4 Reasons To Swap Regret Over Your Breakup for Excitement

If you’ve recently experienced a relationship breakup, regret is one of the many emotions you might be experiencing. But regret is usually just a form of temporary and needless pain. Here are a few perspectives to make the end of your relationship an exciting and bright start to a new beginning for you:

There are a lot of things you don’t miss. This might come as a surprise, but I’ve never met anybody who wanted actually wanted their ex back! Usually what people want is a loving, cleansed, varnish-free, more enlightened version of their ex. And unfortunately this fantasy doesn’t exist or you’d still be together. If you were the one who ended the relationship, remember you did this for a reason! Something wasn’t working with your ex partner or the relationship you had. If it wasn’t your choice to end the relationship, you might be missing a version of your ex who loves and appreciates you more and can pull off a better way to dealing with conflict than running out the door. It’s easy to reflect on the positive parts of a person or a relationship once it’s ended; but remember, that’s only one part of the story. If you’re missing parts of the relationship, don’t forget about all the things you don’t miss.

There’s a moral to your story. The end of one relationship is a great time to take a look and rediscover what you really want. Whether or not you’re willing to admit it, the relationship ended because it wasn’t working. And if your relationship was working only for you — that’s not enough. The good news is there’s probably a lesson to be learned. Was there something you discovered about yourself regarding what you want or need so that your next relationship isn’t a repeat of this pattern when you’re ready to move on? While things are fresh in your mind, make a list of these insights and resolve to follow them in this most important part of your life. And if you find that you are labeling yourself a “failure” or putting yourself down in some other way; remember that relationships don’t fail, they run their course. Sometimes one or both partners outgrow each other or the relationship ends for one or more of a million other reasons. But it’s your choice as to whether the breakup remains a source of pain for you or an invaluable basis for personal growth.

You now get to focus on yourself. Being single frees some space for you to reconnect with yourself and perhaps others in your life that you may have had little time for. Maybe with the gift of time that follows a breakup, there’s a new area you’d like to cultivate: a hobby you enjoy, a project around the house you’ve been putting off or a trip you’d like to take that didn’t fit in with you ended relationship. There’s no better time to start than today!

Discover new outlets. What is it that you liked about your relationship? Is there a way to find or replace that in your life with something else? For example, if it was nice to have someone to debrief your workday with each evening, maybe you can reach out to friends or coworkers to meet for happy hour after work or grab dinner. If there was a certain activity you liked to do with your ex, find a way to continue this. Perhaps join a group of people in your area with similar interests to yours. If you and your ex went running on the weekends or enjoyed seeing movies, join a running or film club. Even more importantly, don’t be afraid to try certain activities by yourself that you may have only done as part of a couple; such as going to a nice restaurant, the theatre or ballet.

We all have the power to pick our attitudes. Look upon being free of a relationship that wasn’t working as a good thing. Expect sad moments here and there, but don’t forget that the relationship you’re ending was not without pain either. By utilizing your inner resources and the sources of support you already have around you, resolve to make this breakup the start of an exciting new beginning!

4 Reasons You May Be Thriving in One-sided Love Affairs

When your involvement in a relationship is not mutual, the result can be painful for both of you, but especially for the one who is more committed to the relationship. Unrequited love —one of the most popular movie and novel themes—has indeed been known to trigger extremely painful emotions. Sometimes just the recognition that your relationship comes under this category is all that is needed to help you make some necessary choices. Sometimes it’s to stay in a relationship that most would define as “unworkable“, but more often, it means getting out. Most people I’ve seen as a psychologist over the years, start by demanding change in the other person that will—at last—make involvement in their relationship mutual. Occasionally, they do get what they want. But changing your partner’s attitude toward you without his or her consent is the only route that’s truly impossible.

Why do so many people find themselves repeatedly in one-sided love affairs in the form of painful crushes, rebound relationships or relationships where one person is married or otherwise unavailable (physically or emotionally)? There are plenty of good people out there from which to choose; and it is not because you are unlovable, unattractive, or in some other way cursed to remain sans a decent relationship. In my experience as a psychologist with a specialty in the relationship area, I am here to tell you that there is a fulfilling relationship for practically everybody. However, those who typically enter into or stay in one-sided love affairs do so for several reasons, for example:

1. You might tend to be love-prone. By that I mean you consider yourself a person who habitually falls in love in such a way that you act as though you have no control whatsoever over your emotions. You may even feel as though you catch “love at first sight” almost as though it were some kind of virus. Sometimes it is great to have feelings that are fantasy-based about being involved with someone in a spontaneous way. But the downside is when you realize, but refuse to accept the reality that whatever it is you are fantasizing about won’t go any further. It’s only when you insist that your fantasy must go further than reality dictates, that things become painful. Love-junkies spend a lot of time being hurt, until they move on after accepting the reality that having what they fantasized about is just not going to happen.

2. You might have a preoccupation with vulnerability in relationships. Although it has been romanticized that being vulnerable is the way to go, vulnerability also means weakness or the inability to choose. In fact, the word “vulnerability” literally means weak. The best couples are those who can feel strongly and deeply for each other while standing on their own two feet. When you give up your autonomy along with the ability to choose to leave—if that becomes necessary— you open yourself to being exploited by the other person and/or your own painful emotions.

