Have you ever met anyone whose heart had never been broken? Me neither. And yet, some people are terrified to date, socialize or fall in love because “I’ll get hurt”. A new client of mine came in and basically told me this story:
“I’m such an idiot. I fell in love with this guy who really wasn’t that interested in me. But, I let myself fall for him – big time. I feel so hurt and used. How can I ever trust a man again?”
Haven’t we all been there? You meet someone, open your heart, love him/her and then get dumped. Usually, at this point, we do one of two things: (1) Blame ourselves, or (2) Blame them. Neither one of these does much good, nor will they help you feel better in the long run. Let’s look at each:
Blaming yourself: you can analyze and over-analyze what you did/what he did, forever. You can beat yourself up and make yourself wrong for not being perfect. You can refuse to forgive yourself and punish yourself in lots of subtle ways. And where does this get you? Nowhere. Instead, try a little objectivity…a little neutrality. Instead of blaming yourself, why not try exploring what didn’t work. For example: were there signs that you ignored? Did you have blinders on or did you go into this aware of the pros and cons of loving this person? Is being hurt like this a pattern for you? Do you pick continually pick unavailable or unsuitable people to love? This is good stuff for psychotherapy: you can ferret out the subconscious stuff that keeps pushing you to give your number to one Mr/Ms. Wrong after another.
Blaming him/her: This is a popular game that most people play with their friends. While it can be fun – and your friends are likely to encourage it – it usually just makes you feel worse, e.g., why did you fall for such an awful person? For your own mental health, resist the tendency to make this person into a monster. This won’t help you; it just keeps you feeling victimized. After all, this person must have had plenty of good qualities, or you wouldn’t have opened your heart to them, right? If this person cheated on you or treated you poorly, then tell yourself the truth about it and give yourself permission to feel your anger towards them.
I also recommend that you write about your hurt. Write a no-holds-barred “evil” letter to them. This is a letter that you will never mail, so let yourself go with it. Let them know how pissed off you are for every single rotten thing he/she did. When you’re finished with the letter, put it aside for three days, then read it one last time, and burn it. Yes, burn it. Burning it is a symbolic gesture to the universe that you are ready to let go of your hatred and move on. Don’t stay stuck in anger. You could be furious for months while the heart-breaking sucker is off having a good time. Letting go of your anger isn’t for the other person, it’s for your benefit – so you can be free to move on with your life.
If you’ve been hurt and you’re healing now, it’s okay to allow yourself to say stuff like, “I’ll never fall in love with anyone ever again.” Just don’t expect to actually do it. When you’ve been hurt, it’s necessary to grieve the loss of your love. Remember the good and bad times you had as well as their good and bad qualities. For all you know, they’re with their therapist right now talking about how stupid they were to let you get away!
Healing your hurt is a gradual process. Expect good days and bad days, days when you cry a lot about “the lover who got away” and days when you barely think of them. This is part of the natural process of healing, it comes in stops and starts, ups and downs. While initially you may want to “stay busy” and avoid feeling your feelings, eventually, you need to feel them. Numbing yourself with drugs, alcohol, shopping, workaholism or revenge sex with their best friend (tempting, I admit) are only temporary diversions, and are likely to leave you feeling worse than before. And don’t pretend that everything’s “Great”. Putting on a fake smile makes the hurt even worse. Tell people the truth: “I’m hanging in even though it hurts like hell” and just keep going. Eventually, the pain recedes and you return to your world again, stronger and – eventually – grateful for the love you gave and the love you received.