Tag Archives: breaking up

How to Handle a Breakup:
12 Keys—What to do and what not to do.

Relationship break ups can be extremely painful because of the feelings of rejection, loneliness, fear of the unknown, and even be a loss of your sense of self. How you feel after a breakup depends on the relationship and the breakup itself. There may have been an unexpected event, or a gradual drifting apart.

The best way forward is pretty much the same regardless of how difficult the breakup was and whether or not you hope to get back together. This video illustrates 12 reminders to help you move from being angry and grief-stricken to feeling whole again.

The most effective way to deal with an ex is with an attitude of respect and self-respect. Whether or not you are able to restore the relationship, you will feel better about yourself if you can retain your composure and make your life more whole and fulfilling.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

A Better Way to Break-Up: 20 Ways to Leave Your Lover
by GUEST AUTHOR Dr. Jennifer Freed with Molly Green

"Grazia" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Grazia” by Mimi Stuart ©

GUEST AUTHOR Dr. Jennifer Freed with Molly Green writes:

The dissolution of any romantic relationship is invariably painful: At its worst, it is devastating and harmful and leaves a lot of emotional collateral damage in its wake; at its best, it’s done with tenderness and care, and both parties put aside a desire to just be done with it in favor of taking the time to separate with patience and love. The latter is difficult to achieve, but ultimately a more expedient path to peace. Below, Dr. Jennifer Freed, a therapist, astrologer, and the founder of Santa Barbara’s AHA!, together with her colleague, Molly Green, explains what needs to be reckoned with.

Paul Simon suggested:

“You just slip out the back, Jack
Make a new plan, Stan
You don’t need to be coy, Roy
Just get yourself free
Hop on the bus, Gus
You don’t need to discuss much
Just drop off the key, Lee
And get yourself free”

This song hit a national nerve precisely because people tend to leave their lovers in the most hideous and harmful ways. There may be any number of causes or triggers—an affair (physical or emotional), growing disdain, physical rejection, addiction, and anger—but when the betrayal results in often-public drama and fireworks, rather than a calm, loving, and honest reckoning, it lays waste to all the joy the couple in question might have experienced together, coloring the entire relationship with pain. It begs the question: Why do so many people, who have often spent years loving one another, leave their relationships in such hurtful, harmful, and unconscionable ways? How can it be done differently?

People leave their love relationships in tatters because they:

1. Are too frightened to actually face their own unhappiness and take responsibility for it.

2. Are unwilling to face the pain in their partner’s face when they tell them the relationship is over. They don’t want to witness the loss band-aid being pulled off in slow motion and thus feel responsible for the hurt.

3. Selfishly tell themselves that what their partner doesn’t know will not hurt them.

4. Want to punish their partner emotionally for what they have experienced as coldness, distance, or waning desire.

5. Are addicted to novelty and idealization at any cost.

6. Are unable to face the material consequences or insecurities of their decision to leave.

7. Blame their partner for their lack of success or dissatisfaction with their own life.

Any of the choose-your-own-adventures above indicate that there is a lot of pain between lovers that has not been addressed in an appropriate way, and that a lot of collateral emotional damage could be spared if people felt good enough about themselves, and had the correct tools, to deal with immense fear, insecurity, and emptiness. It takes tremendous courage to actually face relationship despair head on. Instead people bolt, cheat, lie, withdraw, get addicted to things, or trash the whole thing with an abrupt cut-off and hostile attack listing every imagined resentment and flaw. Rarely do people face each other and discuss the dying elephant in the room. To do so would be to take an honest look at the demise of the dream, the failing of the promises, and the personal sense of inadequacy and hopelessness that intimate relationship endings bring.

If we are to truly absorb and assimilate the grief of a coming ending—in its raw and undistracted state—we actually need to confront our own shortcomings. Both parties need to look at their parts in the deterioration of the connection and the many personal patterns or flaws that contributed to the dying of attraction and affection. This is the psychological work of warriors, quite frankly, and many folks just do not have the inner muscles or resolve, or outside resources to flex that deeply.

However, if we could all agree that it is in the best interest of ourselves, and our communities, to get into some serious intimacy shape, we could begin to deal with the reality and the sorrow of relationships that are fizzling out, and do so with dignity, maturity, and kindness. We could support one another to take regular inventory of the health of our love relationships and not go into cruise control or denial about intimacy erosion. Once we start hearing the whisper of the death rattle through long periods of emotional disconnection, avoidance of sex, constant bickering or fighting, increasing times apart, and a vapid joylessness, we can roll up our sleeves and wrestle these emotional demons. If all efforts fail to revive the romance and quality of connection, then everyone can feel more empowered to move forward.

