?Experience is the toughest teacher because she gives the test first, then the lesson.? ? Anonymous
I was working with a woman whose husband had left her, suddenly, cruelly, leaving her world in shreds.
I could understand her distress, he was her University crush, she thought they?d go all the way through to their rocking chair years.
But then she told me how long it was since he left: 12 years. TWELVE years. He?d since moved on and started another family; she was as stuck as the day he left.
Her stories about their split sounded fresh because she?d been unpicking and unpacking them ever since he left. She was sad and bitter; her life was just a budget-cut version of the one she?d shared with him.
A devastating split inevitably causes emotional trauma that, if you?re not careful, can paralyse you for years, rendering you incapable of creating a good life independently or with someone else.
If you?ve been dumped, you don?t have to step out as Ms or Mr Amazing the next day, but you owe it to yourself to face reality and ? when you?re ready ? create a new way forward.
So here are the key things you need to know.
1. It?s Over.
It?s super-common for people who are hurting to believe the relationship may not be done, that this is a temporary phase and that he/she will ?see the light? and come back to you. Mostly they won?t. And in the rare event they do, is this the relationship and partner you want? Someone who hurts you, who will walk away when THEY choose to? No matter how much you say you love them, love isn?t enough. You need and deserve consistency ? physical and emotional ? in a relationship. Houdini acts are for the stage, not real life.
2. You?ll go crazy trying to figure out WHY.
Trying to figure out your partner?s motivations for leaving you is a minefield, so tiptoe carefully. It?s natural to ask those questions but you will probably never know the reason because your partner either (1) doesn?t know or (2) can?t bear to tell you the truth. People often try to justify being rejected by saying their partners were depressed, confused, lost in mid-life, overwhelmed or came from a broken background. It?s true all of those things can cause people to act in hurtful, or uncharacteristic ways, but when your partner devastates you on a grand scale, then you have to quit giving them a leave pass and look after yourself.
3. Your partner isn?t right for you (not the other way around).
I?m not saying the relationship was never right, sometimes it was very right. Maybe it even felt perfect for a while. But people change (or don?t change at all) and that may lead you to want different things ? or to be with different people. If your partner doesn?t want to be with you, then they are not right for you now. Let go. There is nothing more demeaning than clinging to a person who?d rather be somewhere else or with someone else. It won?t bring them back, either.
4. Your ex may be self-motivated in contacting you.
You already know you shouldn?t be contacting your ex. So watch out when you find yourself looking for excuses to contact them about the dog, or the kids, or the stuff you need to drop off to them. You don?t. So don?t.
BUT, you do need to understand your ex?s motives when they contact you. A respectful ex will give you space and contact you only for (valid) logistical reasons. But often, they won?t ? or can?t ? leave it at that. When your ex reaches out with a ?how are you?? or ?just ran into a friend of yours? or ?something just reminded me of you? or a million other variations on these themes, you need to get real about what?s really going on. This is NOT about missing you. They are either seeking validation for themselves or wanting to reduce their own anxiety (or guilt or shame or fear).
Too often, they?re checking to see they could still get you back if they wanted to. IT?S ALL ABOUT THEM. So don?t play the game. Block, delete, don?t answer. Unless you want to make them feel okay about hurting you.
5. You can?t have a relationship with their family.
Your ex?s family may love you (and you them) but they will side with their own flesh and blood. Unfortunately, when your partner goes, their family goes too. Maybe in time (when you both have new partners/lives) you can reconnect, but in the early stages ? no. So step back: don?t send their families cards and gifts or stay in touch with them through social media. If you do, don?t say you weren?t warned: it?s scary how quickly families can come to accept your ex?s new partner ? and that will crush you.
6. You need to be selfish.
Your head will be all over the show, your thoughts scattered, often bleak and dark. If you spend too much time up in your head you?ll start to feel crazy. So lay down some plans for YOU. Work out (even if it?s just a daily walk); eat well; dress well; engage with your other friends; set some fresh goals; present a good face to the world. This is not at all about what the world thinks of you, it?s what you think of yourself.
7. Your ex is flawed.
When we?ve been rejected we tend to hone in on our own flaws, beat ourselves up for all the reasons the relationship broke up. So remind yourself that your ex had faults. Write them all down if it helps. Then smile because they are now someone else?s problem. Even when you?re hurting, there?s a remarkable freedom in that.
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