When Coronavirus Leads To A Breakup

Relationships are under a lot of pressure at the moment as we all individually deal with the uncertainty, fear and stress of the coronavirus pandemic. In some cases, relationships will strengthen during this time, even if there are difficult moments. It’s only normal for there to be ups and downs in any relationship. In other cases, though, the added stress may lead to a breakup. 

There are a lot of different scenarios playing out at the moment:

Maybe you and your partner deal with crisis differently, and you can’t bridge the divide.

Maybe time apart has allowed for reflection, and one partner’s feelings have changed about being in a relationship.

Maybe being confined together has made one partner realize they no longer want to be together.

Maybe you, or the other person, would rather be on your own or with family during this time.

Maybe a major life change has happened (loss of a loved one, loss of a job) and one partner needs space.

Maybe the relationship was really new, and the pandemic killed any momentum that was building.

The list could go on and on, but the point is that there are so many reasons relationships are ending right now. The important thing to remember is that the pandemic is just a catalyst, speeding up what was already happening. The stress of a pandemic highlights and heightens emotions or thoughts that were already there, even if they were faint.

The real reason relationships will end during this time is because something wasn’t working in the relationship, and one or both partners weren’t willing to make it work. Even if things were working pre-coronavirus, the key fact to remember is that they didn’t continue to work once things got difficult

While that’s painful to hear, it may also save you some time and energy that you would have otherwise spent blaming a virus. This pandemic is a circumstance we are all dealing with, albeit an unprecedented and heartbreaking one, and it’s temporary.

If you’re having difficulty processing your breakup right now, here are some questions to help you reflect on your relationship:

Were there signs before the pandemic that your relationship was on unsteady ground? Did you feel safe and loved?

Did you two react to the pandemic differently? How were you able to communicate?

In general, was your relationship healthy and solid before the pandemic?

Were your interactions mostly stable and positive?

Did you feel welcome and integrated in your partner’s life? If you’d been together a while, had you met their friends and/or family?

Were there any red flags before the coronavirus pandemic hit?

Were you fighting a lot? Were you confused or anxious often?

Acknowledging and accepting the relationship for what it really was, not what you wish it had been, is an important part of the mending process. A pandemic can certainly add a layer of unhelpful stress, but a relationship can weather a pandemic. Relationships will certainly be tested, but if both partners are willing to weather the storm together, they will.

At the end of the day, if the relationship didn’t last, there was a reason it didn’t last, and there’s also a lesson in it. While it’s incredibly painful to be going through a breakup or divorce during a pandemic, you can find some solace in knowing that you have some closure. Now you can focus on healing, taking care of yourself and preparing for the time when you can go out again, see your loved ones, rebuild your life (and potentially even welcome a new person in your life.)

It may be hard to imagine all of this now while you’re stuck at home in your pajamas counting the days of confinement, but know that this heartbreak is just one step on a much longer journey. Know that you are strong enough to weather any storm, and that the right partner will be too.

If you could use more daily support through a breakup or divorce, you can start mending now. You can also sign up for our free class on “Staying Home: How To Support Your Mental Health During Coronavirus.” 

Esther Perel’s Advice For Couples During Coronavirus

There’s nothing like a global pandemic to really put your relationship in focus. A lot of people around the world right now are reflecting on their relationships, as they’re dealing with changes to daily life and work. Maybe you’re stuck at home together in home quarantine, or maybe you’re separated for several weeks at least. In either case, a global pandemic can put a lot of stress on a couple, especially if you have reacted to it differently. Times like these are the ultimate stress tests for relationships, and they may even lead to more arguments and, later, divorces.

Jennifer Senior, a columnist at The New York Times, recently shared the story of her own marital struggles during the coronavirus pandemic. She described how she and her husband have often coped with major changes differently, whether it was the election of Donald Trump in 2016 or the current spread of coronavirus. In her research to understand why, she reached out to relationship expert Esther Perel for advice.

Esther Perel’s advice centered around the idea that couples deal with uncertainty differently. Speaking to Jennifer, Esther said: “If you polarize and you think that there’s only one way to do things…it’s fake certainty. The whole point is that you’re discovering it along the way.”

