You’ve got it all figured out.
You’ve almost paid off your student loans. You’ve been with the same person for seven years and you’ll probably get hitched in the next year or two. You’re looking at condos together. Eventually, there will be the pitter-patter of little feet. Maybe a modest little holiday property in Florida.
One day, you come home from work.
They tell you that you need to talk.
The end of long-term relationship can be devastating to both parties, but it is especially difficult for the person who never saw it coming.
Derek, 31, got dumped by his girlfriend of ten years on Valentine’s Day. He knew that things hadn’t been perfect for a while, but it still came out of the blue for him.
“I very weakly argued and explained my side of things,” says Derek. “There was no effort made on her part to fix anything or head to counseling – (it was) just done.”
Derek recalls a complete sense of shock and helplessness. “I could not laugh or eat or smile.”
According to Toronto-based psychotherapist Susan Monteith, the emotions people cycle through after the end of a long-term relationship are not unlike those that we go through after the death of a loved one.
“They definitely go through a mourning period,” says Monteith. “And it’s not just a loss of the person, but it’s a loss of the hopes and expectations and the dreams that the person had with their partner. Whether it’s having children, developing a career, buying a house or going traveling.”
Monteith says that the healing process is often a difficult one and recommends talking through those emotions with close friends and understanding family members. Acknowledging that this is a major loss is key.
Another steps towards healing is letting go of the plans you’d pinned onto that other person and creating new goals for yourself.
No one knows this better than Lindsey Kelk, author of the new novel The Single Girl’s To-Do List (HarperCollins, 2011). In it, twenty-something Rachel is unceremoniously dumped by Simon, her boyfriend of five years. The titular to-do list is a compilation of challenges that Rachel’s best friends come up with as a way of helping her cope with the break-up, and to nudge her into realizing what she wants out of life.
Kelk admits that the novel is a bit of a case of art imitating life.
“Three years ago, my boyfriend and I broke up after almost seven years together and it was really hard,” she says. “I’m not good with change. Everything I had planned was suddenly gone and I had to face everything on my own. But much like Rachel, I was incredibly lucky to have brilliant friends around me.”
Kelk’s advice to the brokenhearted is to take the time to work out what makes you happy.
“My biggest problem was that I’d spent seven years thinking about ‘us’ and I found it really hard to work out what I wanted,” she says. “You’ve got to push your limits a little bit; otherwise you won’t know what you want out of your next relationship and you’re in danger of making the same mistakes all over again.”
As for Derek, he made some positive changes after the break-up. He cut his hair, quit smoking and lost some weight. He focused on creating art, making new friends and connecting with his family and friends more meaningfully than ever before.
“I learned so much about myself and my friends and how we really felt about each other through this (process),” he says. “It even led to rekindling of some old, damaged friendships.”
But the main thing Derek learned is that, when it comes to exes, there is no such thing as one person winning and one person losing.
“The only way to win is to heal, so both of you can win.”
Sexy Typewriter blogs about her dating failures – online and otherwise – atSexytypewriter.com.