Well Being

Counterpoint: A Different Approach to Getting Over a Broken Heart

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photo: Thinkstock

Judging from the almost 2,000 comments our readers have made on Sara Ost's 2007 post How to Get Over a Broken Heart, we gather that this subject is pretty important to you. But, while I appreciate much of what Sara wrote in her post, I have a slightly different take on the whole “how to get over a broken heart” thing.

Personally, I don't believe that exercise, ice cream, breakup music, hanging out with friends, or avocados will help end your heartache. They may, however, make you feel physically or mentally better as a person (albeit temporarily), but they won't lessen your emotional pain or help you get over the actual person. Unfortunately, nothing will. Except, perhaps, the one intangible thing that you wish you could speed up, just this once: Time. (a.k.a. The answer no one wants to hear.)

The thing is, this harsh reality may actually ease some of the societal pressure we often feel to “hurry up and get over him” after the relationship ends. We have no choice. We have to wait it out. There's nothing else we can do. It just takes time. We'll get over it when we get over it, and not a moment before. It's liberating, actually.

Of course, when it comes to broken hearts and failed relationships, I'm merely an amateur expert. So I asked a respected professional one for her take on the logisitics of getting over a broken heart/bad breakup, and some of the psychological goings-on underneath. Meet Dr. Deirdre Barrett, a licensed clinical psychologist with individual and couples clients, who practices in New York City.

Blisstree: If you were to give advice to a distraught patient about getting over a broken heart, what might it be?

Dr. Deirdre Barrett: There's the old saying: “living well is the best revenge,” meaning that it's best to try not to dwell obsessively on what should have been or why things worked out badly. Instead, it's better to get busy making your life look and feel as great as you imagined it might have been with that person.

BT: Why are breakups always so damn painful, even if you know it's for the best?

DB: People often forget all of the doubts and fears about the person they were with once that person has ended things. Suddenly, that person was absolutely right for them. In reality, we're often more wounded by the idea of rejection rather than the loss of the actual person, who may not have been right for us in many ways — hence the breakup.

BT: Why are some people so terrified to break up with their partner, even if it's clear to everyone else that's what should happen?

DB: I think people are afraid that what they already have is the best they can do, and that it's too risky to give it up. This is what I see in my practice and life. People are aften confused about whether or not their expectations are unrealistic — at least a lot of the women I know aren't sure whether or not they can expect a partner to be sexy, intelligent, loyal, decent, etc. People also aren't sure if they could get more out of their partner/life if they were different or acted differently.

BT: So in general, do you think people's expectations of their partners are way too low?

DB: Not necessarily. I think a lot of us are confused about what we want, and end up reenacting lots of relationship traumas from our childhoods in the choices we make. I see that as the bigger issue.