later to become friends again, so be it. Right now is not that time. Did that person think about your feelings when they stood you up the same night they were supposed to meet your parents? I’m thinking no. During this time, you have permission to put yourself first. Know what works for you and know what will help you move on with as little pain as possible. Keeping in touch right after a break up makes it almost impossible for at least one of you to move on. The person who got dumped may not be you, but that person will consider texts, calls, and platonic hangs so much more than platonic. Be sure to avoid creating false hope by taking some time and some much-needed space.
Take this time to reconnect with friends you lost touch with when you were in the dating haze. Maybe you had a favorite hobby that fell by the wayside while you were dating. Some people like to focus on their physical health, which not only provides therapeutic stress relief, but also helps avoid any extra break-up pounds. Now is a great time to try that new yoga class you have been eyeing, but would have previously cut into your time with your partner. The good news is you have recently found yourself with some free time. Maybe you want to join a culture club or start running again. Whatever your decision, making productive choices will help boost your spirits as you start to feel more accomplished than ever.
When in doubt, write it out
Use tools to remind you of why this break up was the best decision. Keeping a list of qualities about the ex in your phone that proved to be undesirable could help. Most smart phones come with a notes app that is accessible at any time. Start a list of the things you did not like about your ex, about your relationship or reasons why the break up is necessary. As you go about your day-to-day, if depressing thoughts enter your mind, go back to that list to remind yourself why you made the best decision you could in order to take care of yourself. You may even find yourself adding to the list as time goes on, and you find yourself getting stronger. When you are not with this person on the day to day, it can be easy only to remember the things that you miss, or the things that you liked. This can be dangerous for your mental health; be sure you remind yourself of the valid reasons you broke up with this “ex-list.” If physical options work better for you, go grab your son or nephew’s toy dump truck and put it in the back of your closet. When you recall things that you disliked about the ex, write these items on little slips of paper and throw them in your “dump” truck. If you start to miss your ex, you can go back and review the items; however, keeping the truck in your closet will keep the issue out of your sight, and therefore out of your mind.
Sooner than you realize, you will be thinking about this person less and less. You will be able to go throughout your day without sporadically bursting into tears or sadness. The ice cream will eventually disappear from your freezer, and you won’t immediately replace it. Chick flicks will find their way to the bottom of the pile as you find you are getting out of the house and are interacting with real people once again. Most importantly, take time to mourn your relationship.
The sooner you allow yourself to feel the realness of your loss, the sooner you will be able to move on and fully heal.
Kerry Hart, LLMFT is a family therapist located within Grand Rapids Natural Health. She specializes in the treatment of children, teens, couples, and families.