“The best way to get over a man is to get under one.” I love that line; it makes me laugh every time. I picture Dollie Parton saying it in her fabulous voice. But while it sounds great and empowering, it’s usually a big mistake.
A dear friend of mine recently went through a painful break up. I saw how another man quickly popped up. He had been around before as a friend and had asked her out while she was in the relationship, but then when it ended he came on to her full force. I found it upsetting because it seemed like he was trying to catch her when she was at her most vulnerable emotionally. (Reminded me of those nature shows where the lion hones in on the weakest impala of the herd.) My friend did begin to see him, more out of wanting a diversion than because she wanted him. He kept trying to move things forward, despite her protests of needing more time, which I also thought could have been more forceful. (Just a note that I’m not telling you anything I didn’t say directly to my friend.) At one point, I saw that she was getting more involved than she wanted, or than was good for her. So I pulled her aside and pointed out the similarities between this new man and the ex in the way that they both ignored what she said and “yes”ed her to death while still doing what they wanted. She had told the new man that she needed some time to recover and get over her heartache and he had agreed, but then proceeded to try to quickly move things forward. This was similar to the ex who had said that he agreed with her concerns about different things, but continued to act in the same way as if they had never spoken.
Well this article isn’t about my friend’s break up in particular, but about the fact that you need to take some time after the end of a relationship to figure out what happened before jumping into a new one, i.e. seeing as clearly as possible how you behaved and how you contributed to the problems. And, if you don’t take the time to do this kind of introspective and honest work, you will begin to date someone just like your ex in important and problematic ways. Why? Because you haven’t changed in any way and you haven’t learned your lesson. So if you don’t change in some way, and I don’t necessarily mean a behavioral change, but some kind of inner change that is sparked by honesty and insight into how you co-created the problematic situation, then you will just pull in the same kind of man that you pulled in last time.
This is not the time to play victim, but to be totally honest with yourself about how you were a willing participant in the relationship. It’s fine to get some empathy and sympathy from your girlfriends – topped off with a few “good riddance to that jerk” toasts. But then you have to get really honest with yourself about everything that you brought to that relationship – the good, the bad, and the ugly. This also isn’t time to play martyr and blame absolutely everything that went awry on yourself. Try you best to be objective and see when, maybe like my friend, you spoke but pretended to ignore that you weren’t heard, or maybe just the opposite, you were too forceful and aggressive and didn’t give him the space or safety to speak. Obviously everyone has their own circumstances to look at and they will play out in ways that are specific to you. But give yourself the gift of time to look at the relationship before jumping into something else where you will just repeat the same issue or pattern because you didn’t take the time to figure out how you helped it to occur in the first place.
If you think you have a hard time being objective about the relationship or have a hard time not feeling like a victim, then maybe you can talk with a straight shooting friend – after you’ve made it clear that you’ll do your best to be open and not to get angry or defensive. You can also talk to a therapist. If you’re worried about the cost, then check out your insurance benefits regarding therapy or check out a college health center where therapists-in-training offer a lower fee because they have less experience. If you’re in the NYC area, feel free contact me for an appointment.
Have you ever used a breakup to spark some inner change or insight? Or to at least inspire a new haircut? Let me know, I’d love to hear!