Below, 20 ways to leave your lover with love and respect.

1. Take full responsibility for your part in the ending, as in:

“I gave up a long time ago when we were drifting apart and I just didn’t fight for us.”
“I stopped appreciating you and took you for granted.”
“I need something different than what I am getting with you and I want to move on.”

2. Take time to dissolve the ending by giving your partner notice and discussing reasonable ways to end things.

3. Speak highly of your soon-to-be ex, because what you say about them actually reflects a great deal about you.

4. Spend a good deal of time reflecting on how you got into the intimacy bog and what you could have done differently.

5. Give your soon-to-be ex a lot of space to be upset and remove yourself immediately from any conversations that are hateful or abusive.

6. Pay off all debts and split things up fairly.

7. Seek professional help to mediate finality if you are too frightened and find yourself backing off from your firm decision.

8. Refrain from clingy sex and keep appropriate new boundaries to avoid confusion and undue stalling. Respect your partner’s boundaries and their need for distance.

9. Be kind to all of your mutual friends, as well as the friends of your partner. Avoid taking sides. There are no sides. There is just loss.

10. Use this time to take great care of yourself by getting in shape, not just physically but mentally. This is a very stressful time, no matter how adrenalized you may feel in leaving.

11. Keep your words in the affirmative about the situation and avoid all attempts to make you right and your partner wrong. Again, it is all just loss. There are no winners.

12. Be faithful to your soon-to-be ex and do not involve anyone else romantically in your complicated emotional maelstrom until you are truly separated.

13. Give your soon-to-be ex lots of physical space and let them attend to things without having to see your face.

14. Take up a new class or hobby to help you fill the new free time that is often fraught with compulsive over-thinking.

15. Take a short road trip alone or with friends to get some perspective after the big announcement.

16. Refrain from any social media postings about your status. RESPECT the transition.

17. Keep all your soon-to-be ex’s secret vulnerabilities SECRET. Do not ever reveal intimate facts. That would be tasteless and petty.

18. Let go of all letters and memorabilia as soon as possible, but in a discreet, honorable way.

19. Take time to feel all the emotions without involving your ex in a blow-by-blow battle. It is time for you to feel it all. Get a therapist or friend to be there for you.

20. When you make mistakes along the imperfect road of breaking up, admit to them and move on. Making a mistake is not code for failure.

If you are the friend of someone in the midst of this process, you can be truly helpful by encouraging the person to look in the mirror for the real lessons to be learned, and to keep an eye on the path ahead. There is only power in looking at his or her part of the relationship, no matter how screwed up their partner’s actions seem to be. After all, so much of falling in love is in the feeling we get about ourselves in the eyes of the beloved. It seems fitting that falling out of love is also about bravely enduring the feeling we get from looking in the eyes of one we have disappointed, whether they be our ex-lover’s or our own.

by GUEST AUTHOR Dr. Jennifer Freed with Molly Green. Dr. Jennifer Freed PhD, is a child behavioral expert and co-founder of AHA! (Attitude.Harmony.Achievement.)

Ten guidelines for how to proceed with a relationship after a separation: “What steps are required as we work towards repair?”

"Flow of Energy" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Flow of Energy” by Mimi Stuart ©

Your primary goal should be to go about your life with a sense dignity and self-respect. This means doing the following:

1. Do not be rude or disrespectful.

2. Do not tolerate any rudeness or disrespect. In other words, when approached rudely, remain composed and either withdraw or say something like, “Let’s treat each other with respect.”

3. Do not seek too much connection, that is, avoid being needy.

4. Do not give too much advice.

5. Do not complain, but rather ask for what you need in a dignified way.

6. Avoid a victim mentality.

7. Avoid gossiping negatively about your potential ex.

8. Pursue your interests and see friends and family (I don’t mean party wildly, but live an interesting life). Include mutual friends.

9. Find things to be grateful for daily and hourly.

10. Apologize for any mistakes or hurt you may have caused.

Building a basis of mutual respect gives you the best chance of being able to restore the relationship on some level without resentment or hostility. He is most likely to miss you and be attracted to you again if you are strong, kind, independent and amazing.

Whether or not you are able to restore the relationship fully, you will feel better about yourself if you can follow these guidelines. Moreover, the self-composure and dignity achieved by following these guidelines provide the most effective basis for interacting with another person whether you are married, living apart, or divorced.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Read “How to predict a divorce or the breakup of a relationship.”

