How to get over being dumped
Written by Christine Webber, psychotherapist and lifecoach
It happens to everyone
Virtually everyone has been dumped at some time in their life. I certainly have – so I know it hurts like hell.
This kind of very personal rejection is in fact so painful that it can make you feel as though you’ve been injured. Rejected people often feel as though their feet have been cut away from under them, rendering them unsteady and unsure. All too often they also succumb to every cold and stomach bug going.
I have often seen people in my consulting room who are coming to terms with the end of a relationship, and frequently they look as though they are recovering from a major operation or a car accident. Their pain is so palpable that they could well be suffering from a physical illness.
Losing someone you love leaves you with a dull, heavy weight in your chest that often, without warning, explodes into lacerating pain. This torment makes you long for a time when life was easier, so you tend to hope that your ex will return – sometimes even after a couple of years of single-living.
You might also feel that if they do not come back, no one else will ever fill that gap in your life and you will never find love elsewhere. This is nonsense of course, but grief skews our thinking.
Accepting it’s really over
So, how can you get over the pain? How can you learn to live again? How can you start viewing your single status as a fresh and fun opportunity instead of a punishment? How can you stop feeling that you are unlovable and unwantable – and that fate has marked you out for a lifetime of solitude, misery and bad luck?
Well, the first step towards a new positive future is to finally accept that your ex-partner has gone and will not be coming back.
This means facing your grief and allowing yourself to cry for the loss of your hopes and dreams. I am afraid that this is a painful process whether you are a young man who has just lost the girl of his fantasies or a 50-year-old woman whose cruel, philandering husband of 30 years has finally walked out.
The most important thing to remember at this point is that you will get over this. I know it does not seem like it right now, but you will, believe me.
Get bored, get better
The next most important thing is to lean on your friends and to talk about your ex until you have no words left to say.
You will know you are getting better when you realise that you are actually bored with the subject yourself. Talking is the key to feeling better. When we talk about our hurt it gradually ceases to have power over us and – step by step – we recover.
But during this shattering time, it is vital that you look after yourself properly. In fact, you should treat yourself like an invalid, or like someone who has had a terrible shock.
Take long, hot, scented baths, play music that helps you to let your feelings out, tempt yourself with favourite foods and allow other people to get close to you and to care for you.
The LEARN process
I devised this acronym, LEARN, many years ago now for a TV programme. I am very pleased to say that since that time it has helped countless people put the past behind them and move onto new happiness in their lives. Hopefully it will also help you.
L stands for LIST
Make a list of all the things about your ex-partner that you did not like. It may start off small, but if you pin it up in your kitchen so that you see it daily, you will be amazed at how it will grow.
Remember how he or she always told the same jokes? Or got drunk at parties? Or put you down in company? Or could not be bothered to get involved in your job or hobbies?
Write it all down and start realising that maybe your lost relationship was not so great after all.
E is for EXPERIENCE
After a relationship is finished, we tend to think that we can never be loved again. This is not true, of course, but it is what we believe at the time.
The fact is that there is every probability you will be loved again. Not by your ex-partner, of course: you will never again share exactly what you had in that relationship, but you can have just as important feelings with someone else.
A stands for APPRECIATION
Appreciation of yourself, that is.
You need to look at yourself in the mirror and focus on your best features and congratulate yourself on them. Do this often.
Another helpful task is to write a list of 50 things that you like about yourself. This might take some doing, but it is a rewarding exercise.
You see, when we are dumped we tend to take the blame on our own shoulders. We mentally beat ourselves up for not being more fun or more intelligent, or more attractive, or much better in bed.
Try to stop this destructive thinking and – just for a change – allow yourself to feel your own goodness. So, deliberately recall times when you have helped someone, or been kind to a stranger, or put yourself out for a neighbour.
Learning to accept and value your own kindness, beauty and talent is very healing.
R is for RE-ORGANISING
Unfortunately, when you have been half of a couple for a while, many of your friends will be other couples who knew you and your ex.
Sadly, some of these people are probably avoiding you like the plague now, fearful, in some cranky way, that having you around will make their own relationship more vulnerable.
But even if you keep plenty of old friends, this is a time when you need a whole new circle of mates of both genders.
N is for NO SEX WITH YOUR EX!
Often when you have been apart for several months, your ex may suddenly decide that the grass was not greener outside the relationship after all.
Or perhaps he or she will sense that you are getting your life in order and may feel jealous that you are now in a position to find someone else. Maybe he or she will just fancy a quick snog for old time’s sake.
The trouble is that sex and closeness might make you feel loved and wanted temporarily, but it will leave you with more sorrow and confusion afterwards.
So do not do it. If your ex begs to come back and try again, then you can make a decision at some later date about whether or not you will give it a go, but never have sex before this point.
Anyway, the chances are that with all the suffering you have gone through and all the work you have done on yourself to get your act together your ex-partner will be the very last person you want to be with!
Finally, for many people, losing a partner feels so painful because it echoes feelings of unworthiness or of uncertainty about love from their childhood. If this is happening to you, then you are dealing with two lots of pain and difficulty:
the end of your relationship
all that baggage from earlier times.
This is not easy. Frequently, your current unhappiness brings back unwanted memories of when a much loved grandparent died, or when your parents got divorced.
Being dumped may also deeply offend what you believe should happen to you – and these thoughts may stop you recovering.
At times like this, therapy can be a very good thing. So if your recovery seems to be taking ages, you might want to consider getting some sort of counseling/therapy to help you.