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Allow yourself to handle waves of emotion after breakup

Allow yourself to handle waves of emotions after breakup

Q: I'm finally severing a very painful and emotionally abusive relationship. We were engaged for a time, and living together.

I'm feeling really good today. And I will probably still feel good after all my friends and family help me move this weekend.

I'm just wondering what happens next, and how do I deal with the crushing emotions that (I assume) will come?


A: Start by not being afraid of them. Think of your pain in terms of life and death — specifically, the acts of giving birth and witnessing death. These are things human beings have had to deal with since the beginning of human beings. They present, arguably, the height of physical and emotional pain. And yet we carry on. Why? We're wired to.

That wiring does include a breaker — numbness or shock when it's just too much. So think of it this way: Feeling these "crushing emotions" means the breaker hasn't tripped, and your brain thinks it can handle them.

So let yourself handle them. Cry, clear your schedule, call a friend, go fetal in a corner, hang on until the wave passes. Because that's how emotions come, in waves, and that's what waves do. They pass.

All of this is assuming the wave even comes. It might not, or it might not be as big as you were expecting.

Regardless, I hope you consider talking to a reputable therapist to get perspective on why you got deep into such a damaging relationship. That's the stuff that can rattle you — the reckoning of who you became with the person you always thought yourself to be.

The following is adapted from a recent online discussion:

Boyfriend should be making an effort to spend time with her

Denver: I've been with a great guy for three years, but I've long felt his heart wasn't in it. The bone of contention is that we haven't had a vacation together. He's been promising and promising but nothing's happened. His excuses seem legitimate, but I do also see him going on brief weekend outings with friends.

A few days ago, I voiced my frustrations. Since then, he's been pretty heavy on the compliments and has kicked it into high gear to plan a vacation "sometime this spring." I can't decide if I care anymore. I feel so worn out over something so petty.

Do you think it's ridiculous for people to break up when clearly neither one of them wants to?

Carolyn: Vacations are easy to write off as "petty." However, he makes efforts for his friends that he doesn't make for you, knowing full well you'd value the effort. That says you haven't been his priority. If his priorities have changed, you'll know. It's when he gives himself — not just words.

Anonymous: This, to me, is on the same lines as "We've talked about marriage — why won't he propose!" Why hasn't she planned something to get the ball rolling?

Carolyn: Idunno. That just sounds like a great way to end up on a vacation with someone who's only there because it was there. It should be on the first line of the dating instructions: (1) Pick someone who finds ways to spend time with you.

Allow yourself to handle waves of emotion after breakup 03/20/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 20, 2009 11:00pm]
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