About Last Night : Fake it till you make it – how to survive a relationship break-up 2-9-18

September 19, 2018

Q: Paul and I have been together for two years. We’ve broken up a few times, but always get back together. Now he’s met someone else, and wants to break up for good. I know it’s for the best, but it hurts so much. I keep thinking about being close to him, and can’t believe I’ll never experience that again. I keep checking out his Facebook page, calling him just to hear his voicemail message, and generally tormenting myself. Help!

A: When any intimate relationship ends it is painful. When that connection is broken it feels like a door has closed and it is difficult to accept that you will never inhabit that space again. To escape this painful reality, many couples go into a make up/break up cycle. Each reunion is a buzz on one level, but eventually, you need to let go, so that you can find new love.

The end of a relationship is like little death, and we go through all the stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The difference is that you can also keep exhuming the corpse and sending yourself back to step one.

There is a biochemical reason for this pain. When activity is monitored, we see areas of the brain associated with addiction light up. This can cause obsessive preoccupation with the lover, desperation, guilt, and physical pain.

Processing grief takes time. A fresh wound hurts, until a scab forms to protect it.

Relationship therapist Sheri Meyers believes it is important to take a holistic approach to this process, one that addresses the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual aspects of being.

It is tempting to self-medicate your pain away with alcohol, drugs, or comfort eating, but doing this for too long will only make you feel worse. Instead, Meyers suggests meditation or yoga, or simply being quiet for a while.

Apart from the occasional break out, she recommends that you make a point of eating well and showing self-love by looking after yourself, and nurturing, rather than abusing, your body.

Get plenty of sleep. This can be hard when your brain is churning with painful thoughts, but alcohol or chemically induced sleep is not quality sleep, so practise allowing thoughts and scenarios to come and go without engaging with them.

Exercise is great for lifting your mood, so resist the urge to retreat under the doona. Go for a walk, go to the gym, play a sport, go out dancing, and release those endorphins.

Be kind to yourself, and allow yourself to cry, feel angry, or sad. Trying to suppress your feelings is not helpful, and will either prolong the pain, or create other bad feelings such as guilt or self-loathing.

Try to have fun. Accept invitations, go to a day spa, take the kids to the beach, catch a movie … You might not feel like it at first, but fake it till you make it. Do not isolate yourself. Rather, surround yourself with people who love you. Whether it be your bestie, your family, or a club you belong to, it will do you good to be surrounded by smiles, hugs, and affection.

Your biggest challenge is to escape from your obsessive thoughts. Meyers offers a strategy to help you with this.

“The best way to do it is to say, ‘Stop!’. If the thoughts won’t stop, then say, ‘No! Stop now!‘. If they persist, then continue, ‘Enough! No more! Stop!

“Saying ‘Stop!‘ interrupts the obsessive thought process and breaks the cycle of pain. Immediately, redirect your thoughts away to something good that is happening in your life.”

She also suggests taking “60-second vacations”. Like any addiction, when a craving hits, do something else for one minute. Usually, that pang will pass while you are distracted.

Finally, heal your spirit. Meyers says the best tools for this are gratitude, and service to others. You have been in a place where you have been dwelling on what is bad in your life. Write a list of everything for which you are grateful to get some perspective, and turning your thoughts to the needs of others stops you focusing on yourself.

Email: abtlastnight@gmail.com

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