Sunday, August 23, 2009

Getting Over Someone You Loved

It has been said that the end of a relationship is a lot like death. It’s the death of a relationship. The death of a love or the illusion of a love. The process of getting over death is grieving.

Shock. Denial. Distress. Obsession. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Readjusting. Acceptance.

The feelings and reactions following the end of a relationship are pretty much the same if you’re the one being left. The person who chose to end the relationship often goes through many of these feeling too.

While it’s common to want to withdraw from life and human contact or to lash out at other people (who cannot possibly understand what you’re experiencing) what a grieving person really needs is just the opposite.

It might seem easy at first to glorify the person you are no longer with and remember their better qualities and the good times. But in order to curtail the grieving process as soon as possible, you need to dwell on their bad qualities. In fact you should make a list of them.

Writing down all the things about them you disliked or the ways they hurt and offended you will help you see that you can and will be better off without them. Put the list somewhere you will see it daily like on your bathroom mirror or on your refrigerator. Add to it any time you think of something you had forgotten. The goal is not to make you hate them, but to simply remind yourself that they are not perfect and you weren’t always happy with them.

Remove the reminders of them from your life. Take down the pictures of them and throw out or give away anything that might cause you to become sentimental or suddenly burst into tears. If you can’t part with objects or photos (maybe you plan to give to your children with this person someday) at least pack them up and keep them out of sight.

Wedding or promise rings and other mementos that you wear have to go too. Even if you’re not even close to being emotionally ready to move on, you need to alert the world that you are now single. Even if your relationship ended a week ago immediately start referring to them as your “ex”. They and everything about them are now part of your past. Calling them your ex reinforces that to you and everyone you talk with. And NOT constantly saying their name helps too.

If you are staying in the living space you shared with your ex, give your home a light make over. It’s amazing what a new coat of paint, a new set of bed sheets and moving some furniture around can do to make your home feel more like YOUR personal space. Frame a new picture. Buy a potted plant. Hang some new curtains. And your home will be less likely to remind you of past experiences there with your former partner. The more different you can make your living space look, the more quickly you can remind yourself that you are starting a fresh life too.

Take care of yourself. Get a new haircut, buy a new outfit, get a gym membership and start focusing your life more on what makes YOU look and feel good.

Next make a list of all the things you’ve never tried, haven’t done in years or want to do. This could be taking a class, going on a trip or starting a new hobby: whatever you want to do that you’ve been missing out on. Then make a goal to do at least one of them every month. Put this list right next to the list of things you disliked about your ex. Eventually you’ll take down the list about your ex, but you should always remember that you have new and exciting things to do and try in life.

Surround yourself with people. If family and close friends aren’t around or are unavailable find new people. Join a community center. Attend a church. Volunteer for a charity, school or event. Become involved in your neighborhood or participate in a team activity. Despite what you might have thought, you’re never too old to make new friends and network. Host something at your house or get out of your house and create new healthy habits that involve socializing. Talking with and listening to other people while you’re doing something hands on is a great antidote for depression.

When enough time has elapse that you feel your heart is mended enough to share it with someone new, start slow and casual. Dating sites are aplenty. MySpace, Facebook and Twitter are not just for teenagers and can be a great way to find out who is in the area and what their relationship status is without actually having to talk with anyone or paying for membership fees.

When you have found someone or several someone’s you’d like to meet, make sure you’ve talked on the phone several times before meeting in person. Let them know you’re only looking for friends at first and keep your expectations for the person high, but for a potential future relationship with that person low. Meet in public places during the daylight hours and keep in mind that this might end up being nothing more than a single time meeting. Then, try to get out and meet as many people as possible.

Make a goal that no matter how badly you might want a quick fix relationship you WILL NOT get relationship-involved with anyone for at least three months. Six months to a year is better. Your character judgment is faulty after a recent break up and you are vulnerable to people who prey upon those who are hurting and emotionally fragile.

Or if new person this ends up being someone special, you don’t want it to become a condemned “rebound” relationship. Those never last. You are not looking for someone who will make you whole again. You are whole on your own. You’re simply looking for someone who makes you laugh and embellishes your life.

It will take a little time, but soon you’ll find you wake up not to bad memories but to anticipation of a new day.

Nothing can completely erase the fact that someone once occupied a spot in your heart. But time will ease that loss.

Moving on is never easy, but filling your life with new and consuming distractions will allow less time and energy for thinking about or obsessing over that one person who’s no longer in your life.

Make each day count and focus on who YOU are and what YOU want.

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