Psychologically Speaking: Breaking up is hard to do

To move on, you have to get unstuck from the relationship you have been in as it has caused you tremendous pain.

October 18, 2007 11:22
4 minute read.
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woman sitting painting 8. (photo credit: )


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Dear Dr. Batya, I am a 24-year-old woman who has just ended a relationship after almost a year. I miss him terribly and find myself unable to move on. I think of him constantly and even though I know he was bad for me, I can't get him out of my mind. Please help. - J.B., Jerusalem The hardest part about ending a relationship is that it wasn't 100 percent bad. In other words, there were obviously aspects of your relationship that were probably quite wonderful. Maybe just 5% or 10% was not good, but this was important enough to make you end it. Perhaps for example, you couldn't trust him; he didn't want to make a commitment; he was at times very emotionally or physically abusive; or you disagreed strongly on various issues which you both considered important. That still does not mean you didn't find him exciting, romantic, bright and fun to be around. It is precisely because there were so many good things that makes it now very difficult to move past what "was" and move forward in a healthy way. It is at times like this that couples may get back together, only to break up again. If he was bad or "toxic" for you, or was just not healthy to be around, then you have done the right thing to get out of the relationship now. While people make small changes in their lives, they don't undergo a major personality transformation in spite of our hoping otherwise. Look at your history together if you are indeed in doubt. That said, it can be very hard to move on. In part, to move on, you have to get unstuck from the relationship you have been in as it has caused you tremendous pain. That's easier said than done as there is almost an addictive quality which may keep you going back for more. You want to know where he is, what is happening in his life and perhaps you are hoping that in missing you, he will realize that you were the right person after all. You may wait in anticipation and hope that he will see the light and change. To date, I've never seen this happen, as basic personality is basic personality. As such, you need to move on and really put him in your past. Part of moving on requires getting your emotional "house" in order. In the same way that you can go through your house and get rid of things you don't love or use, when you find yourself in a relationship that has no purpose, you can and should de-clutter so that you can move on to an emotionally healthier place. By doing so, you make room for new relationships and allow yourself the opportunity for growth. For starters, you do have to first mourn what you perceive you've lost. This is unique to you and one can't set a time limit on it. You have to ask yourself why you are holding on and just what are you holding on to? What purpose does this person still serve in your life? By moving on, what do you risk leaving behind and what does this mean for you? For example, maybe this person was your ticket to getting out and having fun. In your mind, you see yourself as never going out again and maybe this is more than you can handle at the moment. So what can help you move on? Here are a few suggestions: 1) Recognize that life is full of choices. When the time is right for you, you'll make the decision to go forward. 2) Keep busy. Reconnect with old friends, take up a hobby or attack your "to do" list with a vengeance. 3) Look after your own health. Get into fitness, nutrition and attempt to get the sleep you need. 4) Write a letter to the person you are having trouble getting over. Don't mail it but put it in a drawer for a week. Go back and read it and ask yourself in what way things have changed. 5) Monitor your progress. Consider keeping a journal and keep track of how your day is on scale of one to 10. Notice the changes over time. Are you thinking of him less frequently? Is it less intense? In what ways are things better? 6) Remind yourself that you grieve a loss with your entire body. Be a bit easier on yourself when you have trouble focusing and concentrating, seem more irritable or feel you're falling apart. You will take three steps forward and one back but it may feel as if it is just the opposite. 7) Call in for backup and support from close friends and family. Let them know what your needs are. 8) One of the best ways to move on is to do something for someone else. Find a way to volunteer for something and get involved. You'd be amazed at just how therapeutic keeping busy and focusing elsewhere are. 9) Remind yourself that it is important to be your own "best friend." Relax your expectations a bit, be realistic and give yourself the gift of time. 10) If you do take a step backward, forgive yourself, pick up the pieces and try again. The dating game is difficult. Whether religious or secular, young or old, each has his own issues. It is hard to find someone, one often relies on word of mouth or various Internet dating sites and what you expect may not be what you get. Fear of rejection may make you overly cautious, or you may find yourself less open minded or willing to compromise. Nonetheless, it is important to get out there and meet new people. You deserve to be happy and as you start to feel better, you'll be surprised at the positive energy you send towards others. If you're still unable to move on, seek professional support. New insight and a fresh perspective can go a long way. The writer is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Ra'anana.

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