“I felt like I was on a seven-year audition to be his wife,” my friend explained, comisserating after my own lengthy relationship had abruptly ended. Often, Mr. Very-Close-But-Not-Quite looks a lot like Mr. Right—and sometimes it takes years to see the difference. So many of us go through unnecessary heartbreak on our way to that hopeful walk down the aisle. And we hear all kinds of messages about how to cope with it—rebounds, flings, chocolate bonbons, blackouts, you name it. I can’t help but wonder—even if all this brokenness isn’t healthy—there must be a healthy way to heal.
So, today, I’ve outlined some guidelines I’ve found helpful for the initial stages of a healthy recovery from a broken heart. Next week, I'll share some perspectives on the next phase of moving on.
Treat yourself, but don’t binge. Not on alcohol. Not on food. Not on work. None of it. Having a glass of wine to relax and enjoying that gelato is OK. But trying to drink the pain away will only make it worse. Trying to eat the pain away will only make you feel guilty (and bloated). And burying yourself in work won’t make the pain disappear either—you’ll just exhaust yourself and the pain will eventually rear its ugly head at the worst moment.
Surround yourself with friends; don’t hide away. But, at the same time, be honest with yourself about what you feel up to doing. A crowded bar or a Rom Com might not be the best idea, but a long walk with close friends might be just what you need.
Don’t talk to him. If you absolutely must communicate, find a way of doing it that preserves a healthy distance and your dignity—think public places, letters you’d be comfortable with anyone reading, and so on. Just say no to the addictive bad habits of incessant calling, texting, emailing, IMing, and such. You’ll need your space to put the past in the past. It’ll be hard, but soon you’ll feel empowered by your newfound self-control.
Seek out wise counsel, especially from women who have had similar experiences. Some of their advice you’ll want to hear; some you won’t. But listen anyway, and thoughtfully consider what to take, what to tweak, and what to toss.
Consider taking a break from dating. This isn’t the season to search for Mr. Right—or maybe even to accept invitations to dinner. And it goes without saying that a rebound will likely just deepen your wound.
Break-ups are unavoidably tough, and there is no surefire path to a speedy recovery. But it’s worth the time to recognize the coping techniques that truly help hearts heal—and avoid those that feel good now but end up dragging out the pain. And, who knows? You might just wake up one morning surprised and humbled by how quickly you’ve been put back together.
Do you have any nuggets of wisdom to share on healing after heartache?
(Image via Flickr user limbte)