To ask Dr. Margaret Paul your love and relationship questions, join her on Facebook Tuesday 2/7 at 2pm eastern!
Many pop culture examples point to the external "breakovers" women engage in following a breakup (e.g. Gwyneth Paltrow's adorable hair chop in Sliding Doors, Britney Spears' infamous shaved head during the rough year that followed her divorce from Kevin Federline). Is there really something to this? Can cutting our hair or buying a new outfit help us get to a place of being "over" an ex?
The results of a recent YourTango survey seem to answer "yes." Of the 1,329 people polled by YourTango between December 21, 2011 and January 9, 2012:
• 64% said they tend to change their appearance after a breakup, with the most common change being weight loss, as 35% said that breaking up motivates them to hit the gym or start a new diet.
• 30% said they buy new clothing or makeup after a breakup, and 26% rock a new hairstyle.
• Only 7% said they gain weight after a breakup, and 2% are likely to get tattoos after a split.
• 84% of respondents agree that breaking up with someone can be a good opportunity for self-improvement.
• The third most popular activity people recommend to someone getting over a breakup is to go shopping (first is "spend time with friends" and second is "exercise").
So what's behind this urge to revamp our appearance post-breakup?
When we break up a relationship, we want to change something because something hasn't worked. Our culture is very focused on externals, especially on looks, so it makes sense that the first thing we want to change is our looks—weight, hair, make-up, clothing. We want to convince ourselves that changing something external will make a difference next time around. There is certainly nothing wrong with making these changes, as they will likely make us feel better for the time being. But let's not kid ourselves—the relationship didn't end due to our hairstyle, and truly getting over a breakup requires some deeper, inner self-improvement.
What really needs to be changed? If you want to feel better and not repeat the same mistakes, then you need to examine your end of the relationship system. Relationships end for many reasons, but there is often one primary reason underlying all the others: self-abandonment.
Examining and healing your patterns of self-abandonment will do way more for you in getting over a breakup than cutting your hair! How did you abandon yourself in the relationship, you ask? Self-abandonment occurs when it becomes more important to you to have control over your partner than to be loving to yourself. Read through the following list to see ways you may engage in self-abandonment.
I abandoned myself and tried to control my partner by:
• Giving myself up to my partner, going along with what he or she wanted—having sex when I didn't want to, spending time in ways I didn't want to, saying yes when I meant no—hoping that if I was loving enough and pleasing enough, he or she would love me.
• Letting myself be controlled and dominated, rather than speaking up for myself and risking conflict and rejection.
• Making my partner responsible for my feelings, and for my sense of safety and self-worth. My partner felt smothered and withdrew.
• Being very demanding—sexually, financially and/or emotionally—demanding time, approval, sex and/or things.
• Being judgmental of my partner, to get him/her to change and be the way I wanted them to be.
• Being judgmental of myself, to get myself to do things ‘right' so that my partner would love me.
• Being very reactive, easily getting angry and blaming others.
• Shutting down and withdrawing, rather than dealing with things.
• Constantly explaining and defending myself to try to get my partner to see things my way.
• Being resistant. It became more important to me to not be controlled by my partner than it was to be loving to myself and him/her.
• Lying and/or withholding the truth, to avoid disapproval and conflict.
• Dominating the conversations: talking incessantly about myself and not listening to or being interested in my partner.
• Turning to various addictions—alcohol, drugs, TV, work and so on—to shut out my partner and my own feelings, rather than taking responsibility for myself.
• Always trying to get love from my partner—in some of the above ways—rather than learning to be loving to myself and share my love with my partner.
Self-abandonment always creates internal and relationship unhappiness. Your relationship will inevitably decline when your intent is to control your partner rather than love yourself and your partner.
Loving yourself through externals such as new clothes and a new hair style is great, but learning to really love yourself—by taking responsibility for your own feelings of worth and safety—is what will make you feel wonderful. You will recover fully from the breakup and avoid repeating the problems in your next relationship. This can only happen when you learn to love yourself rather than abandon yourself!
Break Up With Your Ex Day is February 13! Learn more at Breakupwithyourex.com.
To begin learning how to love and connect with yourself so that you can connect with your partner and others, take advantage of our free Inner Bonding eCourse, receive Free Help, and take our 12-Week eCourse, “The Intimate Relationship Toolbox” – the first two weeks are free!
Connect with Margaret on Facebook.