She broke down a few stylistic differences couples may have when it comes to dealing with coronavirus:

How you approach information in moments of crisis – you may want to “binge” or know everything and others may have more boundaries in place when it comes to reading the news

How consumed you become by an emergency – one of you may be completely focused on the emergency, while the other “may focus more on maintaining the rhythms of a normal life.”

How you move through the world when disaster strikes – you may be “structured, purposeful, proactive” while your partner may be “passive or fatalistic”

Her advice reaches far beyond romantic relationships and may also help us navigate relationships with friends and family right now. It’s a good reminder that while we may handle things differently, it doesn’t mean that our relationships won’t work. This is a moment of high stress, and some understanding and empathy can go a long way. Instead of letting these differences cause more stress, try to be gentle with yourself and your loved ones as we all navigate uncertainty and do the best we can.

And if you’re separated from your partner or loved ones because of confinement, quarantine or social distancing, be sure to check out Esther Perel’s advice for maintaining social connection while social distancing as well as our suggestions.

You may also be interested in how to avoid a breakup during the coronavirus pandemic, how relationships and breakups will be affected by this pandemic and what will happen to dating during coronavirus.

If you could use more daily support through a breakup or divorce, you can start mending today. You can also sign up for our free class on “Staying Home: How To Support Your Mental Health During Coronavirus.” 

7 Ways To Soothe Your Nervous System Post-Breakup, According To A Therapist

Research from psychology and neuroscience now confirms what poets and artists and songwriters have always known: the end of romantic connection can be a searing and devastating world of pain. The nervous system interprets emotional pain in the way that it processes physical pain. This is often captured in the somatic reactions to loss: loss of appetite or excessive eating; numbness and dissociation; heightened anxiety and vigilance; compulsive behavior; depression. 

The end of a relationship is the beginning of grief, a nervous system on fire and in danger. Especially if the loss is unexpected, sudden or unwanted, the ending of a relationship can be type of traumatic experience. The sting of heartbreak is often a wake-up call, an opportunity to regroup, reassess, and move towards a stronger, and more resilient version of yourself.

The deeper and more significant heartbreaks are often opportunities to revisit our unfinished emotional business. When the end of a romantic bond is especially difficult, one place to look to is unfinished emotional business from other domains of life, namely other significant romantic relationships and the first relationships from our families of origin. 

The loss of connection can often point towards ways that we have experienced loss in other periods of time in our life and also our responses to ruptures in emotional bonds from childhood. This is the fortunate unfortunate silver lining of a hard break up: the opportunity to revisit and reclaim parts of ourselves that require healing. The type of healing that supports us in making new, stable connections as we shift from the connections we inherit from our families of origin to the connections of choice we create with romantic partners.

Entering a period of grief often requires commitment to moving through it’s stages from disillusionment to bargaining followed by anger and ultimately acceptance. In a culture where change happens ever more rapidly, it is counterintuitive to allow the time and space for the grief of a relationship ending to express itself. The most critical first step in mending from a break up is acknowledging the loss. It happened, it’s significant, and hard. From there, the healing can begin.

Here are 7 of my tips for soothing and healing your nervous system: 

1. Remember the basics: The wracking nerves of anxiety can easily distract away from life’s basic tasks. Eat regular meals, keep up with your sleep routine, spend time with people

2. Exercise and move: Depression and withdrawal can quickly set in, leaving one unmotivated and despondent. despite the entropy, be sure to move the body. Remember: exercise can be a great antidepressant

3. Adopt a mindfulness practice: The family of meditations called ‘Compassion Practices’ offer care and much needed loving to tender hearts. An example is this heart-tending practice by meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg https://www.mindful.org/a-compassion-practice-for-opening-the-heart/

4. Get support: Friends, a therapist, support group, using resources through Mend, or a wise and trusted elder or mentor

5. Take a social media fast: as tempting as keeping tabs on your ex’s social media account can be, take a week or two sabbatical from checking likes and keeping tabs on them

6. Take a break from dating: spend some time processing. A nice rule of thumb is to take a week break for each year of the relationship

7. Be careful with alcohol and drugs: like most of us, you may be tempted to use substances to numb or distract away from the pain

How Therapy Can Help After A Breakup

As a therapist, and a survivor of several breakups myself, I know therapy can be particularly essential when a relationship ends. It can be difficult to be rational or objective when your heart is aching and you may feel hopeless, anxious, or depressed. A therapist’s office offers you a safe place to process the grief, loss, confusion, and disappointment you are experiencing so that you can feel grounded and like yourself again.

