Perhaps the end of your most recent relationship is a good thing regardless of who did the leaving. But now what’s the best next step for you?
Every situation has different details, but here are the top things to consider that emerged from my research and work with thousands of women.
1. Don’t swear off love for a long time. That decision could start an unhealthy cycle:
- You fear not being able to recover from any more hurt.
- Your guardedness feeds a negative self-view of you as someone who can’t trust her own judgment.
- Over time, your relationship restriction makes you rusty at reading potential partners.
- Something happens in your life such as illness or job crisis that increases your fear of being alone.
- You then become vulnerable to choosing the next okay-enough-person who comes along.
- This person ends up not being a wise choice, and so you decide to swear off love again.
If this pattern sounds familiar, you are not alone. Almost three-quarters of the women from my research and private practice got caught in this Hurt-Lonely-Scared Cycle.
2. Understand that it is normal to feel unhappy, lonely, confused, angry, or relieved about your break up. If you become too depressed or furious, seek professional help immediately. Here’s a checklist you can use to chart your emotional reactions and determine that it’s time to get professional help.
Break up Recovery Checklist
If you experience the items on the list for more than two weeks, I recommend you see a counselor. I never like to volunteer to close doors. You have far more to lose by not getting some guidance and tips. Invest in you! You are worth it.
Check the statements that describe you.
- My appetite has changed. I’m either eating too much or too little.
- I am relying on drugs or alcohol to make me feel better.
- I have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
- I’ve lost interest in things that I normally do.
- I can’t concentrate or motivate myself at work or school.
- I can’t stop thinking about my partner who left me. I wonder if there is a new person in his or her life already.
- I’ve been contacting my ex and leaving mean messages or stalking him or her or damaging my ex’s property and basically making his or her life miserable.
- I cry a lot.
- I have lots of aches and pains and headaches and stomach upsets.
- It feels like my life is over.
- I don’t feel like being around my friends and family.
- I don’t have a lot of energy, and I’ve stopped exercising or doing things that made me feel good.
- I don’t think my life is worth living much longer, and I think of how I might kill myself
3. Learn from your past relationship. No one likes making the same mistake too many times. Here are some questions to help you understand your past relationship.
- Why did I choose this person?
- What do I think went wrong?
- What was going on in my life when I chose this person?
- What qualities do I now know I need in a relationship?
- What is my Emotional Default Drive Attraction to a person who is not good for me? In other words, do I end up creating the same kinds of problems I had in other relationships?
- What influence did my parents and childhood have over my love problems now?
4. Become careful about rebound love by jumping into another serious relationship immediately. That decision could land you in the most common and unhealthy love pattern:
You get trapped in the Relationship Flip where you over-correct your previously unhappy love pattern.
For example, if your previous partner was too mild or insecure or unreliable, you fall for someone who seems to take charge and has lots of confidence—but who ends up wanting to take charge of you! Or, if your previous partner was too controlling, you choose someone whose mildness morphs into meekness.
But notice that these two examples are just upside-down versions of the same pattern where someone is either too much or too little in charge or too passive.
The healthiest relationships consist of partners who fill in the gaps for the other partner’s weaknesses and who offer flexibility and reliability.
Know the reasons why you are in another relationship. Don’t do the following:
- You choose someone quickly to prove to your ex that you can attract someone.
- You choose someone who pleases your parents or family.
- You choose someone because life circumstances such as feeling lonely or getting older make you act in haste.
- You choose someone you don’t respect or—and who doesn’t respect or value you.
5. Become an expert in your reactions, feelings and assessments while on dates or in new relationships. Observe you on a date and your date at the same time. Observe important cues from your date such as:
- How does your date treat the wait staff?
- Does your date listen or talk only about him or her?
- Does your date “charm” you too much and make you feel too “special?” These could be signs of this person reading your vulnerability—and then taking advantage of you.
- Observe your own levels of too much excitement and anticipation for a date with this particular person. This reaction could be a sign that you are falling for your Emotional Default Attraction.
- Go to the restroom and check your pulse—and your thoughts. Get in touch with you!
- Read books about reading people.
6. Make the goal of dating to test your ability to read people accurately. Date lots of different kinds of people. Don’t worry if the person doesn’t seem your “type” or if there isn’t any “chemistry.” Give you and your dates time to build trust and respect and closeness. You might be surprised. Often, the best way to learn about you and your needs is to get to know different people.
7. Don’t have sex so soon. Get to know someone over time, and don’t let the high of sex flood your brain with pleasure hormones that cloud your ability to see and think clearly. Ask yourself: Are we both making love—or are we having sex? Do we share the same vision about what this experience means?
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