Must-read advice for those going through a breakup or divorce, from The Breakup Bible author.
About 4 years ago, psychotherapist Rachel Sussman started witnessing love-life chaos from every direction. Her sister's 5-year relationship hit the rocks. Some of her closest friends' marriages ended in divorces. She had an influx of clients in her practice dealing with devastating breakups. Sussman got a front-row glimpse into how women handle that horrible road through Splitsville. And when she found out there was no appropriate survival guide for women, she picked up her pen.
"I had a year to help them heal," Sussman says. "I was able to see who was recovering, who wasn't and why. There was no book from a female therapist for a female audience [on breakups]. Women heal from breakups very differently than men. There really needed to be a resource just for women."
Sussman channels her wisdom into the ultimate breakup-survival tool for ladies, The Breakup Bible: The Smart Woman's Guide to Healing from a Breakup or Divorce. In it, Sussman advises women how to move on from a relationship, understand what happened in the split, get a deeper understanding of themselves, and ultimately, just live well.
"When interviewing for the book, I searched for a certain type of woman," she says. "Not necessarily one who was in another relationship, just one who had gone on to lead a fabulous life."
Which is what we all want, right? Here are a few of Sussman's tips for dealing with a tough breakup or divorce. For more, check out The Breakup Bible.
1. Grin and bear it. What should you do right after a breakup? According to Sussman, you have to understand it might be stormy for a while. "Buy a huge box of tissues," she says. "You're going to go through a rough time, but you need to accept the relationship is over. Settle into the breakup. A healthy woman is sad. That isn't bad."
2. Put down your cell phone. "Never call your ex. Don't try to get back together," Sussman says. Be careful, especially if kids are involved. "The worst thing is to get into a negative pattern of communication. If you have children, you obviously have to talk. But women will often bring up issues from the relationship, looking for validation in these conversations—it won't happen. You'll get off the phone upset or enraged. You're just re-opening the wound."
3. Follow the right timetable. Healing doesn't come about overnight. Don't start dating immediately. Don't hide away forever. Take your time, but move forward: "It's a 6 to 18-month process," Sussman says. "Don't take 2 weeks and think it will be all better. If you're young, you should be out there dating again in 6 months. If you're in a marriage, especially with children, 18 months is a good timeframe. But it could also take 2 or 3 years and that's not bad as long as you're dealing with the breakup."
4. Don't repeat history. Learn from the breakup. "Understanding is one of the sections of my book," Sussman says. "You have to trace the patterns so you understand why you picked your ex, how you behaved in the relationship, and why you're mourning the way you are." There's a "love map" in The Breakup Bible to help you do this. Sussman says it's so key.
"I have women in their thirties coming to me saying, 'All men are bad. I will never be cheated on again. I will never date again.' Obviously, this isn't true. That's why the love map is so important. You have to find the underlying process of why you chose the guy you did. You have to figure it out, have that 'a-ha!' moment, or you'll keep repeating the patterns over and over again."
5. Balance your time. Right after a breakup, it's essential to avoid becoming a hermit or a social butterfly. "I want you to have things to do," Sussman says. "Take time to explore your feelings. Don't book yourself 24/7 or isolate."
6. Focus on your career. After you deal with your initial feelings, it's time to transform your life in the 6 to 18 months after the split. "Ask yourself, 'What can I do to feel fabulous?'" Sussman advises. "Career is a big one to focus on. Women should feel fulfilled in their career. You can also do volunteer work or travel." But...
7. Don't travel immediately. Make sure it's not a split-second, post-breakup getaway. Lots of women feel compelled to go to a new place after a split, but you're only running away to a place with no comfort. "Bad idea," Sussman says. "You're alone. You haven't dealt with your feelings. You wind up having a miserable time. Save traveling for after you've moved on and are ready to transform your life."
8. Don't try to rekindle the flame. Sometimes, loneliness creeps in. It's all you can do not to call him up, say you're sorry and beg for him back … Don't. "Do not try to get back together with your ex," Sussman says. "The only time it works is if you full-on address the problems that broke you up, go to couples therapy and confront the issue. Just realize that love doesn't necessarily mean two people should be together."
9. Take care of yourself; take care of others. Sussman says that a healthy woman takes care of herself physically, making sure she "exercises, eats healthy and does not abuse alcohol or anti-depressants." If kids are involved, she should also focus energy on them. "A healthy woman is taking care of her children. She's making sure they're settling in. And she is not bad-mouthing her ex."
10. Keep the faith. Sussman says that anyone who wants to get over a breakup, and puts in the time, will. "Never lose hope. Everyday, find a reason to be hopeful. Your life doesn't end when your relationship ends."
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