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After the Breakup: The Most Important Thing to Do Before ‘Getting Back Out There’

As a breakup therapist, and author of the blog and book, “Getting Past Your Breakup: How To Turn A Devastating Loss Into The Best Thing That Ever Happened To You,” I receive many questions about what to do before getting back out there.

My clients and readers are male and female, of all ages and backgrounds and come from relationships that are of many different lengths. Some have been dating a while; others are leaving decades long marriages.

Most of my clients and readers are coming out of bad relationships, many are leaving after staying too long. Yet, one thing they all seem to have in common is that in the relationship they put themselves last or blamed themselves when things did not go right. They stayed longer than they should have, believing there was “one thing” they were not doing and if only they could figure out that one thing, it would be better.  There was no “one thing,” and things were never getting better. When they finally figure that out, they go.

The issue that’s very common is this: They learned from their failed relationship that they did not treat themselves very well.

Had they made themselves even somewhat of a priority, they would have realized that the relationship wasn’t working and it was not entirely their fault. Therefore, they allowed mistreatment from their partner, many times making excuses for their partner and allowing the blame to fall squarely on their shoulders.

Before you get back into another relationship, the most important thing is to understand that you are important, your opinions matters, and to know your standards and values. The most important thing to succeeding in a relationship is, ironically enough, knowing how to spend time with yourself, and value yourself as a human being. Before being with someone new, you have to learn to find new hobbies, interests and friendships that you won’t give up when a new love interest comes along. It is very important that you find meaningful activities so that you will have something you can call your own when you are back in a relationship.

When you are dating, it can be exciting and even intoxicating. It is easy to get drawn into those you like and who seem to like you. If you have not dated in a while or your last relationship was really difficult and the ending dramatic, it is very wonderful to be cared for by someone and to feel attractive and interesting. The experience can be so pleasurable, being with this person and talking to this person is the only thing you can think about when you’re alone.

However, if you truly value yourself as a person, you will pull yourself out of the intoxication of new love for a little while and spend time with family and friends. You will leave even when you don’t want to go, and you will give yourself and the other person “space” even if they object. It is important to stay true to yourself and your life. If this attraction doesn’t last, you don’t want to look around and see that the life you built since your last breakup is gone because you neglected it.

Dating and creating a new relationship is a balancing act with finding time for your friends and family, your hobbies and interests, and your new love interest. It’s easy to be sucked into the gravitational pull of romance, affection, attention and infatuation. It’s fun and it feels good. But for a relationship to succeed in the long run, it needs to be a positive part of your life, not your whole life.

While you are dating or seeing someone exclusively, be sure to care for yourself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Pay attention to your needs in all these areas, separate and apart from someone else. No one else can fill your empty places and no one should try. You should be a stronger unit together, but you should still be a strong unit alone.

A good relationship enlarges your life and gives it more joy and more meaning. A bad relationship narrows it and makes it miserable. The only way to enjoy being in a good relationship is to enjoy being in a relationship with yourself before a good partner comes along.

Starting today, be sure you are learning to value yourself, to hold yourself in high esteem, and to build the life that will make you happy without a partner. The ironic thing about healthy relationships is that two strong, healthy, independent people who don’t “need” someone else, have the best relationships when they do meet. No one else can “complete” you, and you should be looking for someone who does not expect you to complete them.  Two halves do not make a whole in relationships.  Two wholes make for a wonderful, healthy and long-lasting relationship.

About the Author:

Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed. is the developer of the Getting Past Your Past series of workshops and seminars, author of “Getting Past Your Breakup:  How To Turn A Devastating Loss Into The Best Thing That Ever Happened To You” (Da Capo, 2009), media commentator (interviewed and quoted extensively on television, radio, print and internet), speaker, relationship coach, developer of Getting Past Your Breakup bootcamps (both live and on-line), host of Getting Past Your Breakup radio show and author of the Getting Past Your Past and Getting Past Your Breakup blogs. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Mount Holyoke College where she graduated magna cum laude with High Honors and Phi Beta Kappa, her Master of Education in Counseling Psychology from Cambridge College and her Juris Doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley.