It’s been weeks – maybe even months – since you and your significant other split. Still, you can’t help thinking about him, obsessing over your relationship, rehashing the details with friends. Every song on the radio reminds you of him, and you get blue – or worse, weepy – when someone orders his favorite beer at the bar. What went wrong? Who’s to blame? And worst of all, who is he with instead of you right now?
Many women have a hard time exorcising an ex from their lives, explains Toni Coleman, a licensed psychotherapist, author and relationship coach. “In the early stages especially, there’s a lot of ‘woulda, shoulda, coulda.’
“Women tell themselves he will change his mind and come back. They consider what they could say or do to win him back, and they rehash mentally every fight or rough patch in the relationship and how they could have done it differently or better.”
A Grieving Process
Like anyone who loses a love, you need to pass through a few stages of emotion before you can heal, Coleman says.
First comes denial: You might tell yourself this is just a temporary separation; you’re bound to kiss and make up. Next is anger – at him and/or yourself for wrecking the relationship. Then comes bargaining: “If I just do one small thing, or change something about myself, everything will be okay again between us.”
The fourth stage – depression – is the hardest to pull yourself out of, and many women feel worthless without the other half and have to turn to counseling for help.
Finally, there is acceptance and, with it, the ability to move on. But you shouldn’t expect all of the above to happen overnight, Coleman says. It will take time, faith in yourself and a supportive group of friends and family to get you through.
A Friend in the End?
Some women insist they can maintain a friendship with an ex, while others would rather have a root canal than stay pals. “Every situation is different,” Coleman explains. “If the woman is completely honest with herself and has no hidden agendas, even from herself, it may be possible to maintain a platonic relationship.”
Out of Sight, Out of Mind?
When you’re hurting, it’s tempting to chuck every memento of your ruined relationship. Jen Aniston was rumored to have made a bonfire out of some of Brad’s old love letters – and who could blame her if she did? It feels good to watch your ex go up in flames… even if it is just a photo. But before you do, consider this: Will you regret it one day and wish you had kept those sentimental souvenirs? During the grieving phase, you’re not thinking clearly.
How to Make Him History
Sure, it’s easier to mope than to move on. But when you’re finally ready to start feeling better about yourself, try these five coping tips from experts:
1. Learn from your mistakes.
“Instead of dwelling on the negative, learn something about yourself from the breakup that you can take with you to your next relationship,” advises Dr. Karen Gail Lewis, Ed.D., author of “With or Without a Man: Single Women Taking Control of Their Lives“. And while you’re at it, consider what his bad behaviors and mistakes were. Make a mental note: These are not qualities you want in your next mate.
2. Keep things in perspective.
While it feels like the end of the world, it isn’t. Your life can and will go on. Need help with this? Volunteer at a local homeless shelter… or just peruse that day’s headlines in your newspaper. A little dose of reality can get you up off the couch and back into your life.
3. Distract yourself.
Get a new hobby, adopt a new pet, take a cruise, learn a new language – anything that will take your mind off of you-know-who and keep you busy.
4. Throw a pity party.
Cry, scream, curse, let it all out. Keeping your feelings bottled up will cause them to fester, which can, in turn, affect other parts of your life. Mourn, mope… and then move on.
5. Work it out.
Physical exercise is a great way to get rid of your tension and aggression. Plus, exercise releases endorphins – feel-good chemicals – in the body (a natural high!).