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Heal from past relationships to help you move on and find love

Mark B. Baer Family Law Attorney, Mediator, Collaborative Law Practitioner, Speaker, and Author Mark B. Baer, Inc., a Professional Law Corporation
Heal from past relationships to help you move on and find love

Whether or not you believe in karma, fate, or destiny, we do have a great deal of control over many things that occur in our lives. Our outlook and the way in which we handle life’s challenges impacts our future. The energy we give off, which some people refer to as our aura, is what attracts people to us or repels them from us. This is true professionally, socially and romantically. We have all heard about people’s baggage - and I am not talking about luggage. The fact of the matter is that the less baggage we carry, the better our future will be. The good news is that we can do things to lessen our load, regardless of our past. This article contains some excellent expert advice to help people heal from their past in order to improve their future.


Do

Do grieve the loss of your relationship

The psychological community views the loss of a loved one either to death itself or the death of the relationship as a stress or grief process. This is completely understandable, considering the losses associated with the end of that relationship. The following is a list of some such losses: (1) loss of companionship; (2) loss of sexual relationship; (3) loss of family as it was known; (4) loss of time with children; (5) loss of relationship status; (6) loss of trust; (7) loss of expectations; (8) loss of security; (9) potential loss of associated relationships and friendships; and (10) loss of self-esteem. The painful feelings, thoughts and attitudes a person experiences at such a time result from what is known as grief. The feelings people typically experience include denial, anger, hatred, rejection, fear, pain, hostility, shock, relief, and pleasure.

The five stages of grief are as follows: (1) denial; (2) anger and resentment; (3) bargaining; (4) depression; and (5) acceptance. Denial of grief fosters pain and hostility, and unresolved grief exacerbates conflict. As difficult as it may be, people must mourn their losses and understand their grief in order to effectively move on with their lives.

Do take personal responsibility for your contribution

We are living in a day and age in which almost nobody takes personal responsibility for their actions and behavior. A relationship involves two people and both are responsible one way or another in its success or failure. Self-awareness can be rather painful because it forces us to recognize our mistakes and imperfections. However, we must always remember that “to err is human” and nobody is perfect. Before taking on the role of victim and playing the blame game, you may want to answer the following questions:

Did you marry someone, expecting to change them after you were married? Were you too critical of your spouse, while you were still married? Were you unfaithful? Did you marry someone who you were dating, while they were still married to their prior spouse? Did you expect your spouse to read your mind because you were not properly communicating with them? Were you accusatory or disrespectful when communicating with your spouse? Did you react to your spouse when you were angry and your judgment was therefore impaired? Did you feel compelled to always win arguments with your spouse? Did you listen to your spouse with an open mind, or did you jump to conclusions? Were you respectful of your spouse's opinions? Did you discuss problems and issues or just sweep them under the rug? Did you forgive your spouse or hold grudges? Were you insincere with your spouse? Did you raise issues long since thought to have been resolved, when arguing over something new? Did you assume that your spouse was personally attacking you because they did not agree with you? Did you and your spouse discuss your respective attitudes toward money with each other or just assume that your attitudes were identical? Did you make financial decisions without consulting with your spouse? Did you ever make your spouse beg for money? Did you and your spouse ever work out a budget together? Did you make the health of your marriage your top priority? Did you make adequate time for your spouse? Were you as concerned for and about your spouse as much as you were for yourself? Did you physically or emotionally abuse your spouse? Did you discuss your priorities and expectations with your spouse whenever they changed?

According to Dr. Brené Brown LMSW, who studies vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame at the University of Houston, “Guilt is the recognition that you did something bad -- that you made a mistake. Guilt is the motivator of change and it cannot occur unless and until you take responsibility.”

Do give yourself the gift of forgiveness

Don’t let someone live rent free in your head. By refusing to forgive, you are allowing someone to live rent free in your head. Your ex may not know or even care that they continue to cause you such angst. In fact, if they knew, they might even relish in such knowledge.

The following quote is from the Mayo Clinic staff: “When someone you care about hurts you, you can hold on to anger, resentment and thoughts of revenge - or embrace forgiveness and move forward…. Generally, forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge…. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you deny the other person’s responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn’t minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with your life…. If you’re unforgiving, you might pay the price repeatedly by bringing anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience. Your life might become so wrapped up in the wrong that you can’t enjoy the present.”

You don't need to tell the other person about the forgiveness because it is all about you. By the way, one of the reasons people are unable to forgive is that they don’t take responsibility for their contribution to the result.

There is a big difference between forgiving and forgetting. It takes time and an enlightened person to forgive, but it takes a demented person to forget. Isn't the best revenge living a wonderful post-break-up life? How can you do so, if you continue allowing your ex to live rent free in your head?