Read “Is ‘playing hard to get” just a game?”

Read “My girlfriend said she needed time and space to re-evaluate our relationship.”

How to resist getting back together with a narcissist

"Song of Everest" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Song of Everest” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire


I don’t seem to be able to break the habit of contacting my ex fiancé even though he had several online affairs, alternated affection with contempt, lost his temper with me, lectured me constantly to try to force me to change myself in pretty much every way, sabotaged my friendships and acted obnoxiously when my family member died and I had a massive cancer scare. What on earth do I do?



Everything you said about your ex fits the description of a narcissist:

• making accusations
• showing contempt
• sabotaging your friendships
• lacking empathy
• having online affairs that feed his need for validation and praise

Most people enjoy admiration, but for narcissists, the craving for validation is never-ending, as they need it in order to feel empowered and worthwhile. Thus, the primary drive in their lives is to seek praise and conquest, whether through seduction, power, or status.

Narcissists unconsciously target well-meaning, vulnerable people as their intimates. Yet ironically, narcissists end up holding in contempt those who admire or love them. While they seek admiration, they have disdain for people foolish enough to be deceived by their grandiosity. Moreover, they fear that intimates may discover the extreme emptiness and vulnerability underlying their grandiosity.

Thus, in intimate relationships, they protect themselves from criticism, humiliation, and rejection by over-reacting with contempt or outrage whenever they are challenged on any level. Contempt becomes a tool to keep their partner and other intimates insecure and dependent, thus, ensuring their continued validation. Contempt erodes the partner’s self-respect, which will make it harder for that person to stand up and leave the abusive relationship.

Breaking emotional ties

Narcissists will drain the life out of you. It is critical that you stay away from someone who is demeaning toward you, has online affairs, and sabotages your friendships.

Leaving a narcissist can be difficult because your self-confidence is diminished, and narcissists tend to excel at manipulation and seduction. They may threaten and berate you and alternatively use their skills of charm and seduction. It is up to you to avoid becoming weak to such maneuvering.

To quit a relationship with a narcissist, you have to make a conscious decision to avoid the narcissist. You’ve got to be strong and decide flatly that you will end the relationship.

You can make it a bit easier by keeping busy with friends and family. If you can afford it, travel is a great way to free yourself of your old habits. Initially it will take willpower for you to resist the urge of contacting him and to avoid being seduced by his charms. It is natural to miss a person you have been emotionally involved with for so long, even when that person is often unkind and contemptuous. But you will miss him less after the first three months of no contact. After a year, things will become much easier.

Keep in mind that relationships should be loving and supportive. If your return to him, his negative behavior is likely to get much worse.

Remember that in a good relationship, each partner wants the other person’s happiness. Look for someone who embraces your friends, who cares for you, appreciates your desires, and who feels empathy for what you are going through — your disappointments, successes, and losses. Look for someone who never (or hardly ever!!) shows contempt toward you.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen


Read “Ending an Abusive Relationship: ‘I feel guilty leaving my abusive partner, because I have compassion for him.’”

Read “Narcissism.”

Read “Emotionally Volatile People: ‘He can be so charming and then so defiant.’”

“My girlfriend said she needed time and space to re-evaluate our relationship, for us to work on ourselves, and then see where we want to go from there. I was reassured that her moving out was not an end to our relationship, but just putting it on hold. We agreed that we could still see each other, fidelity would be respected, and we could also continue to communicate with each other. I complied.”

"Counterpoint" by Mimi Stuart ©  Living the Life you Desire

“Counterpoint” by Mimi Stuart ©
Living the Life you Desire

Avoiding honest discussions about difficult issues

No relationship is perfect. So one of the key ingredients in a long-term relationship is being able to be honest while diplomatic about changes that would improve the relationship and boundaries that need to be set.

If people are too worried about hurting each others’ feelings to be candid, then long-term intimacy may be severely compromised. While attack and defensiveness are counter-productive, honest expression of your needs and desires in a relationship is crucial. A couple needs to be able to talk openly about what is not working in their relationship.

Have you both been able to discuss the issues in your relationship? Do you know why your girlfriend needs to move out to re-evaluate the relationship? Are you sure she is not simply trying to ease out of the relationship without hurting you too much?

Having it both ways

Your girlfriend seems to be calling all the shots while you hand over all of the control in the relationship to her. Separating and the possibility of getting back together seem to be in her hands. Is she trying to have it both ways–keep you waiting for her, while she decides what she really wants?

