When your ex moves on, you must, too

November 22, 2005 — Leave a comment

Salt Lake Tribune

Why is it so painful when an ex marries?

The breakup was your idea. You even used the old “It’s not you, it’s me,” speech. Both of you have moved on, right? Then why is it so painful when you discover that your ex is getting married? When my ex-boyfriend Dave went from dating “her” to marrying “her,” I grieved all over, again! It was really over.

The value you hold in a relationship can be measured by the level of pain you feel when it’s over. And, the greater the pain, the longer the recovery. But, you will recover.

Keep in mind that there are around 6 billion people on this planet. OK, so one person in the whole lot has shot an arrow through your heart. That arrow sure didn’t come from Cupid this time, did it? Nonetheless, isn’t it interesting that we use the same metaphor for two opposing experiences?

Perhaps there’s a reason for our combo-metaphor. We seem to confuse love-struck with being struck period. Look a bit closer.

You may have 20/20 blind-sight. Something happens to our memory bank when our ex moves on. For some reason, the past gets rewritten. And suddenly they’re the most amazing, unforgettable person in the universe. When you rewrite the past you make your romance seem so perfect, i.e., “He cared so much for his secretary that he gave her flowers and expensive perfume. Isn’t that special?”

So, his cheating turns to altruism. Force yourself to remember the strains, the unresolved conflicts and irritating habits. Wake up to reality: This was not the love of your lifetime. Stop pretending that it is.

Clean house. Your possessions feed your obsession. Remove photos, mementos, gifts and anything else that reminds you of him or her. If you can’t bear to toss things out, put them in a box out-of-sight to dispose of later when the right ritual hits you. Delete all e-mails from your database and phone numbers from your planner.

Did you know that caller ID was invented for heartbreak recoveries? To help facilitate the healing

of your broken heart, when your ex calls, don’t pick up that phone unless you want the endless, painful cycle to continue. The only way to break free is with a clean break. Consider changing your phone number if you’re relentlessly receiving calls, or surgically removing your dialing finger if you’re compulsively sending calls. Or, if you’re particularly fond of your finger, dial someone else your support person, the one who can remind you of why you don’t want to call your ex.

Accept every single social invitation you receive. Yes, I know you’d rather stay home curled up by the fire with Fido and a great movie. But, you need to get out. Get your body moving, and spend time with other people. If social events aren’t readily happening, make your own. Invite your co-workers to dinner, join a club or gym, take a class, volunteer in the community. Keep your eyes on the goal of one day having a gratifying relationship. Every journey needs a destination.

What do you think? Why is it so painful when an ex marries?

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Dr. Liz Hale

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