Do learn from your prior experiences

As I said before, everyone makes mistakes. However, how can we learn from our mistakes, if we don't even admit making any?

The distinction between forgiving and forgetting also comes into play here. Matthew B. James, Ph.D. stated in pertinent part as follows: “[We can] fully forgive the other person (and ourselves!), then forget the incident but retain the learning. Let go of the sting and release the bitterness, but hang on to the wisdom. We're wired to learn from our experiences so we can apply that learning to our future…. You are free to re-establish a relationship (or not) with the person who hurt you or not. It's your choice…. People and situations show up in our lives so we can learn and grow. And most of us find that we learn even more from times that are difficult and people who hurt us. Though I wouldn't encourage you to seek out pain, it's not something to avoid either. It's just part of life -- and it can be a gift.”

We can't change others, but we can change the way in which we act and react. In other words, we can use life’s lessons to improve our lives.
The divorce rate in the United States increases from 50% for first marriages, to 67% for second marriages, and to 73% for third marriages. Unfortunately, the reason the failure rate increases is because people don't change the behavior that contributed to the prior divorce(s).

Do put things into perspective

Mother Teresa once said the following: “Life is an opportunity, benefit from it. Life is beauty, admire it. Life is a dream, realize it. Life is a challenge, meet it. Life is a duty, complete it. Life is a game, play it. Life is a promise, fulfill it. Life is sorrow, overcome it. Life is a song, sing it. Life is a struggle, accept it. Life is a tragedy, confront it. Life is an adventure, dare it. Life is luck, make it. Life is too precious, do not destroy it. Life is life, fight for it.”

We can either allow life’s challenges to control us, or we can rise above them. As Dr. Brené Brown says, “We have to let go the belief that it is always a just world. Sometimes, bad things happen to good people. We must develop the ability to see the big picture. We are not in this by ourselves. We must practice critical awareness by gathering information and reality checking our expectations. When we practice critical awareness, we demystify, contextualize, and normalize a situation.”


Don't

Do not dwell on the past

Learn from your mistakes and experiences, but don’t obsess over the past because you can’t change it. David I. Karp explained it very well in the following quote: “To find resolution and to move on, [people] must disengage from the past and focus on the future. It is a most difficult shift in perspective. I ask people to imagine themselves in the driver’s seat of a car. They have two places to look. They can peer into the rear view mirror where all of the issues of the past can be seen. Or they can look out the front windshield and see what is ahead of them. If they continue to stare into the rear view mirror, they cannot and will not see where they are going, which could be disastrous, as in heading straight over a cliff. Or they can look out the front windshield and find the safer path which avoids the cliff and leads to resolution, peace, reconciliation, recompense, forgiveness, or whatever it takes.”

Do not play the blame game

According to Brené Brown, "[W]e blame because we want to hold people accountable. However, blame serves no value, and is NOT the same as accountability. We live in a blame cul­ture — we want to know whose fault it is and how they’re going to pay. Blame is defined as the simple discharging of pain and discomfort. We do a lot of scream­ing and finger-pointing, but we rarely hold peo­ple account­able. How could we? We’re so exhausted from rant­ing and rav­ing that we don’t have the energy to develop mean­ing­ful con­se­quences and enforce them. Accountability is about understanding how vulnerable we feel, expressing that and asking for what we need. Instead, we tend to make people guess what we need and then blame them for not delivering. The people who score the highest on holding people accountable score lowest on blame. Wouldn’t it be bet­ter if we could be kinder, but firmer? How would our lives be dif­fer­ent if there were less anger and more account­abil­ity? What would our work and home lives look like if we blamed less but had more respect for boundaries?”

We cannot improve our circumstances, if we merely blame others for our fates. We cannot solve problems, if we just point fingers. This certainly hasn't worked for our politicians, who we elect to represent our interests and solve problems on our behalf. How has it worked for you? If you can think of even one positive thing that ever occurred from blaming others, please continue doing so.

Do not suppress your feelings

In order to complete the grieving process and move on, we need to face both our positive and negative feelings directly. People tend to suppress such feelings because they don’t want to experience the guilt, rejection, loneliness and other such things associated with it. Unfortunately, however, you will likely be unable to let go unless and until you have the courage to face those feelings.

According to organizational and clinical psychologist, Jay Uhler, “The confusing struggle is that in order for grieving to be complete we must face the qualities we liked about the person, the loss of the activities that we enjoyed sharing, the interests that we had in common and the dreams of future events together…. If we don’t face the positives, we do not conclude the grieving -- the letting go is not complete. It is important, if we are able to move on, to courageously confront the pain of losing the positive aspects of the relationship that ended….

Unfortunately, our family and friends may not know how to deal with feelings or grieving situations because our society does not assist people to know how to grieve. Therefore, our family and friends have not learned the grieving process. Often we are told to ‘just move on.’ Even some therapists take this approach. This does not work. It is difficult to move on until we face and release the emotions linked to the loss.

