"He left me. He said he didn't love me anymore and just walked out." A client sobbed on the sofa in my clinic a six months ago. Her heart had been completely broken by her partner of 11 years. (I have changed names and some scenarios to protect confidentiality)
She was completely overwhelmed with sadness and an acute sense of loss. She had a high flying career and was angry at herself for falling apart yet she had no control over the crying or the obsessing over what she might have done wrong.
The truth is that she had suspected for the last 18months that something was wrong. Her ex, who I shall call James, had become gradually more distant and less affectionate. He had always bought flowers home on a Friday but that dwindled, as did other little gestures that she used to take for granted like a cup of tea in bed on Sunday's and buying her the latest book from her favourite author when it came out.
At first Susie had been too busy to really notice but over time she started to feel sad about it. Whenever she brought it up he told her he was sorry and that he had been busy too. Whenever they argued about it and she said she didn't feel as loved by him anymore he would accuse her of being too demanding.
Their sex life petered out in the last six months but she assumed it was all down to the length of their relationship and that it was natural that sex would not be as frequent after 11 years. Susie busied herself in work and tried not to think about it. After all they still had a good circle of friends and a fun social life together so it wasn't all bad.
So the break-up hit her like a freight train. She felt broken inside and her self confidence was at rock bottom. Susie came to see me to find out how to feel better as James had made it clear he was not coming back. She felt partly responsible and wishes she had done more about the problems and not allowed them to fester.
The interesting thing about heart break is that it really physically hurts inside. It's an exquisite pain that can grab hold of you and paralyse you from moving forward with your life. The good news is that there are lots of things you can do to help you let go of your ex. It's not easy but with practice and a determination to get back in control of your feelings will help you to get there.
Don't be afraid to face any negative emotions. It's ok to cry and actually helps you to heal. It's all part of the loss cycle and a natural part of your recovery process. It's normal to grieve the loss of your relationship. Susie was so relieved to find this out that she relaxed. She had thought she was depressed and would never feel happier. But the truth is that sadness is part of the natural recovery process.
The key to letting go of your ex is to change your focus from the past and what happened to the future and put your energy and attention into creating your new single life. Stop telling your sad story to everyone who will listen and start to talk about all the new things you want to achieve and have in your life. Susie had been talking about her break-up for hours with her mum and best friend. They meant well but actually gave her negative reinforcement as they were hurt and angry too. Susie and I worked on some exciting new goals that she wanted to create for her future. It gave her a new focus with her mum and best friend and they were able to support her in a more positive way.
Make some changes to the way you do things, especially your daily routine. This will enable you to experience new things and not end up doing the same things alone that you used to do together. You could introduce a morning walk or move some furniture around in your home which will give the room a fresh feel. Even little changes can make a huge immediate impact on how you are feeling. Susie decided to clear out James' clothes from the wardrobe and pack them away. Whilst this was tough for her to do she felt much better immediately after.
Write a bucket list of all the things you would love to do over the next 12 months but you would never have been able to whilst in your relationship. Turn your loneliness into a sense of freedom to do things that make you happy. Susie had always fancied going on a fitness retreat but James was horrified at that idea and preferred to lie by a beach. So she booked herself 5 days on a retreat abroad and came back fitter, more confident in herself and with a tan. She carried it through into her daily routine and joined a gym as she recognised how having a healthy body gave her more mental strength and a better ability to move forward with her life.
Susie now has the tools and techniques to feel better and move forward with her life. She feels back in control of her emotions and has created a future she is excited to live and is loving it.
She still pops into my clinic from time to time as new challenges arise as she now appreciates the importance of dealing with issues immediately and not allowing them to fester. She came in recently as she felt ready to start dating again and wanted some help to get started. She has let go of James and is ready to start looking for a new love.
Letting go of your ex is never easy if you loved them deeply. They may always hold a place in your heart, however this place should be pain-free and full of happy memories.