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Ask Dr. Debra  [click here for archived articles]



Dear Dr. Debra, 

I am writing to you because I am going through an extremely tough and painful time. I've been dating a guy for soon to be three years and he decided to break up with me. I was completely off guard. We were having such a great time some occasional arguments but nothing dramatic. I am profoundly hurt and betrayed. I feel that I don't want to live anymore, I'm in so much pain. I wish I could get him back but I guess his mind is made up. He tells me that he no longer wants to be with me and that he doesn't love me anymore. How can you change your feelings from someone one day to another. I'm very sad and I don't know what to do with my life anymore.



Iím sorry for the pain youíre going through, Gaby. I understand what a tough time this is for you.


I doubt your boyfriend changed his feelings from one day to the next, although it seemed that way. Three things could have happened:



1. He gradually fell out of love with you until it came to the point that he didnít want to be with you any more.


2. He did fall out of love rapidly, but didnít want to hurt you and hung in for a while.


3. He found someone else, but doesnít want to tell you that.



Usually people (who arenít married) remain in a relationship longer than they should because:



1. They hope theyíll fall back in love.


2. They still care about the other person and donít want to hurt him or her, so they wait to leave.


3. Their boyfriend or girlfriend has a family, job, or other crisis and now would be a cruel time to break up.


4. They feel hostage to their boyfriend or girlfriend because of implied or stated threats that he or she would do something drastic like commit suicide or kill them.



Moving On


Iíve been through an unexpected breakup of a man I was going to marry, and I still remember the pain of that experience--it was the worst time of my life. Not wanting to live is a normal feeling after an important breakup because you want the pain to stop. However, if you find yourself thinking of ways to kill yourself, I want you to seek immediate help. 1-800-273-8255 is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.


Almost twenty years after my breakup, I can tell you that you will get through it and feel happy again, but itís going to take time. For me there was about six months of deep sadness and pain, and almost a year before I was my normal, happy self again. Other people take longer to recover, or they may have shorter periods of mourning the loss of the relationship. Your time of sadness and pain will take however long it takes. However, there are things you can do to help yourself.



Some Doníts:


Donít jump into dating again just because you want some validation that you are an attractive, desirable woman.


Donít indulge in drugs and alcohol as a way to mask your feelings.


Donít use food to numb your feelings. Youíre allowed a few comfort food meals, but then you need to stop. Gaining weight will only make you feel worse about yourself.



Some Doís:


What helped me was doing some in-depth soul searching about MYSELF and the relationship. By doing that, I moved from someone who felt powerless about what had happened, to someone who realized I had responsibility in my choice of a man and in how I handled the relationship.


The most powerful lesson I learned was that Iíd ignored my intuition about problems in the relationship. Iím sure if you search, youíll find those moments as well.


Then I had to be honest with myself about the WAYS I ignored my intuition--what I told myself at the time to discount my intuition. This helped me feel less like a victim and took away the fear of having this happen in future relationships. As painful as it was at the time, what I learned from it--paying attention to my intuition--has served me in good stead, not just in relationships, but in every aspect of my life.


Youíre going to have to re-evaluate your life. If you donít know what to do with yourself any more, perhaps you invested too much of yourself in your boyfriend. No matter how much you love someone, you need to have friends and activities that are yours alone. Men tend to get tired of women who give up everything to be with them. At first itís fun, but you can become a burden for a man. Most men want to (and should) have their own friends and activities without being with you all the time or worrying if youíll be upset if youíre left alone. They want the freedom to spend some time outside the relationship. You should too.


I know after my breakup, my work was my refuge. It didnít take away the pain, but gave me a place where I could forget for a while and concentrate on helping others. If you donít have a job you feel this way about, I urge you to volunteer for people (or animals) less fortunate.


Volunteering will take you out of your emotions for a while and help put your life in perspective.

If you donít already, start working out. Exercising, especially cardiovascular activity, helps lift your mood. A good workout tends to make you feel good about yourself. The better you feel physically, the better youíll feel emotionally.


I also suggest you seek out a counselor who can support you while youíre going through this painful time. He or she can help you process your emotions, figure out how you contributed to the downfall of the relationship, help you heal childhood wounds, and support you in finding a healthy new relationship (when youíre ready.)


None of this will be easy. Itís going to be a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and doing whatís good for you, no matter how you feel.


All the best,

Dr. Debra


Debra Holland, Ph.D., is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in relationships and communication techniques.

Feel free to write Dr. Debra with your questions


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Dr. Debra Holland is also a regular contributor to the Wet Noodle Posse Blog.


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