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Surviving a break-up without the baggage

- 02 July 2014 @ 17h02

Chances are that you will go through a few break-ups before you settle down with Mr Right. As difficult as these might be – especially if you are the dumpee – they can also be growing experiences. We spoke to Johannesburg-based clinical psychologist Ruth Ancer about how to get through a break-up in the healthiest possible way. These were her tips:

Let it go!
The first and most difficult step of getting over a break-up is wanting to get over it. Don’t try to be “best friends”. Don’t drunk-dial him (install an app to stop yourself if you have to). Don’t try to maintain your friendship with all of his friends. Don’t beg him to take you back. Don’t indulge revenge fantasies (too often!). Rather construct a new life that he isn’t a part of so that you’re not endlessly reminded that you miss him.

Accept your sadness
Letting go doesn’t mean you won’t still be sad. In fact, it’s often only once you really let go that you can property begin to mourn the loss of your partner and the plans you had for a future together. You must remember that mourning is a process and there’s no quick fix. Allow yourself to wallow in sadness every now and then, but also find distractions and support to remind you that there’s more to life than him.

Work out what went wrong
A little reflection is always a good idea. If you think that the break-up might have been your fault, think about what you did and try to work out ways of breaking the cycle. Were you too clingy or too independent? Did you demand too much of him or not give enough of yourself? It’s also possible that he was just a bad choice of partner to begin with. Ask your friends for their honest insights on what went wrong. But also remember that sometimes relationships just don’t work out – through no fault of your own.

Reconnect with your friends
WWhen you’re in a romantic relationship, you have less time for your friends. Now, they can help to keep you busy and distracted. Plan specific outings or adventures with them – like bowling or a pottery class – so that you have something specific to do. And while it may be helpful to talk to them about your ex, don’t become the bore who can’t talk about anything else.

Enjoy the things you couldn’t
Ask your married friends what they most miss about being single. This should give you some good ideas for the fun things you should be doing – taking hour-long baths, watching bad chick flicks or eating messy takeaways on the sofa. And if there’s anything time-consuming that you were putting off – like enrolling in a course or starting a yoga class – now’s the time to do it.

Find your inner peace
While keeping busy and seeing friends are good ways to remind yourself about how much fun life can be, you should also focus on being happy with yourself and by yourself. Meditate, take long walks or redecorate your home. Try to find the things that make you feel good and whole.

Don’t jump straight back on the dating bandwagon
It’s a good idea to get over a break-up before you start dating someone else. If you’re using a new relationship as a distraction, it can leave you feeling hollow and dissatisfied and stuck in an unhealthy relationship. Of course, you’ll always hear stories about the girl who met her husband one month after her ex ditched her, but the reality is that rebound relationships seldom work out. Give yourself time to heal before you start to date again.

If you’re stuck…
If you find that after about six months, you aren’t feeling much better or that there’s no cause for optimism, it might be worth considering therapy to help you get out of your rut. While some relationships leave permanent scars, there are ways to make those scars a part of who you are without becoming a damaged person.

Final word
Ruth says that, as hard as it can be to get over a break-up, women often look back and realise that these were the times of their greatest growth or self-discovery. Try to do the best you can for yourself in this time so that you can embrace whatever the future offers as a happy, confident and complete woman.

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