Despite the fact that many people see, saw, or will see a therapist at some point in their lives, seeking help from a mental health professional remains a surprisingly stigmatized topic. Let’s face it, people would rather talk about seeing their gynecologist, rabbi, or even their ex before admitting to seeing a shrink. Many of my clients walk through my door feeling heavy with shame and report that seeking my assistance makes them feel embarrassed, indulgent, or weak. It’s as if needing therapy is a sign of their failure as humans, a scarlet letter on their hearts. But really, we all struggle with breakups and you should not feel ashamed if you need some extra support during this difficult time of transition.

The following are my top 6 reasons why therapy is not just helpful, but essential after a breakup.

1. Don’t Carry the Baggage of Your Last Relationship into Your Next One

People often run from one failed relationship to another in a desperate attempt to forget the pain in the arms of a new love. But if we don’t seize the chance to really process the grief from a breakup, we are likely to bring it with us into the next relationship. We may project feelings and memories onto our new partner that have nothing to do with them. For example, your ex may have severely broken your trust and as result you are constantly suspicious or accuse your new partner of deceiving you even though they are not. This is likely to result in you walking away from someone wonderful, or pushing that person away. Therapy can help you clear the marks of your last love and give you a clean emotional canvas to work with.

2. Own What Is Yours and Let Go of the Rest

I see many patients who incorrectly blame themselves for the relationship not working out. They are so busy feeling bad about themselves that they fail to take responsibility for the way they actually did contribute to problems with their ex. It is important that you are able to examine what happened with someone who can help you see it objectively. It is essential that you stop blaming yourself for things that are not your fault, because sitting with blame and shame weighs us down and keeps us stuck. It is also important that you uncover the problematic behaviors or patterns that you did engage in that were not helpful. A lot of the problems that came up in your last relationship probably existed long before you ever met your ex. That is because we have internal dynamics in place for understanding ourselves and relating to others that have been in place since childhood. It is essential to untangle this web before you step into the next relationship so that you don’t repeat the same patterns again.

3. Your Friends and Family Aren’t As Helpful As You Think

You may have friends that rival Carrie Bradshaw’s crew of supportive gal pals, but even they got sick of hearing about Mr. Big and eventually sent Carrie off to see a therapist. Leaning on friends and family is a great tool to have in your arsenal, but it’s not quite enough. Your friends may have some good advice, but they are not trained experts in mental health, communication, or relationships. The advice and support of loved ones is biased by their relationship with you, and their own motivations and needs. Sometimes talking to friends can be like walking through a house of mirrors. The objective lens of the therapist allows us to see ourselves and our situations more accurately. Additionally, we can alienate people we love by relying on them too heavily to handle emotional matters that are outside the scope of their capacity. When we have a therapist to talk with about our emotional struggles we have the capacity to maintain a more balanced relationship with the other important people in our lives.

4. Re-Discover Your Identity As a Single Person and Learn to Love Yourself

A large part of coping with the loss of a relationship is learning how to be single again. This involves learning how to be alone and really getting to know and love an independent you. Skipping this step can lead to dating people who are not right for you as a way of filling an empty hole in your heart. We often lose parts of our identity in our relationships, and therapy can help you connect with your truest self and put the pieces back together. In order to really love someone else, we must learn to love ourselves. Therapy can help us uncover and remove the barriers that prevent us from tapping into this essential self-love.

5. Communication Is Hard. Really, Really Hard.

I would consider myself an expert in effective communication strategies and I still mess it up. Effective communication is hard. It is both an art and a science. Communication problems are often the number one culprit in a failed relationship. A large part of what I do as a therapist is help my clients shift their communication styles from problematic—passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, or altogether non-existent—to effective. I teach people how to express themselves in a way that honors their voice and desires, but does not alienate or harm others. I often find that there is nothing wrong with what people are trying to say, it’s how they are saying it (or what they are afraid to say) that is getting them into trouble. Therapy can help you shift problematic communication patterns so when that next special someone walks into your life you are less likely to make the same mistakes again.

