Getting through a break up can be incredibly difficult. It is one of the most common reasons that people decide to seek therapy.
That said, if you are broken-hearted, you probably have a lot you can learn from the awful feelings you are experiencing. My work as a therapist consistently confirms that what matters most is not how we respond to our successes, it's how we respond to our disappointments. While break ups are filled with devastating feelings of loss, they also carry the potential to teach us about ourselves and any relationship patterns that are not productive.
As a therapist with over fifteen years experience, I have noticed that people seem to be having a tougher time moving on from romantic relationships. Perhaps this is because we have all become so technologically interwoven. Today, it is way too easy to waste countless emotionally harmful hours surfing an ex's Facebook page, reading his or her Tweets, or exchanging pointless impulsive texts. As a client recently admitted:
I know it is over, and yet I cannot stop texting her to say how much it hurts. When I don't hear back, I obsess over Facebook photos she has posted. She's out having fun as if she could not care less. She changed her status to single the same night we ended it, which is just another sign that she is over me. Why can't I let it go?
If you are broken hearted and feeling stuck, how can you move on? Consider three basic steps that are central to the Break-Up Boot Camp I recently started. I refer to them as the triple A's.
1 -- Acknowledge
The first step in getting over a break up is to acknowledge and take ownership of your role in what happened. This may have involved simply going along with an unavailable, unkind or unsuitable partner. Or, it may have involved other patterns that are not conducive to a healthy relationship. Regardless, the sooner you face your part in things, the sooner you can learn from your mistakes and work to not repeat them in future relationships.
2 -- Admit
The second step is to admit -- honestly and without reserve -- the reasons that you are better off without this other person. I have worked with many, many therapy clients in agony over a break up, and I have never worked with someone who did not have at least one excellent reason why there were ultimately better off without their ex. It is not necessarily easy or intuitive to admit these reasons, especially if you did not initiate the break up, but doing so will go a long way towards moving on. Once you have admitted the reasons, write them down on paper or enter them in your smart phone. Make sure you take a look at the list anytime you are feeling nostalgic about your loss. You will be way better off emotionally if you force yourself to look at this list of reasons rather than looking at photos of your ex on their Facebook page!
3 -- Accept
The third essential step is to accept that the relationship is over. This is no easy feat. Sometimes it helps to take significant, ceremonial steps to promise yourself that you will continue to accept that the relationship is over. Send your ex whatever things they have left at your place. (Don't make a plan for your ex to pick up their stuff, just throw it in a garbage bag and drop it off!) If you haven't already done so, defriend them on Facebook, stop following them on Twitter and, by all means, delete them from your phone! These steps can move you dramatically closer to acceptance, as they reduce your ability to waste emotional energy fantasizing about someone who is no longer available to you and therefore not a suitable partner.
If these steps do not get you over the hump, consider some form of group therapy. Break-Up Boot Camps and other forms of group therapy are extremely effective, as the absurdity of hanging onto an unavailable or otherwise unsuitable ex is incredibly obvious when you witness it in others. Participants can clearly observe the futility in another's efforts to hang on; such observation opens the door for them to gain dramatic perspective on their own wasted energy.
Don't give someone else the power to compromise your happiness; force yourself to take the triple A steps and you will be in a better position to get over your break up and, eventually, have healthier relationships.
To learn more about how to get over a difficult break up, click here.
Follow Elisabeth Joy LaMotte, LICSW on Twitter: www.twitter.com/elisjoy