3. You could be ambivalent about commitment. On the one hand you want it and seek it; on the other hand you pick the kind of person who gives clear and early signs that commitment is not really for him or her. So think twice about dismissing those signs when they are present.

4. Maybe your self-esteem depends so much on being in a relationship that anyone who gives you the slightest hope of involvement makes you “smell” love and ignore the realities of who that person is. In this case, it’s your self-esteem that’s the culprit. As you work on that, see if the person still interests you.

Perhaps long-term or committed involvement is not what you want, but if it is, recognizing the one-sided nature of the relationships you enter and your patterns in these relationships can help you take a step back, and allow yourself to find the relationship you’ve been hoping for. In my book Can Your Relationship Be Saved? How to Know Whether to Stay or Go, you can find help in either getting out of an unfulfilling relationship, or work on the one you’re in to make it a relationship that’s more mutually fulfilling.

Should I Stay or Should I Go? Take this Self-Assessment

If your relationship were afire, is it still burning strongly? Flickering? Smoldering? Does it need kindling? A log? Or has the last spark of it burned out to the point where it’s even too late for more oxygen? After all, your relationship at one time had to be on fire in order for it to burn out. Relationships that are characterized mainly or solely by passion are often, as songwriter Cole Porter put it, “too hot, not to cool down.”

If it’s more accurate to describe your relationship as one that is or was grounded in comfort or day-to-day livingperhaps a better metaphor than fire is that of a business. And if so, do you need downsizing? Refinancing? New management? Or are you ready for bankruptcy court?

For many years, I had searched for a foolproof “litmus test” that could save people from the pain of fruitlessly trying to revive a relationship that has virtually no chance for success, as well as from abandoning troubled relationships that could be turned around if only the partners could see that proverbial “forest for the trees”.

Let me first give you the bad news. Whenever I thought I had it nailed down, a glaring exception to the rule would surface. Some of the worst relationships I have ever seen have survived, improved and even flourished! And some of those that seemed positively salvageable and loaded with potential have folded. Although there are good reasons for all of these exceptions, we only find them out after the fact — similar to the way a Wall Street session is reported on at the end of the day once the numbers are in. (Wouldn’t it be great for our portfolios if that same degree of “wisdom” were available an hour earlier?)

Now, let me give you the good news. The inventory that you are about to take comes about as close to a litmus test as anything out there, as  many colleagues of mine who have used it have told me. I put together this inventory — I call it “Can Your Relationship Be Saved?” — for my book, by the same name. Since then, it’s been used by scores of mental health professionals with their clients/patients — with good results.  So think of it as a “heads-up” — to make you aware of some of the warning signs that exist, and to help you to see them and to make the choices that lie ahead. Your self-assessment could lead either to the healing and even deepening of your relationship, or the straightforward decision to end it.

Please take a piece of paper and number it from one to fifty. Then simply put a check mark next to the number of each “true” statement that describes your relationship:

  1. My partner and I no longer feel like friends.
  2. My partner and I have developed a very strong wall that separates us.
  3. I am constantly thinking about how nice it would be to have an affair.
  4. When my partner and I fight, it gets nasty and I am left with feelings of wanting to get out.
  5. My partner has told me at a time other than when we were in the middle of a fight that he or she would be happier if we split up.
  6. I am unwilling to accept my partner as he/she is. If this relationship is to continue, he/she will have to make some very major changes that he/she is unwilling to make.
  7. My partner and I have little in common anymore
  8. I would leave this relationship in a heartbeat if I felt confident that I could make it on my own or if I knew I could get through the painful transition of a breakup.
  9. Although I no longer love my partner, I feel responsible for him/her. I think the only thing that is really keeping me here is guilt.
  10. My partner and I fight a lot and I fear that underneath the fighting there is not much left.
  11. When I am about to be around my partner and I think of having to spend time with him/her, I get an empty feeling.
  12. My partner and I are just no longer playing for the same team.
  13. The more time goes by, the more I begin to dislike my partner.
  14. My respect for my partner is practically or totally gone.
  15. There is very little trust left in our relationship.
  16. I constantly fear my partner’s abusive behavior. If it happens again, I am leaving.
  17. My partner abuses alcohol and/or drugs. It is even more intolerable to me that he/she denies that the usage is a problem
  18. I can only tolerate my partner if one of us is high on alcohol or drugs.
  19. If I could afford it financially I would leave.
  20. My partner has an emotional hold on me. I would love to leave but feel too hooked and addicted to the relationship.
  21. My partner has children whom I am expected to relate to. The
relationship would be fine if they were not there, but they are here
to stay and it is creating a very unhappy situation for me.
  22. I know I should want my relationship to continue (or want to want
my relationship to continue), but I cannot say that I truly do want
it to continue.
  23. We are unable to resolve our differences together, but my partner
refuses to enter counseling or therapy.
  24. My partner has told me that he/she does not love me anymore.
  25. My partner has done something for which I cannot forgive him/her. This was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
  26. We just have so many differences that it is unrealistic to think we
can even begin to address them.
  27. I am so overwhelmed by my partner’s constant demands for love and
approval, perfectionism, and/or rigid rules of how the relationship
should be and how each of us should behave within it, that
sometimes I just want to give up.
  28. I am almost certain my partner is having an affair and if this is true
I will not tolerate it.
  29. I feel closer to my partner when we are not together.
  30. There is definitely more pain than joy or pleasure associated with
my partner and our relationship.
  31. This relationship has become a constant burden.
  32.  If I knew I could find another mate, I would leave immediately.
  33. I am having an affair with someone I value much more than my
partner, and I am unwilling to give this other person up under any
  34. I feel very indifferent toward my partner and have little motivation
to try and work things out.
  35. My most stress-free moments are when my partner and I are not
  36. My partner and I are totally inflexible with each other.
  37. I don’t even have a desire to tell my partner how I feel anymore —
positive or negative.
  38. Our relationship has peaked and could never again be as good as it
once was.
  39. When I think of us growing old together, life seems not worth
  40. At this point, there is just too much water under the bridge.
  41. When I think of leaving my partner I feel relieved.
  42. I have wanted to leave for a long time, but my partner has said
he/she will commit suicide if I do.
  43. I constantly have to choose between my partner and my family (of
  44. My partner is abusive to the children — a situation I am powerless
to stop as long as they are all in the same environment.
  45. This relationship does not allow me to grow.
  46. My partner does not fit into my future plans.
  47. I want to leave but, I cannot see myself pulling it off— I am stuck.
  48. I need my partner much more than I love him/her.
  49. I love my partner but am not in love with him/her.
  50. We have tried everything and nothing seems to help.