6. Cause You’ve Tried Other Strategies and You’re Still Struggling

You’ve read half the books in Amazon.com’s breakup section. You’ve attended “meetups” for “single and fabulous” locals. You gave up gluten and started practicing yoga. Yet despite all of this, you still feel like you are running in place with the same emotional demons from your relationship. If you feel like you have given everything else a shot and nothing has worked, it might be time to try something else. Albert Einstein is often quoted as saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If we want different results, we need to shift our cognitive approach. By providing specific tools and interventions for coping with loss, therapy helps people remove obstacles that have prevented them from truly healing in the past.

Now What? 

Hopefully, you’ve begun to see that therapy is an important piece of your healing process. The next step is finding a good therapist. Unfortunately not all therapists are created equal. On Monday I’ll share my insider tips on how to find a good therapist. Until you find that person who can help you on the next step of your journey, take good care of yourself, take lots of deep breaths, have faith in your potential to heal and move on, find gratitude for the good things in your life, and remember that no matter what YOU WILL GET THROUGH THIS!

If you’ve missed previous articles in this Demystifying Therapy series, be sure to get caught up below.

Part 1: How It Can Help

Part 2: Beginning Your Therapist Search

Part 3: How To Find The Right Fit

Psychologist Sarah Neustadter On Grief After Her Boyfriend’s Suicide

Dr. Sarah Neustadter is a licensed psychologist based in Los Angeles. Her book “Love You Like The Sky: Surviving The Suicide Of A Beloved” digs into the grief that follows a loved one’s suicide. The book comes from Sarah’s own relationship with grief after her boyfriend’s suicide. We asked Sarah about what grief has taught her, the rituals that have helped her mend, and she also shared a special exercise to help move forward after a breakup.

If you think back to the first time you were heartbroken, what advice would you give to that younger version of yourself?

You are safe and you are loved. This all feels devastating, but don’t shut your heart down and build a wall around yourself. See if you can stay open and innocent even though you’ve been hurt. And have faith. There are great men out there. Let’s build up your self-worth so that you can feel you are worthy of that healthy kind of love.

What has heartbreak (and grief) taught you about yourself?

That I am stronger and more resilient than I ever thought possible. That if I could survive the suicide of my boyfriend, then I can survive anything. And grief has taught me to cherish and savor moments with my loved ones and not take their presence in my life for granted.

What rituals helped you mend while grieving?

Daily meditation, journaling, carving out time for crying, sitting at the beach watching the water, therapy, and my weekly dance practice—5 Rhythms.

The Obsession Sessions is a great two-week psychological exercise to help get over someone, more for general breakups than death-related endings. I learned it from a psychologist mentor and she learned it from her mentor Dr. Jay Haley. This is best done at least a month out of a relationship, not in the immediate aftermath of a breakup.

Twice a day for the first week you have to spend 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening (at the same time each day), completely obsessing about all the positive things abut your ex and your relationship. Go through all your good memories and all the love and sweet aspects of your ex and your relationship. If you start to think about the negative things, bring your focus back to the positive. And you can only think about the positive things of the relationship and about your ex for the duration of the 20 minutes. I recommend journaling through these 20 minutes to keep you focused. You do this 2x a day for one week.

Then you switch and obsess about all the negative things about your ex and about your relationship. Really go back and remember all the details that were not what you wanted and let yourself feel all of the negative emotions. Write about all of it. Keep focused only on the negative twice a day for 20 minutes.

After two weeks you are done, and you will most likely never want to think about your ex again. You’ll most likely neutralize the charge around your ex and see both the negative and the positive at the same time. You’ll also notice a particular process unfold and learn a lot about yourself and your relationship.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about love so far in your life?

Grieving is a form of loving.

What keeps your heart open, despite the heartbreaks you’ve had in your life?

Good somatic therapy work, bodywork, acupuncture, my sweet cat, and seeing other expanding and inspiring couples out there makes me know that great, healthy, conscious love is definitely realistic.

What projects are you currently working on, and looking forward to most?

I’m working on my comedy/human interest podcast “A**holes of LA,” gearing up towards my next book about men and culture, and learning how to DJ so I can host curated dance parties.

You can follow Dr. Sarah Neustadter on Instagram or visit her website.

8 Love + Relationship Myths Debunked: Fantasy vs. Reality

Whether you’re in a relationship, single, or have been married for years, we come across advice from relatives, messages from the media and popular culture, and myths mistaken for the “norm.” What’s reality? What is only fantasy? Let’s get the facts straight in order to approach our current and future relationships in the healthiest way possible.

