This is a story of marriage, then heartbreak, eventually followed by an amazing personal recovery, ultimately leading to a new romance.
So you put yourself out there to be loved and to love back.
Perhaps you were a single woman who fell in love with a man that you sincerely believed was going to be your rock. A man who you thought knew every inch of your mind and body. You believed he accepted you for everything you were and wanted to be.
He was your best friend and you loved him like no other. Your romance seemed as natural as every breath you took.
It was like a story book beginning and before you could even imagine, the ringing of the marriage wedding bells ushered in a new chapter in your life. One that you thought would be exciting, adventurous, and fulfilling in every way imaginable.
The very thought of marriage heartbreak or a wrong turn off of the happiness path you so eagerly embraced, is the furthermost thing from your mind.
But over time the bloom of the romance slowly begins to wear off. And over a period of a few years, something that you still cannot even explain to yourself, went horribly wrong. It turned out that the man you loved and who you thought loved you, decided he was not cut out for a settled down life.
And to make a very long and sad story, much shorter, the marriage that began with some much hope, is over. Your are left with a broken heart and a wounded spirit.
To make matters worse, the awful memories filled with heartbreak and disappointment have not yet stopped gnawing at you.
Its only been a month since the divorce. And with your world turned upside down, you not only have to deal with the constant pangs of a heavy heart and suffering soul.
In the back of your mind you wonder if you will ever be able to trust again. To love again.
Can you even dare ask the question, “Is there the possibility you can have a successful and fulfilling marriage after your previous marriage left you heartbroken?”
Go ahead and ask away. The answer is a resounding, Yes!
And we are going to talk about how you get there from the starting line of heartbreak.
How Do You Know That You Are Ready For Marriage Again?
While the above account is a fictional story, it might as well represent a portrait of what several of my clients have experienced.
While everyone has their own real story and the details of their marital woes will most assuredly vary, along with the levels of heartbreak and recovery, my overall advice is generally the same.
If you understand what you are about to face and apply some recovery strategies and lessons learned, you will not only lift yourself out of the painful memories of a marriage that went bad, but you will prosper in the most beautiful of ways.
Yes, you will fall love again and the lessons of your past romances will pave the way to a more successful relationship in the future.
I know you may feel dispirited right now if your circumstance is remotely similar to the story described above.
It is not easy to trust another, then something happens and it all comes tumbling down.
Where does that lead trust now? For most people, probably in the gutter.
Some of my clients have told me their stories of love lost caused by things like poor communications, controlling behaviors, compatibility issues, conflict over values and of course the “mother” of all break up catalysts…. betrayals.
Just listening to these good and descent people relate their sad stories can be heart wrenching. Not for me (though I weep for then inside), but for the client who suffers through the painful memories again when they described what happened in their prior marriage.
But out of difficulty and sadness can arise opportunity.
You see, over the years I have come to discover that there are essentially two key common denominators to look for in determining the success or failure of a marriage or relationship.
So let’s talk a bit about what are the primary drivers or predictors of whether a marriage will turn sour.
Its one thing to have the “wind at your back” and sail through the easy and calm waters.
But would your romance flourish under the dark skies?
First up is what I call the Principle of Creating Adverse Conditions.
Rather confusing sounding, isn’t it.
You might be wondering, “why on earth is Chris advocating for the creation of adversity in my marriage.” Heck, you may be thinking you already have enough of that. What good will it do to have more strife…more chaos.
Well, that is not quite what I have in mind. So let me explain where I am coming from and how it fits into your strategy to improve your chances of a successful relationship.
And by the way, I have not forgotten about the discussion we need to have about understanding and managing heartbreak. Most assuredly, you need to navigate the post marriage breakup waters successfully and come out the other end with a renewed outlook on life, before undertaking a new romance.
But trust in me. All of this will come together and make sense. Most importantly, you will be able to walk away with some actionable advice that will help you better tackle life after heartbreak and find the right man or woman you want to spend your life with.
But first, let’s get back to The Principle of Creating Adverse Conditions.
Let me tell you another story of “truth”.
Typically a couple as they get to know each other, seek to put the best foot forward. Makes sense, right?
You don’t want to leave a bad first impression. So as you get to know the person that you eventually will fall in love with, you try to do and say things that are not too controversial. There is nothing wrong with that, right? First and last impressions usually do leave a mark on someone’s impression or view of what you are about.
Naturally as the romance progresses, the couple will seek out fun things to do. They will get to know each other’s likes and dislikes and will naturally gravitate to those things that are enjoyable and will create fulfilling experiences and memories.
Now the courtship is in full bloom. There is a lot of beaming smiles and happy laughs. There is a lot of play and fun and sex and then more sex and more sex.
Well, you get the picture.
With all the fun and festivities in full stride, the neurotransmitters (chemicals released in brain) of our typical couple, are being pumped out to the the reward center located in the brain.
I don’t mean to get to technical, but you should know that the love chemicals (like dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin) are sending out a lot of positive, feel good signals. You and your lover are soaking it up and the cycle of the relationship keep churning forward.
