MOVE ON FROM A MESSY BREAKUP

Break-ups can be messy af­fairs. But there’s a way to guard your emo­tions and main­tain your san­ity dur­ing the mad­ness.

True Love - - Front Page - By PHILA TYEKANA

Most women have ex­pe­ri­enced the in­evitable gut-sink­ing feel­ing dur­ing a break-up. It’s a pain that many of us aren’t pre­pared for. It’s not just the sad­ness and grief over los­ing some­one close — but it’s also dis­be­lief that some­one who was once fully ac­ces­si­ble to you is now off-lim­its.

It’s not hard to see why we back­slide into con­tact with exes — for sex, cud­dling, or tex­ting — when we’re feel­ing lonely, weak-willed or even drunk. But some peo­ple seem more prone to it than oth­ers. My first break-up was a mess. My high-school boyfriend and I lin­gered in an am­bigu­ous space for so long, that I wanted to avoid re­peat­ing a sim­i­larly tor­tur­ous sit­u­a­tion at all costs. To me, the fewer bound­aries we had, the more hurt we felt.

Other women avoid all forms of con­tact with former lovers. Corey, 28, ended things with her first love at age 26, af­ter he ad­mit­ted to be­ing un­sure of where their re­la­tion­ship was headed. She was re­strained about the whole mat­ter, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing they worked to­gether. She cut off all un­nec­es­sary con­tact. “I knew we couldn’t con­tinue dat­ing af­ter I dropped the L-bomb. The thought of hook­ing up af­ter he didn’t say what I wanted to hear re­pelled me — I knew I de­served bet­ter than some­one who was un­sure.”

An­other friend, Jane, 29, dated a guy in her so­cial cir­cle un­til his hot-and-cold be­hav­iour led her to cut things off… but it took a while. “He knew what to say to keep me in­ter­ested,” she says. “It’s se­ri­ously an art — he was ma­nip­u­la­tive.” Break-ups are never fun, but they def­i­nitely don’t have to be as bad. Fol­low these 12 steps to make yours cleaner, clearer and less con­fus­ing.

1. Call it some­thing else

We’re not ad­vo­cat­ing that you en­gage in de­nial­ism about your

re­la­tion­ship sta­tus. But when you’re re­ally hurt­ing, ex­perts say it can help to re­frame it men­tally and ver­bally. “Think­ing of mov­ing the re­la­tion­ship to an­other stage in which you no longer share in­ti­ma­cies, com­mit­ment and friend­ship can help peo­ple move into ac­cep­tance and heal­ing more eas­ily,” says cou­ples ther­a­pist Dr Mar­lene Wasser­man. So don’t be too hard on yourself; take your time.

2. Re­alise you might not get clo­sure

Some break-ups make you want to reach out to your ex – if a guy dis­ap­pears on you with­out an ex­pla­na­tion, for in­stance; or if you thought things were good and your part­ner drops a bomb­shell that they’ve been un­happy for a long time. Even if you talk to him, you might never get the an­swers you’re look­ing for. He might not even fully un­der­stand his own rea­sons. It can feel tor­tur­ous, but it’s im­por­tant to re­alise that you and only you can work out your feel­ings, now that the re­la­tion­ship is over.

3. Yes, you have to block him

There are so many rea­sons why you need to do this on so­cial me­dia and even via text or email, if nec­es­sary. It stops you from com­pul­sively and ob­ses­sively check­ing his In­sta­gram and Face­book pages to see if he’s dat­ing any­one new, and it stops him from do­ing the same to you. It also pre­vents ei­ther of you from start­ing con­ver­sa­tions you might re­gret. “Con­tact is se­duc­tive and tempt­ing,” says Wasser­man, “but it can be tor­tur­ous and con­fus­ing. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, con­fi­dence and bound­aries are re­quired for emo­tional health, when it comes to dat­ing and break-ups.”

4. Take a short trip down mem­ory lane

Re­liv­ing your happy mem­o­ries as a cou­ple is not off-lim­its, says Wasser­man. “If you block them out, you’ll hunger for con­tact, to get pos­i­tive feel­ings from an ex.” So spend some time with your jour­nal or old pho­tos and honour the good stuff you had to­gether. This rit­ual can be cathar­tic and pos­i­tive, but keep it short and sweet — then put them away.