1. “It’s not meant to be.” “It’s meant to be.”

Okay, we’re all guilty of saying this at one point or another. However, the fact is that any relationship requires work from both parties. A relationship or marriage succeeding or failing is in direct correlation with the amount of effort each person is willing to put in. Simple math. A relationship between two people is not “destined” to fail or “destined” to succeed at any point. It relies on the work each person puts in to maintain and nurture it, as well as their efforts to deeply understand one another, evolve together (and individually), and mend or address any bumps along the way. This myth alludes to the idea that relationships are some sort of magical fairytale — unfortunately, this is not the case.

2. “I can change him/her…” “He/She will change after we get married.” “He/She will change after we have the baby.”

If you notice, each of these examples view change as the result of an external force (you, marriage, a child). True, meaningful change comes from the inside and is intrinsically motivated. Secondly, each of these assumes that change is instantaneous. Personal change within yourself or within a relationship takes time and intentional, applied effort. It takes a large dose of self-awareness, acceptance, and then willingness to take steps towards change.

“As Marilyn Ferguson observed, ‘ No one can persuade another to change. Each of us guards a gate of change that can only be opened from the inside. We cannot open the gate of another, either by argument or emotional appeal.” (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People)

If you desire change in another person for their personal growth and your relationship, it should be a conversation or a step far in advance of marriage or a child. A marriage or a child used as a catalyst for change will only complicate things.

3. “You can’t have it all.” “One will be sacrificed — your family or your career.”

Oh, the argument of the century and my favorite myth (did I mention — everyone has their own opinion, and you can feel free to disagree of course)! One of my favorite quotes is by Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg:

“The most important career choice you’ll make is who you marry. I have an awesome husband, and we’re 50/50.”

Now, both marriage and career are adventures and they are not cake. There will be ups. There will be downs. There will be moments of pure chaos. What it comes down to is yourself and the person standing next to you.  It’s important you see eye to eye. A partner that believes in supporting you, your dreams, and a team approach will have your back.

We’re in an world of connection, shared experiences, and interdependency — there’s greatness and a “one up” in combined potential. A healthy self and healthy relationship are the recipe and foundation for success. If you’re someone who feels you’re sacrificing a bit of one or the other, take a deeper look. Remember, you decide the definition of “it all” anyway.

4. “I am looking for someone perfect for me.” “He/She has to be [insert list here].” “I am looking for my prince.” “I need love at first sight or sparks flying.”

Everyone has standards and expectations. Are they realistic, though? Perfection sets all of us up for failure. Expecting perfection or “sparks” will only leave us disappointed. What makes others beautiful, lovable and their true selves are their imperfections. A relationship built on one or both people presenting their “false selves” in order to be viewed in a “perfect” light makes for a very poor outcome. A healthy relationship is one that encourages both parties to be their best and truest selves, flaws and all. Be yourself and encourage others to do the same.

Unfortunately, we often have expectations that merely have roots in a movie or book. Life isn’t always glamorous, it gets messy. Embrace it. You may find a more mature love in a second marriage. The best fit and compliment for you may be the person you least expect. The best relationship for you may not be a “click” but rather an evolution.

5. “Everything fizzles out after you’re married.” “Marriage is supposed to be lame.” “Your wedding is the best day of your life.”

In today’s culture, there is such a build up to THE WEDDING that it makes anything a day, months, or years later look similar to coming down from a high. Marriage is only a kick-off party to one of life’s greatest adventures. The reality is it’s supposed to fun and make you grow — be fulfilling, challenging, and exciting. Will it be like that everyday? Not necessarily, since we’re humans. However, a healthy marriage will make you evolve positively and leave you energized rather than drained. As you both grow and overcome challenges together, the team will only get stronger and the passion will only get stronger. Besides, what about the day(s) you bring a kid into the world!

To have expectations that life after marriage will be somewhat lackluster will only skew the approach to this chapter of life and lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy. Going back to #2 on the conversation about change — chances are your relationship before marriage and your conversations about marriage will be the same as your marriage. True, mature, healthy love lasts.

6. “True love is all about passion.” “Opposites attract.” “Sex/Attraction is everything.”

A healthy relationship absolutely has a fire at the heart of it but it also requires practicality. There should be a degree of “this feels like home.” Two people may have great chemistry but, if there is a lack of substance or trust, opposing values, differing views on the future, or poor communication, love or sex won’t “fix it.” It will come down to the effort of both parties. It may be helpful to consider what the common connections are within the relationship — do they all rely on physical attraction or even everyday, fun activities? Are you able to have deep conversations? If there is little to no mental or emotional connection, then maybe that’s where the relationship should be enhanced (if possible).

I had a conversation with one of my girlfriends recently regarding opposites. We discussed how balance is important in a relationship. For example, with “opposites” one person may be a bit outgoing and loud, yet the other might be more reserved. However, we both agreed that if balance is not supplemented with each person complimenting the other, then it might not be the ideal situation.

7. “Never go to bed angry.” “The less arguments you have, the healthier the relationship.”

We all have our difficult days and not everything can be resolved with a magic wand. Issues, feelings, and disagreements need to communicated and need to be talked through. As some of you wrote on our Instagram, sometimes you need time and space before you are ready to mend things. Being too hard on ourselves and our partners can add more fuel to the fire. You may be the type who needs to think, sleep, and recharge in order to be ready and willing to put effort into talking out and resolving issues. It may be helpful to communicate that you need space and then you can both agree to check back with each other at a certain time.

8. “He/She doesn’t appreciate me.” “If you love me, you should know what I want.”

This myth is one mentioned by Nathan Feiles, LCSW and psychotherapist who specializes in relationship issues. He explained to me that the assumption of one person not appreciating the other “causes a lot of problems and is usually due to a lack of positive communication more so than actually reflecting reality.” Nathan recently wrote an article on the toxicity of expectations of mind-reading — you can also read more at his blog Relationships in Balance.

The media and even well-meaning loved ones can present us with a mix of the above myths. What it comes down to is our ability to stay true to ourselves and our relationships. What realities have you come to terms with? What myths have you heard? How are you making your relationships healthier?

Divorce Attorney Laura Wasser Shares Her Advice

Divorce hurts, and that’s why it’s oftentimes ranked alongside death as one of our biggest fears in life. Managing emotions, finances, and family can be extremely overwhelming. This is why we were eager to hear the episode of Girlboss Radio where Sophia Amoruso interviewed her very own divorce attorney, Laura Wasser.

Wasser offers some really insightful advice on how to make the process of divorce less painful and what we were particularly interested in; how to (hopefully!) avoid divorce next time around. Her mission is to make divorce less expensive and complicated, which is why she launched her own divorce platform It’s Over Easy

Here’s her advice:

1. Clear expectations enable you to stay together longer

Discussing practicalities is important, like how you plan to save for vacations, what will happen when each person’s parents get old and need care or support, how to manage children, work and child support, and general boundaries and expectations. Although these matters aren’t sexy or romantic, they’re important to get clear on before a couple gets married, so that expectations are out on the table.

3. Mutual respect is key

Couples who enjoy successful marriages have mutual respect for each other. Wasser advises that carving out time for your partner, regardless of what other obligations you both have, is key to a healthy relationship.

4. If you think something, say something

When it comes to red flags and being able to work through these early on, she says a big one is when you can see someone is thinking something but not saying it. By getting these things out, no matter how small or big, it avoids the cycle of resentment and anger, which can drive one person to cheat or sabotage the relationship.

5. If it’s not working, find your team

If it does come to divorce, Wasser suggests you carefully curate a team of people who can help you through it, including therapists, friends, childcare support and coaches. When you’re getting back on your feet and dating again, this support system will come in handy.

6. “Everybody is the same.”

When it comes to relationship fears, she says, “Everybody is the same. We all have the same fears, sadnesses, and frustrations. Whether you have six zeros after that number in your bank account or three zeros after that number in your bank account, you still are worried about the same thing.” 

It’s a good reminder that we’re all just doing the best we can with what we have.

Gynecologist Dr. Sheila Loanzon On Not Rushing The Healing Process

Dr. Sheila Loanzon is a board-certified OB-GYN, surgeon, Fellow of the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology and best-selling author of Yes, I Have Herpes. In her book, she shares her experience living with the stigmatic disease and provides women with inspiration through self-love and acceptance. We talked to Dr. Loanzon about grieving, red flags, and her post-breakup rituals.

If you think back to the first time you were heartbroken, what advice would you give to that younger version of yourself?

