Whether it’s your first crush or a 20-year marriage, breaking up is hard to do. After a breakup, the easy route is to curl up with a pint — hell, a tub — of your favorite ice cream and commit to a serious rom-com binge-watching session as your tears form salty puddles in your rocky road. Sure it’s easy to fall into that deep pit of despair after a relationship comes to an end, but it doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to an eternity of loneliness. Enter the love doctor: Katherine Woodward Thomas, a licensed marriage and family therapist who offers a five-step process for getting over a breakup in her new book Conscious Uncoupling: 5 Steps to Living Happily Even After. Scroll on to find out how you can help your broken heart flow with love again and recover from the pangs of a love lost.
Find Emotional Freedom
Breakups do one thing well: They bring on all the feelings. Fury, despair, devastation and even an all-consuming desire for revenge can all come into play when the wounds from a breakup are still fresh. According to Thomas, during a breakup our hormones go into fight-or-flight mode, which can inspire us to behave in uncharacteristically mean-spirited and hurtful ways. But the path to healing involves planting the seeds of forgiveness, goodwill and generosity — especially with ourselves.
“Whenever you feel overwhelmed by negative emotions, press the pause button rather than impulsively taking action,” says Thomas. “Take a deep breath and see if you can stop long enough to identify the specific feelings you’re having, such as rage, hatred, guilt or shame. Just the act of naming your feelings will begin to calm you down and put you back in the driver’s seat. You want to have your emotions, but you don’t want your emotions to have you!”
Reclaim Your Power and Your Life
The aftermath of a devastating breakup brings with it one of the biggest challenges of picking up the pieces and moving on: the victimization factor. It’s a trap that many of the forlorn fall into so easily that they don’t realize they’re obsessing over the ways they were devalued, poorly treated and wronged by their former love.
There may have been some unforgivable reasons for the untimely demise of the relationship (lying or cheating instantly come to mind) but as long as the focus is on what someone else did or didn’t do, the ability to recover isn’t achievable. “Until we take responsibility for our side of things, we will be unable to trust ourselves moving forward because we know deep down that we are liable to repeat the same mistakes again with someone new,” cautions Thomas. “The reclamation of power goes hand in hand with our willingness to take personal responsibility for our part in what happened.”
Break the Pattern, Heal Your Heart
Thomas believes that there are two types of pain in a breakup. One is the inevitable grief that comes from parting ways with a loved one. “That is normal, for we are relational creatures born to bond with one another. When there is a breakup, we will move through the five stages of grief outlined by Elizabeth Kubler Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance,” explains Thomas. But there is another pain the jilted experience that doesn’t lead to growth, but rather serves to incubate a deep resignation: the belief that one is doomed to be banished to singledom forever and will never find love or happiness again.
In order to truly heal the heart, Thomas says that the key is to challenge these pain centers by charting a course around them, so you can land in a place of power and possibility, using the pain as a catalyst for liberation.
Become a Love Alchemist
Okay, we’re not talking about conjuring up a batch of spells to return a lost love back into your life. Instead, commit to positively evolving the relationship and making a genuine effort to create a greater sense of peace and wellbeing between all parties.
“Contrary to popular belief, time does not heal all wounds. We do,” says Thomas. “And the danger of leaving negative business unfinished to fester creates a diminished capacity to love and be loved moving forward. By making the decision to become a love alchemist, you are asserting your power to create a positive future for yourself and others regardless of how challenging the past has been.”
Create Your Happily-Even-After Life
Believe it or not, there is life after a breakup and it can be extraordinary. But it does take time and it can’t be achieved in a vacuum. Involving your inner circle of friends and family in the healing process is a key element in creating a happily even after life. Remember, they were there during both the best and worst parts of the old relationship. Since they were also invested in the relationship, they can be a great source of strength during the transition.
“Do your best to help everyone adjust to the new situation and empower people to stay connected to you both whenever possible,” says Thomas. “Create cohesion in your larger community and take care to speak well of one another publicly without pulling on family and friends to take sides. Relationships belong to the community, and often a breakup will destabilize the extended circle of family and friends who relied upon that couple to create a sense of safety and wellbeing.”
What are your five steps to recovering after a breakup? Tweet us at @BritandCo and let us know!
(Photos via Getty)