Being too compliant

Notice that she was the one reassuring you, which means she assumes that you will be there waiting for her. Consider whether you have allowed a dynamic to develop in your relationship where you give her total control in the name of being agreeable and accommodating.

While it is important to be reasonably accommodating in a relationship, when you give up too much of your power and subordinate your needs and desires to another person, you will become emotionally debilitated. As a result, you will feel lackluster, your partner will lose interest in you, and passion will tend to diminish. Even if you do get back together, if this dynamic continues, you will lose your sense of self by being too compliant, and she will lose her desire for you.

Taking control of your own life and your role in the relationship

1. Have a candid conversation. Ask her to explain why she is dissatisfied. Assure her that you can handle the truth and see if she can be candid about why she wants to separate. In order for you to have the opportunity to re-evaluate the relationship, you need to know what’s bothering her and whether she can handle difficulties in a relationship as part of a team.

2. Live your life, don’t put it on hold. Keep your life engaged. Avoid sitting around waiting for her to decide whether she can do better. Give her space while maintaining your own friendships and social activities. It’s always good to keep your life interesting and continue to pursue your passions, whether living together, married or not. You will feel more alive and be a more interesting and desirable person.

3. Re-evaluate your relationship with her. Make sure you also re-evaluate the relationship on your own terms. Make sure you are in touch with your own needs and desires and not just simply complying with hers. Imagine that you do get back together. Can you avoid walking on eggshells wondering if she’s going to back away again? Will you two be able to discuss boundaries, needs, and desires? Will you be second-guessing her and trying to appease her so that she doesn’t leave again? Are you willing to simply wait and hope for her to decide to get back together with you? How do you really feel about her wanting to separate yet wanting to keep her options open?

Based on your reflections about these questions, you might tell her what your desires are and decide what actions you would like to take, and see if you can have a productive conversation together.

Separation can be helpful especially if you are both young and haven’t developed a strong sense of self. However, long-term relationships require trust, which is best promoted by honest and open discussions about the inevitable challenges that arise in a relationship.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen


Read “Positive Bonding Patterns: ‘We never fight, but we don’t talk anymore and there’s no more passion.’”

Read “My boyfriend broke up with me last week.”

“My boyfriend broke up with me last week.”

"Prism" by Mimi Stuart © Live the Life you Desire

“Prism” by Mimi Stuart ©
Live the Life you Desire

“Hi Alison,

My boyfriend broke up with me last week. He was always a little suspicious because I started seeing him before I broke up with my previous boyfriend. He said he loves me but he’s unhappy and doesn’t desire me anymore. He also said that there might be an opportunity for us in the future. I don’t know what to think.



It sounds to me as though he has mixed feelings about you, as most people do when they are honest and are able to handle ambivalence in a new relationship. At least he’s not like many people who, in order to justify breaking up, vilify the other person and forget all the good experiences they shared.

My guess is that the reason he says he doesn’t rule out getting back together in the future is that he either wants to soften the blow of breaking up with you or he wants to keep his options open.

Possible Reasons For the Breakup

1. The fact that he doesn’t desire you any more may be because he thinks you are untrustworthy given that you started seeing him before you broke up with your previous boyfriend. He may love you and be attracted to you, but he doesn’t want to risk experiencing the pain of potential betrayal.

2. Or perhaps he’s just responding to the normal waning of fascination that inevitably occurs in any romantic relationship. He may be the type who is always seeking that initial excitement when two people initially fall in love. You can probably look at his past history to see if he has had a continuous stream of short-term relationships. If that’s the case, you wouldn’t want to try to have a long-term relationship with him anyway.

3. Another possibility is that he has met someone else and doesn’t want to admit it.

4. Or there may be something bothering him that he is not telling you in order to spare your feelings. If you are curious for the purpose of understanding and your personal growth, you might ask him to tell you what he thinks is missing in your relationship.

5. Finally, there may be something else going on in his life that he hasn’t talked to you about. He says he’s unhappy. You never know if he is facing some other challenges in his life.

Whatever the reason is, if I were you, I would view him as a friend if that is possible, and move on with your life. There is nothing more gratifying than being with someone who really wants to be with you. Also, try keeping your next own relationships clean in terms of trustworthiness. Break up before you date a new person, and everyone involved will respect you more.

Good luck,


Read “I think I am a pursuer. My girlfriend initiated a breakup. I want to salvage this relationship. What can I do?”

Read “He left me after six months of being together. I keep hoping he’ll come back. Should I call him?”