My boyfriend of two years and I broke up three months ago and I can't get over him. He was the one that ended it, but we are trying to stay friends. But every time we talk, I just want him back. I'm devastated. How do I move on?
- Heart-broken, 26, California
To put it bluntly, break-up's suck. And you are only three months into yours, so don't expect to be over someone lickety-split who you spent two years of your life loving. There is no easy cure, quick fix, or pill you can take to heal faster; we all just have to go through the pain. No matter who initiates the breakup or what the reasons for it might be, it is followed by a mourning and transition process. It can be just as hard to break up with someone as it is to be dumped, too.
But you are doing something that is detrimental to your heart-break recovery. You are still talking to your ex! Listen, I understand that it is excruciating to go from talking to someone everyday to being on your own. The harder you try to hang on to something that is over, the harder you are making it for yourself. Why fight for someone who does not want you? There is probably part of you that is hopeful you will get back together. By staying friends with him you may be thinking you can reel him back in. Forget it. Have faith that if it is meant to be, you will reunite; but for now it is time to move on with your life. Ex's do not fall into the "friends" category.
Here is my relationship rehab suggestion for you: stop ALL contact with your ex for at least six months. And I mean all forms of contact - in person, over the phone, email, IM, texting, etc. - and NO CHEATNG! If you absolutely must relay a message to him, try to go through a mutual friend. I know it sounds drastic, but trust me, it works. When my ex-fiancé and I broke up, he insisted on no contact and was brilliant for doing so. Even though I missed him like crazy and desperately wanted to talk to him, being forced to withdraw and focus on my own life provided the quickest road to my heart-break recovery.
Another unhealthy "don't:" keeping the fantasy of the relationship alive. You may be torturing yourself by remembering all the good stuff and none of the reasons why you were not a match. Neither living in fantasyland nor the flip side, demonizing an ex, allows you to get over him. Instead, reflect on what you can learn from the relationship, then process the breakup and behave in ways that are balanced and realistic.
I also caution you against quick fixes. You may feel tempted to overeat, drink too much, have a random hook-up, or quickly find another person to date. All quick fixes are Band-Aids rather than cures and in the long run will do more harm than good. If you broke your leg, would you expect to walk on it the next day? Of course not. If you mask, medicate, or deny your feelings, you are likely to get into another relationship that will probably result in another breakup. I recommend lots of time with supportive girlfriends who will not sit around bashing your ex, but rather will simply listen to you while encouraging your healing. Some sessions with a therapist or quality time with an older female mentor could also be helpful.
Six months down the road if you feel like you truly have accepted your life without him in it, then perhaps set up a coffee date with your ex to either get "closure" or take a step towards friendship. But until then, focus on your friendship with yourself and other people in your life who you love and who love you. Be gentle with yourself by giving yourself time to grieve - say goodbye to him and hello to whatever (or whomever) may be ahead.
To evaluate how healthy your relationship rehab program is going, see the checklist below from my first book, Twenty-Something, Twenty-Everything.
Send me your questions by emailing christine at huffingtonpost.com.
Exercise: Breakup Dos and Don'ts
Below is a checklist summarizing all the dos and don'ts of break-ups. Read through the list, thinking about your past breakups, and check off the ones in each category that apply to you.
1. I did not talk to my ex for a significant period of time after our breakup.
2. I made every effort to get out of his or her head and into mine.
3. When reflecting on the relationship, I tried to separate fantasy from reality. I did not torture myself by only thinking about the good. Instead, I reminded myself of the ways it was not what I wanted.
4. I continued to do the things that bring me joy, even if memories of the relationship were attached to them.
5. I began something new on my own, such as a class, a creative project, or redecorating a room.
6. I put all pictures, letters, cards, and so forth from the past relationship in a box in storage.
7. When I ran into people who asked how my "honey" was, and then witnessed their look of shock and pity when I told them it was over, I resisted acting like a victim or bad-mouthing my ex.
8. I turned to and strengthened my external support system. I made plans with friends and reached out to people for support and companionship.
9. No matter how depressed I got, I tried to maintain a positive attitude.
10. I gave myself the necessary transition period but eventually made every conscious effort to move on with my life.
1. I continued to talk to, see, or email my ex.
2. I always wondered what he or she was doing or thinking.
3. I followed my ex, called and hung up, and/or drove by my ex's house.
4. I found excuses to contact him or her.
5. I stopped doing a lot of the things I love to do.
6. I did not take care of my body (for example, I under- or overate, drank too much, or didn't exercise).
7. I thought I couldn't move on until I had closure with him or her.
8. I am looking (or did look) to get into a new relationship ASAP to have something to be excited about and to feel attractive.
9. I asked people questions about him or her and talked about him a lot.
10. I did not want him to be happy.
11. I beat myself up constantly and thought of things I could or should have done differently to salvage the relationship.
12. I bad-mouthed him or her.
If your "don'ts" outnumber your "dos," your behavior might hinder your ability to get what you want. Look more closely at the "dos" and find new behaviors to replace the "don'ts." Behaviors that encourage our growth rather than weighing us down are the secret to getting what we want in future relationships. Having said all this, I want to emphasize that these are all suggestions, not rules. Every breakup is unique, and each of us must behave in the ways that are most true to who we are. Copyright © 2005 by Christine Hassler, New World Library
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