People are taught that crying is ‘breaking down.’ The truth is, sobbing is letting go. Letting go brings with it healing relief as our sobs and tears wash away our pain.

It can be of value to share your feelings with professionals who are experienced at assisting a grieving person.”

Do not fear vulnerability

In her book titled “Daring Greatly,” Dr. Brown defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. Through [her] research, [she] found that vulnerability is the glue that holds relationships together. It’s the magic sauce. To navigate life with a partner, you have to be the person that they can come home to at the end of the day, the one that they feel comfortable revealing themselves to. Without vulnerability, there can be no love, trust, or intimacy.” Moreover, shame and vulnerability are tied together. “Connection is the ability to forge meaningful authentic relationships. Unfortunately, our perceived vulnerabilities trigger our shame. Furthermore, when we are experiencing shame, we hide our vulnerabilities out of fear of disconnection. In fact, shame breeds fear, blame and disconnection.

Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance (connection) and belonging. It is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we aren’t good enough. For men, it’s the fear of not being wealthy enough, tough enough, or smart enough. The number one shame trigger for men is being perceived as weak. Men walk this tightrope where any sign of weakness elicits shame, and so they’re afraid to make themselves vulnerable for fear of looking weak. For women, shame is do it all, do it perfectly & never let them see you sweat. It’s this web of unattainable, conflicting, competing expectations about who they’re supposed to be. It’s a straight jacket.

We often discharge our shame in ways that are inconsistent with who we are as people, such as acting out toward those closest to us. In order to deal with shame, some of us move away from others by silencing ourselves, secret keeping, and disappearing into our own lives. Some of us move toward others by people pleasing. Yet others move against others by using shame and aggression to fight shame and aggression.

Fortunately, shame can’t survive being spoken. It just dies on the vine. The antidote to shame is empathy. Can they talk to you about the tough stuff? Vulnerability is not weakness -- it’s courage. The best marriages are the ones where we can go out in the world and really put ourselves out there. A lot of times we fail, and sometimes we’ll pull it off. But good marriages are when you can go home and know that your vulnerability will be honored as courage, and they you’ll find support.”

During the course of her research, Dr. Brown discovered the following twelve categories of shame: (1) appearance & body image; (2) money & work; (3) motherhood/fatherhood; (4) family; (5) parenting; (6) mental & physical health (including addiction); (7) sex; (8) aging; (9) religion; (10) speaking out; (11) surviving trauma; and (12) being stereotyped & labeled. Do you realize that when dealing with the dissolution of relationships where families are involved, at least 4 categories of shame can potentially come into play?
 

Do not focus on the negative

In her article titled “How Your Breakup Now Affects Your Karma,” Judge Michele Lowrance, a domestic relations judge in the Circuit Court of Illinois, writes, “Whether you are divorcing or just breaking up with a partner, separating is a unique moment in time that can alter the rest of your life or theirs. For 15 years I have seen the results of break ups in my courtroom in divorce court. It is now so clear to me that how the initial breakup is handled sets the tone for the entire process. The manner of breakup not only affects a person's future but who they are in the present…. When you decide that you must move on, whether married or dating, what part if any of that relationship do you take with you? There will always be choices. You can use good memories to foster a different but important relationship with that person or you could focus on the negative aspects and embitter your life…. We all know there is a brutal dance during breakup where people can devalue their own self worth by focusing only on how someone treats him or her in the end…. Some of the choices to be made are: What is the press release to our friends, do we spin a story to the world to make him or her look bad? Do we need to be the right one in the end? Do we deal fairly with material possessions and not use them for payment of what you believe is due you? In that volcanic space of the breakup have we mined for diamonds or ashes?”

Would you rather focus on the negative and feel victimized or focus on the future and feel empowered? The choice is yours.


Summary
Jumping cartoon

The way in which we handle the past impacts our future. We can either learn from our experiences in order to improve our lives or we can take on the role of the victim. Keep in mind, however, that we cannot improve our circumstances if we merely blame others for our fates. Although we cannot change the past, we do control our future. We can either allow life’s challenges to control to us, or we can rise above them. If we focus on the negative, we become embittered. By focusing on the future, we can feel empowered. Always remember that the best revenge is living a wonderful post-break-up life.


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Photo Credits: We will stay forever by Flickr: Kamal Zharif Kamaludin; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com

Mark B. BaerFamily Law Attorney, Mediator, Collaborative Law Practitioner, Speaker, and Author

Attorney Mark Baer is recognized as a ‘thought leader’ in many areas of Family Law for his provocative and forward-thinking ideas on improving the way in which Family Law is handled. As a former litigator who advocates the use of mediation and c...

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