“My advice would be to realize that a heartbreak was not my fault. When I was younger, I thought that it was my job and responsibility to make others happy. If my partner wasn’t happy, I believed this to mean that I was doing something wrong. It took me many years to realize that sometimes relationships don’t work out and it is not a reflection of me and who I am.”

“It took time to realize that I am lovable, worthy, and deserve a partner that was a full match to me. I thought I needed to have a partner to complete me, just as all the movies say (e.g. Jerry Maguire). But I complete myself! In reality, I deserve a partner who is a complement to me.”

What has heartbreak taught you about yourself?

“Heartbreak has taught me to trust my gut. When I think back to all the relationships that did not work out, there were red flags and gut instincts that I chose to ignore. I believe if I had followed my gut the first time, I may have saved myself emotional heartache, financial investments, and time. Despite all of this, I believe that all of these experiences taught me so much about myself, people and social pressures, and I cannot fault those experiences. How can we judge or fault ourselves for having experiences of emotional growth?”

“I realized at one point in dating that I kept dating and attracting the same time of person. I stopped dating for 6 months, enlisted a life coach to help me see past myself, and started dissecting what I wanted in life, what my ultimate goals were, and built up my self-confidence. It was the best time I spent investing in myself. As a professional woman who spent 8 additional years past college in higher learning, I was mature professionally and socially, yet I was very immature in dating compared to women my age. So that time spent figuring out what I wanted was so valuable.”

What are your rituals during a breakup? What things/practices/people helped you mend?

“Self-care is highly important to me during a breakup. I find solitude in a peaceful, nurturing area works well. I tend to bring myself to the beach (I find water to be very healing for me) and will do something to focus on myself (massage, long walks in nature, meditation). Allowing myself to process through my emotions in a safe place is important. I tend to allow the grieving to occur because it is a loss of a partner, relationship, future dreams and hopes and it should have its proper burial.”

Thinking back to breakups you’ve had, did you have any breakup vices (checking your ex’s Insta, etc) and how did you conquer them?

“I am such a great Internet and Facebook stalker. My friends used to say that I was the best spy. I was able to research who their next partner was and what they were up to! I then realized that it was detrimental to me, didn’t demonstrate how their relationship really was in real time, and hindered things moving forward.”

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about love so far in your life?

“When learning how to date, I realized that I was wanting the Disney fairytale story. Heroine falls in love, has to suffer and long for the partner, and then somehow after some type of challenge, the story works itself into a happy ending. Being an emotional creature, I had to actually take my emotion out of the equation and narrow down five attributes that a partner had to have. By mentally putting in a check list, I had a higher likelihood of finding an equal partner on important criteria that mattered to me the most. True love can feel the same as honeymoon lust in the beginning of a relationship. In my fairy tale ending, true love can feel the same as a Disney movie, not be wrapped up in grandiose gestures, and be longer lasting on a sturdy foundation.”

Do you think exes can be friends? Do you stay friends with your exes on social media?

“I absolutely think that exes can be friends. When I was less experienced in dating, I would say that it was hard for me to be friends with exes. This was the situation for me because I was not choosing the best partners and so outside of a relationship, they didn’t have qualities that I would have in my friends and so being friends didn’t work out.”

“When I began attracting partners who characteristically were more aligned, we were essentially friends first. I lead with getting to know their character rather than my physical chemistry and attraction so I had a higher likelihood of staying friends with them. Truthfully, I had the thought process that if I had been sexually intimate with them (read: once they had been inside me), how could I possibly be friends with them past that??? It was a vulnerable place for me to be and that felt uncomfortable to be around). When I began dating this last time around, I actually decided not to befriend partners on social media as I found it would cloud my opinion of them based on superficial past photos and comments which wasn’t fair to them or to me.”

What keeps your heart open, despite the heartbreaks you’ve had in your life?

“Despite the heartbreaks that I have had in my life, my heart stays open because I know that I have survived every single one of those heartbreaks. They may have caused time to stand still, for me to feel alone and lonely, and to feel all the dark deep places in myself that I was not proud of. My mind becomes a powerful organ during heartbreak and surfaces raw feelings of unworthiness, insecurity, and false thoughts. With each of these situations, and with gracious time, I healed and arose stronger knowing that I survived this situation too. I became stronger than I knew I could be, and the possibility of bringing myself one step closer to what I desired became exciting again.”

