07 May 2012

Breakup Boundaries

Endings of the romantic variety are tough. Getting over them can be even tougher. Everybody and their brother has advice on how to heal a broken heart (heck, I even wrote a book about it). But, of all the advice that seems to be repeated, we rarely talk about the importance of setting boundaries. Yes, we know that boundaries are vital for healthy relationships, but they are also necessary to help you get over a breakup.

Your Ex
You broke up. It’s over. So why are you still in touch with your ex? Is he/she contacting you? Are you contacting him/her? I can give you a list of reasons why this is not going to help you get over it, but one sure way to know you need to stop and set a boundary is by noticing how you feel after you end that call, read that email or text, or secretly stalk your ex on social media.

If you feel sort of like what pet-owners put in a plastic bag, you definitely need to set a boundary, specifically a “Let’s not communicate for the foreseeable” kind of boundary. I strongly suggest removing your ex from your social media. Un-friend, un-follow, de-link, de-pin, etc. I know that sounds hard and cold, but let’s face facts: You are no longer friends. You don’t need to follow your ex (or be followed by your ex). You no longer are linked. Don’t bother sticking a pin in it; simply accept that you're done. It’s sad and hard and awful, but it’s also true. And, if your ex (or you) does not adhere this boundary, it should tell you all you need to know: Honorable people respect boundaries; trespassers don’t.

Your Friends
Your friends adore you and want to see you happy...except for those whose misery loves company and are always prepared for a pity party. Right after your breakup, when you are still red and raw, your friends are your emotional EMTs. They are a wonderful support, helping you through an awful time with the appropriate combination of sugar, carbs, cocktails, romcoms, tearjerkers and shoot-em-ups. A few weeks after, though, they may be pouring salt in your wounds without even realizing it.

There are some friends who will treat you like a bird with a broken wing, walking up to you with a head-tilt and a pout, asking you how you are, poor thing. Or those who, with a glint in their eyes, want you to know everything your ex has been up to. Feel free to let your amazing friends know that you deeply appreciate their care and concern but, unless you bring it up, the subject of your ex is off limits. Explain that you are working on moving on, and that you would love their support in this endeavor. Don’t be surprised if you hear a sigh of relief from a few of them. After all, how many viewings of The Notebook are they expected to take?

Your Family
This is one area where boundaries are blurred and crossed on a regular basis. Still, your boundaries need to at least be mentioned even if they can’t be firmly set.

When a family member delivers a well-meaning zing like, “I really liked [name of your ex here]. I’m just so sorry it didn’t work out for you,” or “I know I never told you this, but I never liked [your ex]. You can do so much better,” you need to be able to tell your loved one that their silent support would be appreciated. Let them know that, believe it or not, you are focusing on you and your future, not your ex and the past. If they persist, attempt to change the subject. If that fails, maybe pretend that you have to leave town for work or an overdue vacation (what a great time to treat yourself to a trip, no?), and won’t be in touch for a little while in order to give yourself some space. That might sound a little drastic (and, yes, dishonest), but the idea is to do what you need to do get over this sooner rather than later.

Yes, you. You need to set some boundaries for yourself—mentally, emotionally and physically.

First boundary: Don’t go there. Avoid places where you more or less know you will see your ex, or venues that stir memories. This is the perfect time to check out that new Asian fusion vegan joint your ex had no interest in. Next boundary: Don’t dwell on it. Yes, it hurts, but it’s only going to keep hurting if the only thing you focus on is the pain. Reliving every thing your ex did and said is the opposite of healing. It’s what I call “picking the scab”. I agree, that’s a little unsavory, but so that kind of mental self-abuse. It’s over. Let it go. It didn’t work and that’s okay.

Additional suggested boundary: Don’t listen to that song or watch that film. You know the ones I’m talking about. That’s the emotional equivalent of crawling over barbed wire to tap dance on landmines. You’re just asking for hurt. Sad songs? Please. You need an anthem! There are many to choose from, but a personal favorite—if you’re in need of suggestion—is Karen O. belting out “The Immigrant Song”. Who cannot take on the world (let alone get over a breakup) with that on a loop, right?  As for movies you should be watching: American Psycho and Fight Club. See if anyone in those films is at all familiar to you (I also consider those to be Rosetta Stones for single women...not to mention they are just great films).

