Dr. Eris: How to Heal Your Broken Heart

Dr. Eris shares how she broke up with the idea that she was not enough.

Oftentimes, individuals come to see me as a therapist after they have experienced a break-up or divorce. Break-ups can be traumatic. They can lead us to adopt beliefs that keep us in fear, make us feel like we will be alone forever, and lend us thoughts that lead us from one bad relationship to the next. We begin to believe that what we want is not possible and that we are on our own in this world. I know what you are going through I've been where you are. You're not alone.

I have been lied to, cheated on, deceived, coerced, cajoled, tricked, cast aside, seduced, corrupted, convinced, and manipulated. I stayed in my victimhood relationship after relationship, attracting the same kind of men over and over again. All of my princes turned into frogs. I was living in La La Land believing that some day I would find a prince who whould stay a prince, only to be let down time and time again.  

That I chose these men, or let them choose me, was not their fault. At the time, I was unable to see the relationships for what they were and my part in them. When enough was enough for me, I decided to allow the Sleeping Beauty within me to wake up and recognize that I had been repeating the same patterns over and over again. The only reason I was living in a romanticized fantasy of what the relationship coulda, shoulda, woulda been. I was driven and bound by my emotions, which distored the reality that kept me off balance. I realized that by living in my victimhood I had been disempowering myself. I felt my gut telling me that there was a way out of feeling the way I did and it was time for me to get it together.

I had to break up with the idea that I am not enough. I had to determine that I deserved better than the type of men that I was attracting into my life. But first I had to experience a solid relationship with myself. How can you possibly know what you want out of life if you don’t know who you are?

My client, Katie, experienced the same thing. She originally came to me to heal her broken heart after another tragic break-up. She wanted to start changing her beliefs and patterns and start attracting a different type of man into her life. She didn’t know how to go about doing this and wanted my help. 

These are the tools that I share with my clients to help them through a difficult break-up. Even if you are not going through a break-up in a romantic relationship, you might be going through one with a friend, a job, or something personal. These tools can also work for you. 

Nine steps to go from Break UP to Break THROUGH and Beyond:

1. It's a Break-UP not a BreakDOWN

• Your relationship ending does not mean that your life is over. It means that it is just about to begin.

• Get yourself a journal or small notebook, which I call YOUR BOOK. Write a gratitude list of at least 10 things that you are grateful for. This will help you to focus on the positive things in your life and take the edge off the heaviness that you might be feeling. 

2. Stop Looking At Their Social Media

• Do not go on your ex’s social media pages. It’s really not worth it. There is absolutely nothing you can gain. Nothing. 

3. Spend Time Alone with Me, Myself, and I

• Many people ask the question, “Why do I need to spend time alone?” The answer is simple: because it is essential for your growth and well being.

• A lot of times when a relationship ends we are left with a lot of emotional clutter. Spring cleaning doesn’t just have to come once a year. Sometimes relationships fail in the fall. So, cleanse your environment. Don’t just sweep things under the rug. Get rid of things that negatively remind you of your past non-constructive way (i.e. pictures in picture frame, his favorite t-shirt that you hang onto and sleep in every night.) 

• And remember all work and no play make Jack and Jill a dull boy and girl. Write down your Top Ten List of things to do alone. Now, do them! 4. Stop Tripping Out and Let Go of that Baggage

• Stop blaming everything in your past and grow up. You can’t change your past, but YOU can change. Connect to your past but don’t let it rule your present life and future. You can’t change your past, but YOU can change your future.

• Start taking care of your inner child so that you can start letting the adult in you take charge. You can start by writing your inner child a letter. Write from the perspective of the parent you want to be. Write it from your heart. 

5. I’m Free to Do What I Want Any Ol' Time. So, Get Up and Get Out!

• Start reconnecting to your life and have some fun. 

•Go out and have some fun -- either alone or with friends and family. Just do it. Get involved in social activities you enjoy (visit new places, concerts, museums, take a class, travel). Make a list of 10 things that you have always wanted to do with your friends. Now grab a friend and go do it.

6. Say, “Thank You. Thank You. Thank You”

• It may seem harder to find gratitude in times of trouble. But, if you do you will be giving yourself the greatest gift of all. 

• Know and remember this: each and every person you allow to enter your life is a mirror reflection of something in you. This is a gift for you to understand and get to know more parts of yourself. Write a list of the gifts that you have received from your relationship.

7. You Are Here. Start Map Questing Your Future

• You gotta see it to be it. So, be it. 

1. Write down your goal.

2. Write down the steps that you need to take to get there. 

3. Now take those steps.

8. Love Yourself 

• Bottom line is you must love yourself first before you can ever love anyone else. 

9. Date Consciously 

• When you are ready to move forward and start dating again, go for it! Be sure to do your research on the person and yourself so that you don’t continue to repeat the same behaviors and patterns the next time around. 

For more information on how to heal your broken heart after a breakup, check out my book, Break-Up Emergency. A guide to transform your Break-UP into a Break THROUGH. 

Power Struggles

Dr. Greg explains why he saw Tamara individually during couple therapy.

Couple therapy is very different than individual therapy in that you are treating the relationship primarily rather than just two individuals. That is why it was such a problem that in the second "couple therapy" session, Steven did not come to the second session with Tamara. At this point, I had two choices: see Tamara alone or send her away.

I did see her, but before I did, I informed her the research literature has shown that one-partner “couple therapy” may result in a negative outcome for the couple (Wilcoxon & Fenell, 1983). Understanding the possible impact, she agreed to stay and to focus on her specifically and tried to leave Steven out of it as much as possible. 

As a result we uncovered her issues with desire for respect and being liked. I explained the often inverse relationship with the two -- that someone who is highly respected is not always liked, and someone is well-liked is not always respected. Sometimes what gets you liked by others can also diminish their respect for you, and vise-versa.

What also became apparent was the use of the animals in the relationship to cut the tension between the two. Couples often do this with animals, but also use other means such as television, alcohol, or even their own children to help them avoid any tension. A little is OK, but too much can drive a wedge in the relationship. In the third session, Tamara brings her cat to the session -- an act I labeled as "passive-aggressive." 

A passive-aggressive act is typically an aggressive act done in some non-assertive manner. Here the aggressive act is that Tamara brings her cat (Kozy Mel) to the third session even though I asked her to come "without Jimmy Chew [the dog], without any animals." Then she claims she thought it only applied to Jimmy Chew. Passive-aggressive acts are typical when people feel powerless in a relationship; yet wish to express their power and/or anger in a situation. As it turns out, this passive-aggressive assertion of power with me turned out to be typical in her relationship with Steven. Because of the cultural expectations of women, her own upbringing, and the dynamic in their relationship, Tamara had learned to put her own power aside so that she can be liked and not ruffle feathers. But also because also wants respect for her intelligence and capability, she is in conflict.  So, she uses indirect or passive-aggressive means to assert her power that can end up being destructive to the relationship.

Talking about this seemed to make Steven uncomfortable. He even mocked the quote by Rosanne Barr that I paraphrased but actually reads, “The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.” This is going to clearly upset the dynamic in the relationship, but speaking up for what she wants is something Tamara needs to be doing more. And, Steven needs to do his part by taking her seriously, listening to her, and accepting her influence. Once this happens the relationship will thrive.

A post-script: what you may not have seen was the clear love and respect that Tamara and Steven did have for each other. Though we did uncover issues that were getting in the way of the relationship moving forward, they also had far more strengths that we could use to support their bond. And, I am happy to report that Tamara and Steven are getting married!