3. Examine the role each partner played in the breakup. After the initial period of reaction and processing of feelings, it is time to look at who did what in the relationship that ended up not working. Initially, it is easier to focus on how your partner failed you. After those feelings get expressed and processed and you get the support you need to tolerate them, the next step is to look at the relationship as a whole and see what each of you did or did not do that led to the breakup.
For example, if your partner did not attend to your needs in a consistent way, ask yourself: "Did I convey my needs in a clear, understandable and non-provocative way?" If your partner did not communicate meaningfully with you, ask yourself: "Was there anything I may have done that made such communication difficult? Was there anything I might have done that could have made communication easier?"
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I am not suggesting you blame yourself for the breakup or for your partner's failures. However, relationships are mutual, when they work and when they do not. Looking at how you reacted to the disappointments or frustrations in the relationship, how you attempted or did not attempt to work things through with your partner, how you responded to or initiated problem solving in the relationship, all of these explorations will prepare you to bring new insights and skills to the next relationship you encounter.
4. Let go of pain to release its power over you. This step is perhaps the hardest one. You can't skip over the others and master it. You must go through the process of experiencing your feelings, receiving support and honestly examining what went wrong and who did what in order to get to this stage.
Once you arrive, your goal is to stop allowing this wound interfere in your ability to move forward in your life. Staying stuck in your bitterness will prevent you from finding love again.
This step is a little like forgiving someone for something unforgivable. I have always struggled with this notion myself. What I have come to understand is that letting go of relationship bitterness, like forgiveness, is not absolving the other person of responsibility for the harm that has been caused. Rather, it is a recognition and acceptance of the wound and a commitment to move beyond it and not let it continue to control your feelings in the future.
5. Choose a postitive, personal focus for the future. Once you have let go of bitterness and resentment, and you have committed to moving forward to a more fulfilling future, it is time to choose a specific focus. For example, a treasured New Year’' tradition in my family is to choose what we call a "year word." Instead of New Year's resolutions, which almost always fail, the "year word" provides a focus for your year.
The year I was expecting my first child, my year word was "maturity." Your personal focus can be one word or a few words, but it needs to represent what you want to move toward, a goal you want to focus on achieving as you move forward in your life.
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These five steps are sure to get you from bitterness to boldness, from humiliation to satisfaction and from resentment to resourcefulness. Take one step at a time and you will feel better soon!