Many of these items are self explanatory, but for a better understanding of what your answers could mean as well as the degree of risk associated with them, click here and scroll down to “Evaluation of Inventory.” Hopefully this can be an important step in your journey to determine the future of your relationship.

The Parental Balancing Act

I recently read an editorial in Philadelphia Magazine about parents demanding too little from their children.  The author opined “we have caved in to the foolish idea that being a good parent means being nice to our children, and making their youths as pleasant and free of stress as possible.  We want them to win at everything, from dodge ball…to grades, no matter if they’re lousy on the playground or lazy in the classroom.”  I agree with the sentiment that modern parents are often too concerned with protecting their children from the sometimes-unpleasant realities of life; and in 38 years of practice, have seen the consequences of these good intentions play out in every conceivable way.  As children grow up and go out on their own; bosses, coworkers, spouses (to an extent) and others they will have contact with may no longer put your child’s happiness and self-esteem high on their agenda. And happy or not, this is a huge wakeup call for which many children are not yet ready.

Parents can prevent their children from having a rude awaking by taking into account the child’s developmental level when balancing nurturing and limit setting.   This way, by the time children leave home, they will be much better able to face the world with confidence and competence. By tailoring parenting attitudes and behaviors, parents can learn to effectively foster independence in their children. And in many cases, the sooner the better!

During the first year of life, your goal as a parent is to provide unconditional love, care, and safety.  However, once your child begins to develop mobility, your principal tasks as a parent are to let the toddler explore, while teaching, setting limits and minding his or her physical safety.  Most important (and at times most difficult), is not to act out your own frustrations and emotions, especially anger onto your child. This period can be thought of as a trial run for when your child becomes an adolescent, a stage that is a lot less demanding physically, but can be much more demanding emotionally. In other words, be mindful of not losing it with your two year old, simply for acting like a two year old!

In early childhood, your role changes to providing a solid structure and resolve to do whatever it takes to patiently teach those complex yet basic rules of life. By providing loving guidance along with appropriate discipline, children have the best possible environment to learn all about what it takes not only to fit in, but also to thrive and begin to discover their own uniqueness.  This is a time many parents have difficulty staying firm with their children. But providing them with consistent consequences is essential training, because the child will face a world full of consequences in the future.

During adolescence, your primary task is to encourage self-exploration, while carefully and lovingly setting limits and letting go enough to allow your adolescent to make his or her own mistakes. The task is to do this while remaining a safety net and a source of love, support and guidance that he or she can turn to as needed. However, it’s also crucial to provide discipline and even “tough love” whenever an adolescent child crosses the line. This could be your last opportunity to be the principal source of influence for your child.

Finally, children inevitably leave the nest. Maybe they are leaving for college (an intermediate step) and/or moving out on their own. At this point, chances are whatever they have not learned from you—regardless of whether or not that was by choice—they will choose to learn elsewhere.  If you find that you still have a need to control their lives, this is the time to let go! If you simply let them know you are still just as approachable, chances are they will choose you to be a resource as long as you honor the rights of your adult children to be independent and different from you. This way, you will command respect, without having to demand it.

By maintaining a balance between love and support with developmentally appropriate boundaries, children will grow up to be successful in navigating the world and accepting the realities that come with adulthood.  They will be able to grow in their own direction, and be successful in a world where everyone doesn’t win, and we don’t always get exactly what we want.