A reader is his early 30’s is distressed because his girlfriend, who is eleven years younger, ended their two-year relationship. Our reader writes, “I am going through a life crisis, it may not seem a big thing but I am finding it very hard to cope. She is on my mind all the time. Can you suggest any ways in which I can make myself strong and move on with my life?”
Nearly everyone reading this can relate to our reader because almost everyone has experienced a broken heart. And those of us who have been there discovered two things. 1. The broken heart didn’t kill us. 2. After getting over the pain, we grew stronger, wiser, and more experienced, which made us a candidate for a better future relationship.
Our reader has had another serious relationship in the past. So I ask him to remember how he felt when that one ended. Weren’t you shocked, disappointed, and in pain? Didn’t it feel as though you would never get over it? But you did, didn’t you? How do you think you will feel about your present relationship in five years? Won’t you be over this one and in a new one? If you pause and think this over, experiencing this truth in your mind and imagination, you should find some comfort. Now let’s look at some steps you can take to return your life to normal.
1. Accept that your relationship is over. Don’t give yourself false hopes and drag out the pain longer than needed. End the relationship cleanly. She is no longer a part of your life, so get rid of mementos or relics of the past. Don’t hang on to what might have been. Rather clear the way for what will come.
2. Don’t hold grudges. Resentment merely adds to the pain you are already feeling. Besides, it is entirely inappropriate to be angry with her because both of you made mistakes. You are both the cause of the breakup. What went wrong? Nothing really. You both were growing up and learning about relationships. Everyone goes through it, so don’t be alarmed or surprised.
3. Shift from FEELING to THINKING. That is, be proactive and learn from the situation. Ask yourself questions like, “How did I contribute to the breakup? To prevent the same thing from happening again, what should I do differently?”
4. Listen to life. It’s telling you that it has better plans for you, so it’s changing things. Don’t fight the changes. Struggling only prolongs your final victory. Rather than resisting, jump in the river of life and go with the flow. Embrace change and look forward to the new adventure that awaits you.
Since today is the first day of the rest of your life and your first step along your new adventure, get in step with life by making your own changes. For example, you can change your hairstyle or the way you dress. Also, this is the perfect time to get involved in new activities such as workouts in a gym, and art, writing, speech, or photography classes. Spice up your life and rediscover how exciting it is.
5. Shift your attention from inward to outward. Stop thinking about your own pain and start thinking about the pain of others. This is a great time to become a volunteer. You can work in a soup kitchen, visit the elderly, or help immigrant children learn how to read and write. By the way, the self-esteem you lost because of the breakup will be more than replaced by what you gain from volunteering and personal-development.
6. If you need some help in getting over the pain of a breakup, your library or bookstore has plenty of good books available. Here are three examples: How to Mend a Broken Heart by Aleta Koman, McGraw-Hill, 1998; Mars and Venus Starting Over: A Practical Guide for Finding Love Again After a Painful Breakup, Divorce, or the Loss of a Loved One by John Gray, Harpercollins, 2002; How to Heal a Broken Heart in 30 Days: A Day-by-Day Guide to Saying Good-bye and Getting On With Your Life by Howard Bronson and Mike Riley, Broadway, 2002.
7. Keep active. Don’t mope at home. Stroll downtown or take a walk in the park. Go out with friends. When at home, get involved with a hobby or special interest.
8. Look after your health. Exercise, eat healthy meals, and get enough sleep. Good health supports your emotional health and well-being.
9. Seek comic relief. TV and movie comedies can lift the spirit. And when you go out with friends, hang out with those who are positive and are fun to be around.
10. If you’re really feeling down, writing can be cathartic. Writing your feelings in a journal or composing a poem can help you transfer your pain from within you to outside you. You can also do the same thing by talking about your feelings with a close, supportive friend.
11. If you are allowed to have pets where you live, a dog or cat can add a great deal of love into your life. If you can’t have a dog or cat, you can work as a volunteer at an animal shelter.
12. Keep a gratitude journal. Each day, jot down at least three things you are grateful for. Once you develop the habit of focusing on the positive, you’ll easily be able to weather whatever storm comes your way.
13. Don’t try to drown your pain with alcohol or drugs. That’s like jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Just take the positive, proactive steps that were already mentioned.
14. Don’t rush into another relationship. Seeing others is fine, but don’t get intimate with another until you are completely healed. And once you go back to dating again, be sure to date only women you respect and admire, not for their beauty, charm and wit, but for their GOODNESS. But for you to attract such a woman, you will have to be just as good. So, work on your gentleness, kindness, patience, acceptance, generosity, and everything else that you want to find in your future partner.
15. Finally, if these suggestions or the recommended books don’t help, see a counselor or join a support group. Help is there for you, but don’t wait for it to come to you; go to it.