Now, to be realistic, there are some peaks and valley even in those early months of a relationship.
But I think it would be fair to say that the entirety of the courting stage (prior to marriage) is biased to the “positive” kinds of mutual experiences you will share with your boyfriend or girlfriend.
So most everything you and your honey are experiencing is colored through the lens of trying to impress each other, trying to have fun, and soaking up the natural “feel good” brain chemicals.
Notice I used the word “bias”. Essentially, without realizing it, a couple can conspire together to create an environment that is more prone for “success”.
The “get to know each other” template a couple can lay down for themselves in the early months of the relationship can seem natural and reasonable. And that is because it is.
Therein lies the problem.
It is better to be more pragmatic and put yourselves in situations that test how effective you are as a couple in handling conflict and dealing with stress with grace.
But that is usually the exception to the rule. Men and women usually prefer creating a courtship environment where things are going smoothly.
That is how things typically unfold as men and women seek to pair bond.
There are also certainly biological drives, like sex and the desire to have children that influence this whole picture. We kind of already mentioned that, remember? (i.e. “more sex and more sex”).
But in a nutshell, men and women, when they seek to form a relationship, can sometimes unbeknownst to them, stack the deck in favor of themselves.
Hence, they may not get a very good reading on how compatible they are with each other.
Still confused? Let me try to explain.
So what is missing in the picture above?
If we are trying to create a situation that allows the couple to draw closer together, fall in love, and be successful in their marriage or relationship, what is it that they are NOT doing?
In other words, what should they be doing to be assured they are a good match for each other?
Here is what is missing.
In most cases, couples rarely invest a lot of time with each other in a stressful or difficult environment prior to making a commitment to each other or tying the knot.
Think of it a their own personal “Survivor” episode.
Subjecting yourselves to less than ideal conditions will help you assess how you might fare in the future.
But this is usually not the norm.
For example, I have found that when a couple meets and eventually falls in love, they do just about everything they can think of that places each of them in the most positive light. They go to places and do things that will produce a lot of fun.
In other words, the conditions they set up to interact are usually biased toward everything turning out well. Instead of testing the strength and weaknesses of the relationship by establishing more adversarial conditions that create stress and difficulty for the couple, they do the opposite.
They effectively greased the skids.
Leverage This Insight!
So if your ex husband laid this big heartbreaking blob of feelings on you, then grieve and recover as you should, but know that your future is bright.
There are ways to better choose you friend and lover for life.
Now you know that when you are ready to pursue romance and love, you can create an environment that will allow you to evaluate just how well the two of you click in all conditions (good, bad, neutral).
And you will use the passage of time as yet another way to assess if your boyfriend or girlfriend is husband or wife material.
Is Kindness Flowing Throughout Your Relationship?
The second predictor of relationship success is what is called The Principle of Kindness.
Now in this case, this notion pretty much sounds like what it means. It has been discovered that how much kindness is exchanged and shared between the husband and wife is the best predictor of whether a couple will stand the long test of time and enjoy a relatively happy and successful marriage.
There is even what is called a “kindness ratio” which helps with assessing if there is a sufficient amount of kindness, appreciation, and honor being exchanged within the marriage.
Essentially for every 1 act of behavior that could be characterized as the opposite of kindness (e.g. an insult, a selfish act, etc), the individual should be exhibiting 5 acts of kindness (e.g. an extra tender kiss, allowing her to watch her program that night, a surprise gift).
Now, I am not advocating you keep score as that would tend to make things less natural and mechanistic.
But I think you get point, right! “Do unto others…”
The Cycles of Dealing With Relationship Heartbreak
Now we are going to return to our discussion about how you can put heartbreak behind you.
It starts with understanding and embracing what you are going through.
Expecting to experience certain feelings and accepting these emotions if they arrive is all part of the process of being prepared and honest with yourself.
But like a loving hug, embrace your relationship pain, then let it go.
Just know that the feelings you are having are normal and NECESSARY.
You can’t recover fully, if you suppress them.
So it is not uncommon for you to feel sad, even depressed. Your Ex probably feels the same way, no matter who instigated the break up.
What you are experiencing is referred to as the Kubler-Ross Five Emotional Stages.
So that sounds pretty fancy. What does it mean?
Let me explain.
As a person deals with some kind of loss or difficult transformation in their life (such as a marriage ending), they will encounter certain waves or stages of emotions.
Whatever the event might be, it needs to be big. It has to be something that has disturbed you in a meaningful way.
Initially, you may first go through a period of denial. This is considered a Stage 1 reaction to the event.
You will have this sense that what actually happened, can’t be happening.
The period of denial can last a few days or even weeks.
Denial gives your psyche a chance to get use to what has transpired. But don’t live in the wonderland of denial for too long. It is not a healthy place to reside.
Stage 2 is when anger and resentment usually sets in.
Being bitter about your husband or wife over giving up on the marriage is not too surprising. But these kind of emotions can chip away at the quality of your life. The sooner you work through this stage, the better. I will give you some pointers later.
