Dating Dilemma: Breaking Up

Coping with a Break Up

Dealing with the aftermath

Now you're broken up. You've gone through the first hard part, the misery has ended, but another kind of misery is about to begin: the unhappiness of doubt, the "did I do the right thing" second-guessing. The aftermath of a breakup can be one huge pity party (allow yourself only 24 to 36 hours of tears) or it can be productive.

Look for patterns

If this isn't your first breakup, take this opportunity to privately examine whether your relationships are following a pattern, beginning with your first love in second grade who hit you with the teeter-totter.

Do you pick unavailable people and then feel neglected when they're unavailable? Do you need to be in control all the time or else you feel anxious? Do you take care of people and then get angry when they don't take care of you, even though you've set yourself up as the caretaker (which is really just a variation on being a control freak)?

Looking for patterns is a really good thing to do for yourself because most people get involved again eventually (and, usually, much too soon, before they've sorted out the last disaster). You'll most likely want to get involved again, too, and knowing your patterns may help you avoid making the same mistakes.

Talking to your ex about the patterns you see in yourself isn't very productive. And puh-leeeze, under no circumstances, point out the patterns you see in your ex's behavior. You're not the parent or the therapist, and no matter how keen your insight, your remarks will be viewed as self-serving. So keep those pearls of "wisdom" for a hundred years from now when you're the best of friends, and even then, swallow them.

Accept that many things don't last forever

Just because a relationship doesn't last forever doesn't mean it's not good. Unfortunately, many of us feel that if it doesn't last as long as we wanted or expected it to, then somebody must be to blame, someone has to pay, and it wasn't a good relationship at all.

Remember that it takes a while to get to know someone, and even perfectly nice people can find that there's no chemistry after some time passes. Therefore, the relationship wasn't bad or a failure, and neither party has to be the bad guy or at fault. The only perspective by which you can evaluate if the relationship made any sense or was a good investment of your time is with time.

If you think of every experience as being tuition in the school of life and love, then you can understand that some tuition is higher than others, and some classes are more fun or stick with you longer, or teach you more than others. But it's only after time passes that you gain the perspective to see which things you really benefited from.

Always look forward

It is humanly impossible to go backward in a relationship. After you know that someone can be both kind and smart, you'll never settle for one without the other again. Therefore, every breakup is an opportunity to go forward, and, after a while, you may even be able to say thank you to the one who gave you your walking papers, even though it felt awful at the time.

Excerpted from Dating For Dummies™, published by Wiley Publishing Inc.

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