Boundaries don’t have to be booby-trapped brick fortresses that keep you isolated during the upheaval that is a breakup. Consider them little lines in the sand you know better than to cross. Let them serve as markers to help you focus on what’s actually important: Your happiness. Boundaries can put you on the fast-track to healing your heart because they keep looking forward. And you, my friend, have a lot to look forward to.

10 December 2011

Do Not Press Send

By now, you've likely read the email "Mike", the New York investment banker, sent to poor "Lauren", a classical-music-loving single lady in the jungle of Manhattan. If not, get a glass of something good and settle in to read the 1,600+ word, cringe-inducing missive poor Mike sent. Really. We'll wait.

Rather incredible, no?

I'm sure we've all received a similar communication. A pissy text, sad-sack voicemail, or an electronic diatribe about what you're missing out and why. More often than not, we don't reply...because, clearly, we didn't ever want to see or speak to the gent ever again, which is why we didn't respond in the first place. Or we send back a simple response, which is typically a more polite version of "Wow."

The odd thing is, when women don't respond -- don't return that call, that email or text -- it's our seemingly kind way of saying, "Thanks, but I'm just not interested." BUT, when men don't call, reply or text back, they clearly have fallen off the planet, are being held hostage in some glamorous foreign country (in a tuxedo, no less),  lost his phone, is in a coma in a hospital brewing a nasty case of amnesia, or is scared of feeling something so real.

Kind of see where I'm going here? For those who still think that there's a rather dramatic/romantic reason he didn't call, it's just his seemingly kind way of saying, "Thanks, but I'm just not interested." Sure, that stings, especially if you felt there was chemistry and really thought his last name sounded good going after yours. It's a great, big, juicy bummer to think there's potential and find out there's not. Just don't make it worse by pressing SEND. Because you certainly don't want your 1,600+ word, cringe-inducing missive hitting the internet and going viral.


02 December 2011

Single Bells

The full statistics aren't in, but I think anecdotal evidence proves that we are deep into breakup season. Between Halloween and Valentine's Day, you see more Facebook relationship status changes than any other time of year. Tis the season for "Single".

There's a great deal of pressure that couples can face during the holidays. From selecting symbiotic costumes for All Hallow's Eve, to meeting the parents at Thanksgiving, bickering over which family to spend what holiday with, what coast in ring in the New Year, whether to take the relationship to the "next level" or not.

This, my friends, is why people spike the egg nog.

You might very well survive the holidays, just you and your special other. Enjoying the season and all the pleasures it brings. That is until December 26th, when all of your friends and co-workers want to know if you found a rock in your stocking, examining your left hand for a ring. Suddenly, you start to wonder if your relationship is heading in the right direction. Because, clearly, everyone else was expecting him to propose. By New Year's Eve, you're in a cranky mood because he only asked for your hand to the dance floor, not forever more. By February 15th, you're miserable because he still hasn't proposed, asked you to move in or even given you a key to his place.

It's almost inconsequential if you've been dating for five weeks or five years. There's just a lot of expectations -- whether by you or others -- about what will happen to your relationship during this time of year.

My advice? Relax a little. Avoid big relationship "talks" until the pressures of the season have passed. Somewhere between Epiphany and the SuperBowl, sit down and have a chat if needed. Sometimes these things work themselves out on their own, or look a little different outside of the tinsel haze.

But what if you end up in a breakup?

Well, the upside is, you're surrounded by sugar and spiked nog -- and, hopefully, lots of people who love you. And, if the relationship wasn't going to make it for the long-haul, at least now you know. Better to ring in the New Year knowing the truth than dragging it out any longer. That's not to say your breakup isn't a total suckfest during "the most wonderful time of the year." It is. There's no getting around it.

But, you can make sure not to make it any worse but quickly vowing to follow the Ground Rules and the 10 Steps to Getting Over Him. Because, as Step 3 states: "Don't Honor Your Relationship With Pain". You don't need to hurt like hell just to prove your were really in love. There's no merit badge for that. Because, when you really, really, really think about what you are sad for, it's probably not him so much as it is him and all the broken hearts that came before. What you are really experiencing is disappointment for yourself and what you hope to have, not the devastation of the end of that particular relationship. So, mourn that, then move on. Let it go as soon as you can. Because there's a New Year coming, a clean slate, a new page. You now have the chance to find the right relationship, a really great person you can share your life with. But you'll never find it if you keep looking back.

Enjoy the season as best you can. Keep the sugar and spiked nog consumption in moderation. And have A Christmas Story and Bad Santa playing on a loop. You're going to be just fine.