No matter what the reason for a breakup—the relationship was stale; you outgrew it; it was abusive in some way; you were left—you have to grieve fully, pick up the pieces, discover who you are NOW without that other person, and learn how to look forward to life again. So here are 5 keys to kick start your life and begin to thrive.
1. Have a pity party. When you lose a relationship, you have a right to grieve. Unpopular as grieving is, it is necessary to experience. The more you beat yourself up about grieving, the slower the healing process. Practice compassion for yourself. You have lost something. You may feel like there’s a gigantic hole where your heart used to be. These feelings are hard enough without shaming yourself for them. So have a party—a pity party. Invite your closest, most trusted friends.
In my book, "Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life," I offer these ground rules for a pity party:
a. Your friends are to allow you one hour to whine, cry, complain, berate your ex, make fun of him, call him names, talk about why it would never have worked anyway, why it was the best/most perfect relationship you’ll ever have. Your friends are there to support you getting it all off your chest.
b. They listen only; they do not participate in the berating, name calling, etc. Why? Because you may end up feeling embarrassed or angry with them for having never said the truth to you before. And what happens if you get back with the guy? You’ll have to exclude your closest friends, knowing what they really think.
c. After the hour is up, your friends tell you one by one all the great things about you that they love, admire, and even envy. One person acts as scribe, writing it all down for you. Keep this list close by!
d. After you have been replenished with reminders that who you are has nothing to do with who you just broke up with, you ceremoniously burn a picture (or all pictures if you’re ready) of your ex while all your friends watch.
e. As the photo’s edges singe and it curls up into eventual nothingness, say the affirmation, “I release that relationship for my own good. Someone better awaits me when I’m ready.” Your friends say “Amen,” or “Right on,” or “So be it,” depending on your style.
2. Recognize that rejection is a myth. Most of us have experienced feeling rejected. If we haven’t, we’ve been way too protective of our hearts. But really, can anyone reject you without your permission? Think about this: If you believe you’re smart and someone calls you “stupid,” what happens to you? Not much, right? You probably wonder what’s wrong with that person and might even assume that it’s their own self-judgment misplaced onto you. If you’re not judging yourself, someone else’s judgment won’t stick to you.
So if you feel rejected, you must be rejecting yourself in some way. If a guy breaks up with you, then maybe you weren’t right for each other. But if you pile on self-criticism such as telling yourself you’re ugly, unlovable, too fat, not smart enough, or too old, you are not only inflicting cruelty on yourself, you are lying to yourself about why the relationship ended. Relationships don’t end over any of our self-judgments in particular. They may end because we are self-judgmental, making it hard for someone to love us when we aren’t loving ourselves. Whether you’re in a relationship or single, stop rejecting yourself, stop coming up with reasons why someone shouldn’t love you. It’s a waste of time and saps the love out of relationships with even the most potential.
3. Give yourself the love you want to get. Once you stop rejecting yourself with self-judgments, start loving yourself actively. Do more of what you enjoy. Challenge yourself intellectually, emotionally, physically, spiritually. Take risks that will build your self-esteem. Notice whom you admire and realize that “if you spot it, you got it.” You couldn’t see this in someone else if it weren’t already within you. Nurture that part of yourself. Become your most extraordinary self and it is guaranteed that others will want to bask in your radiant glow.
4. Release your Resentments. Underlying every resentment you hold towards an ex is a regret you are holding against yourself. The wife who resented her husband for buying a new car without asking her was actually regretful that she didn’t have enough self-worth to let him know that she deserved to be a part of such decisions. The woman who resented her ex for cheating on her really regretted not confronting him sooner when her intuition told her something was amiss.
So uncover your regret because you can do something about it: You can give yourself compassion for having been too afraid to stand up for yourself. Then make a commitment to being more authentic and more courageous now and in the next relationship. The icing on this cake is that, by being more authentic yourself, you will invite more authentic people into your life.
5. (Re)Inspire Yourself. A lot of us wait for “that special someone” to make us happy. When we’re fortunate enough to meet someone who opens our heart, we may inadvertently give our power away by confusing the feeling of happiness with the object of our happiness. The longer we’re in a partnership, the more we may rely on our partner for our happiness and wind up losing our skills at creating our own joy.
Forgetting how to make ourselves happy not only will dull even a once-vibrant relationship; it also makes a breakup harder because we mistakenly believe that our source of happiness is gone. It’s not! Inspiration cannot be bestowed upon us by others, not even by Mr. Right, which means that no one can take away our inspiration either. Ultimately, it is our responsibility (responsibility = ability to respond) to listen to our spirit, the source of our inspiration and happiness.
Even if you aren’t happy about a breakup, you can re-inspire yourself. What did you like doing before you met your last partner? What interests did you develop during the relationship? What environments—physical, intellectual, emotional—buoy your spirits generally?
If you like island breezes, then maybe it’s time to plan that trip to the Bahamas. If you like the challenge of climbing snow-covered peaks, find ecstasy in riding your bike through tulip fields, or feel most alive strapping on a snowboard, don’t deprive yourself. If sharing your time or resources as a volunteer does your heart a world of good, don’t just do it; do it now!
Remember that every day, single or partnered, grieving or celebrating, alone or not, we have the right to choose an extraordinary life for ourselves. All that is required is our willingness.
Author, life coach, relationship expert, and media guest, Jane Straus works her magic "live" with individuals and couples on air, on the phone, or in the privacy of her office. She is the author of the popular "Enough Is Enough! Stop Enduring and Start Living Your Extraordinary Life," written after being diagnosed and treated for a brain tumor when she was 48. Her philosophy of thriving is based on her 25 years of experience helping people overcome fears, self-judgments, and limiting beliefs. Her wise, compassionate, and witty approach is uniquely inspiring. For more information, visit AskJaneNow.com.
Jane lives in Northern California with her husband and daughter.