Sometimes people who have lost their marriage will go through a period of Bargaining (Stage 3). This is when you try to make compromises with yourself (or even others), thinking that it will be easy to deal with the problem.
You may come up with some short term solutions, only later to discover that these quick fix methods were premature or futile.
The Fourth stage is called, depression.
Oh yea….I think most of us know what this is about!
In this stage, the person essentially gives up and retreats into themselves, not wanting to do much of anything. The duration of this stage varies widely depending on the person and the severity of the breakup.
It can last several day or weeks. Within this stage are various levels. You can feel mildly depressed or exceptionally depressed. It can come and go, then return again. Such are the vagaries of some of our mood states.
The psychologists say most of us experience some form of depression (following an event like a deteriorating or broken relationship) before we move into the Last stage, called Acceptance.
When we enter into Acceptance, we have largely made peace with ourselves and our situation.
We are in a better frame of mind to deal with the problems at hand. We are better equipped to accept what is happening or what is about to occur.
We are calmer and able to act more rationally. This enables us to explore realistic options going forward. This is where much of our healing unfolds and where personal growth originates.
The No Contact Principle Helps With Managing Emotions
As much as you may think that you will never love again, that you will never risk putting yourself “out there” for fear of being potentially damaged and profoundly disappointed yet again….well, think again.
I have news for you. You are remarkably resilient and you will once again desire to give and receive love to a special person in your life.
There is no doubt it will be necessary for you to go through a period of healing and personal growth. And it is best not to even entertain thoughts of searching for the right guy or the ideal woman for some time.
Ironically, love has a way of finding us again when we least expect.
Bear in mind that your relationship with your Ex may not be completely severed.
But you will need to time to recover. Some people are surprised when they find themselves later thinking about possibly of reuniting with their Ex.
Thoughts of how the two of you may have suffered from a “rush to judgement” to ultimately a breakup, can weave throughout your mind.
Just know that if you are plagued with such thoughts, it is in part being caused by what I think of as “rebound forces”.
There are certain chemicals in your brain that you are now lacking since your ex is no longer around. There is now less of dopamine, vasopressin, and oxytocin in your system.
These are the chemical neurotransmitters that are produced from all the close emotional and physical experiences you enjoyed with your ex husband or ex wife.
As a result, you are going to be more vulnerable to the rebound forces which can act upon you and your ex. That is one reason why we hear so much about breakup sex and “friends with benefits” types of arrangements.
In a way, we are all addicts. And our lovers are our fix.
That is the beauty of the No Contact Principle.
It allows you to work through your cycle of emotional grief and addiction. This process promotes your personal healing and growth. You eventually come to accept the situation you are in and are more able to turn your attention to becoming a better version of the person you wish to be.
I think of the No Contact Period as an Enabler.
It is what you do with this time that can make a big difference in your life.
Embracing Your Inner Truth
Spending our time wallowing in heartbreak does not seem to be a healthy coping strategy, wouldn’t you think?
And largely, that is true.
But an interesting research study, which was published in the Social Psychological and Personality Science Journal, suggests that reflecting on one’s recent breakup can help you heal.
The results were based on a study of two groups of students. One group of students were asked to come to a lab to regularly answer questions about their breakup.
As a result of these regular visits to the lab over a 9 week period, these students openly discussed a variety of issues around their breakup.
The second group of students just came in twice to the lab. Once at the beginning of the study and once at the end of the 9 weeks. The survey they completed was relatively basic as it did not explore the depth of emotions and feelings surrounding the breakup.
The results of the research revealed that the first group of students fared much better, as the frequency of visits to the lab and the opportunity given to discuss their breakup (in a more positive light), allowed the students to process better what had happened to them.
Group 1 also seemed to develop a greater sense of who they were “individually”. This led to them feeling less sadness and also contributed to feeling less lonely.
The key finding from this study is that “finding one’s self” after a breakup is key.
Further, it was believed that calmly thinking about what “went down” during the relationship between you and your Ex, can eventually pay dividends.
This is the case because through the process of opening yourself up to others about your situation, you eventually end up detaching from the negative feelings you may have had about yourself. And you are able to think about the past in a more objective manner, learning from your own mistakes.
This helps pave the way for the person to begin focusing on the future and what it can possibly offer.
Detaching From Your Painful Past
I think of this, as detaching from the Painful Past.
It is not healthy to constantly think and live in memories of a painful past. But ironically, one way to stop such obsessions is to calmly reflect on what happened, then extract positives experiences or lessons learned.
This could involve discussing it with someone or writing it down; just like the students did in the research study.
Think of it as a form of purging. In effect, you are exercising the bad memories or thoughts by raising them to the light. Once such feelings are “outed”, they don’t seem so fearful or sad.
Hence, this is one reason why I feel the No Contact Period provides a lot of potential upside.
If one is constantly trying to communicate and confront their Ex about the relationship, such an approach usually serves to only awaken the bad feelings.
At a certain point following the breakup, an important pivot should take place in order to regain your sense of “self”.