Last week we promised to give some practical directions for the journey from love to benign indifference. Before starting out, we wish to stress a couple of important points: Firstly, this is not an exact science. There is no specific time by which you are supposed to be feeling better.
There are so many variables: your own individual temperament, how intense the relationship was with your significant other, the duration of the relationship, how old you were when it began and when it ended, the expectations you had of each other, and so on. So for each person, the journey is different and unique.
Secondly, expect to hurt. There’s no way to do this without feeling the pain. If you get stuck in hurting and cannot get beyond it, then it’s time for some extraordinary intervention. But letting yourself feel isn’t a bad thing.
Having said this, let’s start the trip. Who were you before you were part of a couple? What were your interests, who were your friends? Often, becoming a couple involves giving up something of your own, even when your partner hasn’t asked you to. Practically speaking, you no longer have the time because you are now doing couple things. But it’s time now to return to your own interests and friends. If you didn’t give up anything, then you may want to get more involved in one of your activities. If you didn’t give up any friends, you might want to get back into all the things you used to do together – back to the Saturday football games or the Friday night pool matches or the Sunday brunches.
It may also be time to take a leap into the new. Maybe there’s something you always wanted to try, but never did. Now is the time to begin exploring. Your life is different in ways which hurt. But you can also choose to make yourself different, in good ways. Maybe you never thought of yourself as a singer, basketball player, mechanic, soft furnishings specialist….you fill in the blanks! Now can be the time to develop a completely new side of yourself.
Much of this is mental. Dwelling on what you’ve lost is understandable, but again, you mustn’t get stuck there. The opposite side of the coin, devaluing what you had together and telling yourself it was never real, also doesn’t work. Of course you had something real – that’s why you’re so upset. The key is keeping a firm grip on reality: an important relationship has ended, but you will have another relationship and you will move on from this one. It might seem improbable and you may never want to hear the word ‘relationship’ again but these feelings won’t last and you’ll actually be ready to try again.
There are some coping strategies you absolutely shouldn’t try. Using a substance is one of them. Try not to have even a temporary increase in usage. No matter how high you get, it won’t change the situation and you might do something very foolish under the influence.
Roping in someone else is another huge mistake. Plunging into a new relationship might soothe hurt, but it will create more problems than it solves. If you’re hurting, healing has to take its own time and cannot be rushed. Till that’s done, you have too much unfinished business to engage in another relationship. It’s also very unfair to the other person, who may get hurt if you decide to disengage because you don’t think it’s working for you. Then you have one more person who’s wondering what happened and trying to deal with heartbreak.