5. Let yourself ‘be in your feels’

Af­ter you’ve ac­knowl­edged the pos­i­tive things your ex brought to your life, it’s time to fully feel your sad­ness. “Sim­ply be in the mo­ment with the pain, heartache, re­jec­tion, anger and shame,” ad­vises Wasser­man. Pro­cess­ing them is nec­es­sary in or­der to let them go – and to pre­vent yourself from get­ting stuck in a cy­cle where you’re reach­ing out to your ex (or let­ting him reach out to you) be­cause of the in­ten­sity of those feel­ings.

6. …and then ac­tively de­tach

Af­ter you’ve felt sad for a while, it’s time to give yourself a lit­tle tough love and put the break-up into per­spec­tive. “As painful as it is, for many peo­ple that pain is ac­tu­ally about some­thing in their past, and may not en­tirely be about their former part­ner,” says cou­ples ther­a­pist Tara Fields. Once you re­alise that the feel­ings that are lead­ing you to pro­long con­tact with your ex might not ac­tu­ally be all about him or her, “it can help you get per­spec­tive and de­tach,” she says.

7. Don’t go it alone

You’ve heard it be­fore, and we’ll say it again: Get sup­port when you’re deal­ing with a break-up. Find a ther­a­pist who can help you work out some of the is­sues. And lean on friends: “Ac­cept that you’ll have weak mo­ments, where you may get the urge to con­tact your ex – so have other peo­ple you feel com­fort­able calling to talk about your pain,” says Wasser­man.

8. Have a no-fan­tasy pol­icy

“You can’t al­ways trust your in­stincts in these sit­u­a­tions, be­cause when you’re feel­ing des­per­ate or lonely, you may choose to see things that aren’t there,” says Fields. “You’ll take bread crumbs and make a loaf.” Even if your ex is giv­ing you mixed sig­nals about not be­ing 100% sure they want to break up, you’re still bet­ter off giv­ing them space to do that. “That way, you in­crease your sense of self and their value of you, whether they come back or not. You can’t con­trol your ex, but you can con­trol your re­ac­tion.”

9. Be ac­count­able

“Give a close friend per­mis­sion, when you’re feel­ing weak, to re­peat all the things you told them were neg­a­tive about the re­la­tion­ship,” says Fields. It’s not about putting your ex down in or­der to build yourself up; it’s about stay­ing grounded in re­al­ity—the re­al­ity that the re­la­tion­ship didn’t work out for a rea­son.

10. Get busy

Go out with friends. Even if you’re not ready to se­ri­ously date yet, do fun things. Go to a party you nor­mally wouldn’t at­tend; or just go out for ca­sual drinks with an­other man to re­mind yourself they’re out there. Wasser­man sug­gests keep­ing con­doms in your bag in the event of “ca­sual spon­ta­neous sex — whether it’s be­cause you hope it’ll heal you, help you for­get your ex, or sim­ply be­cause you’re horny.” No shame in that!

11. Treat yourself

“Give yourself a lot of self-care dur­ing this time,” says Fields. “Treat yourself to things that are nur­tur­ing to you. Get a mas­sage, buy yourself flow­ers, or just ask friends for a lot of hugs to give you the oxy­tocin boost you’re miss­ing from your ex.” Or shoes… re­tail ther­apy is real!

12. Use what you learned

Break-ups suck, but it’s not all bad. “It’s a time of re­flec­tion,” says Fields. “Think about what led to the re­la­tion­ship’s end – you’ll dis­cover be­havioural pat­terns that’ll give you in­sights into future re­la­tion­ships.” Wasser­man echoes this sen­ti­ment: “The pain will pass. It’s im­por­tant to de­velop a strong re­la­tion­ship with yourself be­fore start­ing your next com­mit­ted re­la­tion­ship.”

“AC­CEPT THAT YOU’LL HAVE WEAK MO­MENTS WHERE YOU MIGHT GET THE URGE TO CALL YOUR EX.”

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