Ask Dr. Tracy

Letting Go

After breaking up with someone you loved, even if you were the one who decided to end it and don't feel rejected, you still feel a sense of loss, and you ache for the love you were getting that's now gone. All these feelings have to work themselves out of your system. It's a process you must go through, similar to grieving or getting over an addiction, and some researchers say that it can take up to half as long as the relationship lasted.

However, just as there are ways to make the "In Love" feeling happen (see "Why People Love"), there are ways to encourage the "Out Of Love" feeling as well. Here are some proven guidelines for helping you regain a normal emotional state in the shortest period of time:

1. Make a clean break

Quit seeing your ex, totally. You've become addicted to their love, and the only way to recover is cold turkey. If you keep seeing him or her, it's like a drug addict begging for "just one more" hit. Don't call. Don't "just be friends." Because each time you get close enough to your ex to get the good parts of what you once had, you'll get the bad parts too.

2. Write a last love letter

There are always so many things you still want to say to your ex. Write a letter that says them all and then don't send it. Put it away. Just writing it will make you feel better. You'll be relieved of carrying around the thoughts in your mind and free yourself for new and better things.

3. Make a "hate list"

When you break up, you often forget the bad times and only yearn for the good ones. Before you forget, write down every nasty mean thing your ex ever did so that you can look at the list whenever you start to feel nostalgic for your old romance. (Don't send this, either...)

4. Use "thought-stopping" to combat sad thoughts

If you think, "If only I could get (him or her) back, everything would be all right." Or, "I just wish I could see (him or her) one more time." These thoughts will only frustrate you and make you sad. Stop the unhappy thoughts by keeping a rubber band around your wrist. When you have the obsessive thoughts about your ex, snap the rubber band as soon as the thought starts to happen. That way you'll begin to associate the sad thoughts with the aversion therapy you're using. After a while, the thoughts will stop by themselves as soon as they start.

5. Avoid sad associations

Don't listen to sad songs on the radio. Skip the stations that remind you of your ex. Listen to music without words for a while. Don't go to the places you went with your ex. Put away all the pictures and momentos that remind you of your ex. Put away the gifts you got and even rearrange your furniture or stay with a friend for awhile if there are too many sad memories at home. Stay away from friends of your ex and avoid seeking gossip about your ex. Whatever you hear, you won't feel any better.

6. Find someone new

Force yourself to date. Don't be a recluse. Read "When He/She's Left You -- Coping" for specific techniques which will help pull you out of your depressed state. I know you're not ready to get serious about someone else yet, but it's important to get out and get circulating, and a new man or woman in your life will be a pleasant distraction. But resist the temptation to cry on their shoulder, no matter how sympatico they seem. Don't even start to tell the new person about your ex and how bad it was. Just enjoy the new relationship.

Related Keywords: Letting Go, Love Addiction

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