If you’re coming out of breakup season with a broken heart and a half-eaten pint of ice cream, no need for a pity party. Relationship counselor Rachel Sussman’s new book, “The Breakup Bible,” is here to get you back on your feet.
Based on her experience counseling thousands of men and women through breakups, Sussman offers her perspective on how to heal from the breakup, understand why it happened and transform your life to get ready for love again.
Phase 1: Healing
If someone just stomped all over your heart, start by giving yourself a little TLC. “You’ve got to take time to take care of yourself,” says Sussman. “Healing takes time. You can’t rush through it.” Read: a rebound relationship is great revenge but it’s really not the best medicine.
A breakup is an adjustment—it won’t happen overnight. “You’re really settling into your new life, which can be upsetting and scary,” she explains. “Don’t hide from your feelings. Sit with the grief, the fear, the anger.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean just wallowing. If you’ve been staring at the TV for a week, it’s time to get your zombie butt off the couch. Sussman says it’s crucial to care for your body and soul by eating well and exercising, both of which boost brain chemicals that help you feel better faster. (And never underestimate the power of taking a bat to some old electronics with your ex’s face taped on them.)
But don’t feel like you need to go through it alone. A strong support system is your biggest help in the healing phase, whether you turn to friends, family, spirituality or even yoga. The key is disconnecting from your ex for a while and reaching out to others in your life.
Phase 2: Understanding
Most people breeze right past this phase in favor of getting back in the saddle. But if you haven’t taken a moment to reflect on why you broke up (or why you started dating in the first place), guy number two will be a replay of guy number one.
“Understanding is the lynchpin of every woman’s recovery,” says Sussman. “You need to take the time to understand why you chose your ex as a partner, why you behaved as you did, why you’re feeling what you’re feeling.”
Sussman uses what she calls “love maps” to help people understand their behavior in past relationships (see page 2 of this article for a full diagram). Essentially, a love map is just a personal history that helps you explore who you are, how you behave in relationships and why those patterns developed.
The key component of self-understanding is attachment style, or the way you react to intimacy and separation in a relationship. Most people (a full 60 percent) are secure, but many are not, and insecure attachment can lead people to make the same mistakes over and over again.
When you start to see your own patterns, then you can make new choices in your next relationship. “You need to understand why you picked your ex and mourned the loss as you did,” says Sussman. “If you don’t do that work, you’re destined to go out and find the exact same guy or girl.”
But if, for example, you realize that you have an anxious attachment style and tend to feel jealous, you can start to communicate your needs more clearly and respond differently than you did in your last relationship.
Phase 3: Transformation
Understanding is essential, but it won’t get you very far unless it leads to real behavior change. “Eventually, you’ve got to walk the walk,” says Sussman.
That means letting go—for good—of whatever anger or resentment you felt toward your ex. “We’ve now closed the door,” she says. “We will never be talking about your ex again.” If you can truly close that door, you’re ready to get back out there.
By “getting back out there,” we mean throwing yourself into the life you really want, independent of anyone else. Learn to cook, travel to Europe, step up your career—take an Elizabeth Gilbert-worthy approach to loving life.
By focusing on who you are and the life you want to lead, you can develop the confidence to attract others effortlessly. “When women are over their breakup and feel great about themselves, they’re the ones that meet guys,” says Sussman.
With your breakup behind you and your life back on track, love will fall in your lap.
Read “The Breakup Bible: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Healing From a Breakup or Divorce” for the full scoop on moving through each of these phases.
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