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What is your favorite movie about heartbreak?

“One of my favorite movies is Under the Tuscan Sun. It is a story of a woman, Frances, who learns that her husband is cheating on her, turning her life upside down. Her friends encourage her to take a tour of Italy to pull her out of her deep depression. During the trip, she impulsively decides to buy a rural Tuscan villa and remodels the home slowly. Paralleling the transformation of her home, she slowly restores her soul, develops her confidence and builds a life in the new international setting. Fast forward to the end of the movie where her best friend delivers her baby at the house and her young neighbors host their wedding in her backyard. Frances realizes that her wish came true after being prompted by Martini, she got everything that she asked for. She ends up meeting her future romantic partner at that wedding. Frances has a story of struggle, overcoming a difficult situation, gaining self-love and strength, and getting what you desire when you least expect it, just going about your day-to-day life.”

What projects are you currently working on, and looking forward to most?

“Professionally, I was recently promoted to Assistant Chief of the OBGYN department which is a leadership role that has taken most of my attention. In my spare time I have also spent time focusing on my current book Yes I Have Herpes: A Gynecologist’s Perspective In and Out of the Stirrups. I have hopes to continue writing my second book on abnormal pap smears which is another area that is confusing for my patients.  Lastly, I have spent my creative energies recently on painting and exploring amateur photography of my fashion and food through my Instagram .”

How To Handle Your First Birthday Without Your Ex

Despite birthdays being a time of celebration, when you’re newly single, they can often feel quite lonely. It’s really easy to think back to previous birthdays with your ex and feel down at how this one might compare. So here are a few tips to help you over the hump:

Know It’s Normal

First of all, just know that what you’re experiencing is completely normal and it’s ok to feel moments of pain or sadness on your birthday. It doesn’t mean however, that this birthday has to be one that you just forget or let pass you by. You can take full control over how much fun you want to have and are capable of having. It’s just about reframing what your birthday means to you this year.

Remind Yourself Why It Didn’t Work 

Choose to think differently. Whilst this birthday will be different to the last one with your ex, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to be ‘bad’. Try and keep in mind that you are still better off out of a relationship that wasn’t quite right. So, see this birthday as an opportunity to embrace a brand new and exciting chapter instead of comparing it to the past. All you have is the present moment and you get to decide what you want that to look and feel like.

Surround Yourself With Other Types Of Love

Spend it with people who you love. Even if you decide that you want a more low-key birthday, that is more than ok. But try and focus on spending it with loved ones and appreciating those around you rather than dwelling on your ex not being around. When you can switch your thinking to one of gratitude you can’t help but feel much better about where you’re at right now. 

Change It Up!

Do something out of the ordinary! It’s your birthday and it’s about you. Be ‘extra’! Treat yourself to something a little more lavish that you might not usually splurge on, take yourself out somewhere you’ve always been curious about trying, do something fun and crazy, or arrange to celebrate somewhere completely different with friends. Make this birthday one to remember by creating new memories that mark it!

Set Intentions

What do you want to attract in over this next year? What do you want to let go of? Perhaps you could set a completely new intention to live by such as saying ‘yes’ more to opportunities and invitations or even saying ‘no’ to things that don’t serve you or make you happy. Perhaps you want to spend more time getting to know yourself again on a deeper level. Getting focused on what you want to create, call in or how you want to live your life can be a great thing to do on your birthday and pacify the temptation to dwell on the past.

Congratulate Yourself

Your birthday is actually a perfect opportunity to acknowledge how far you’ve come since your breakup. You’re still here, you’re ok and you will continue to get stronger and thrive. Your birthday might have triggered painful memories but by tomorrow, that will be over. 

Remember, this is just another day and you get to choose how you want to remember it. So, feel good that you’ve made it this far and remind yourself how much strength that has taken. And happy birthday!

How Do I Know When Someone Is Right for Me?

A woman trying to sort through the tangled ball of string that can sometimes be our love lives, asked me this question the other day. The following is my response:

“I won’t pretend to tell you how to know who is right for you, but I can tell you how to know who is not. You must learn to love yourself so magnificently you find authentic love in your relationship with yourself, and will then be better able to determine real love from its imitation when it comes into your life.”

The truth is that it may take awhile to find the right person for a romantic partnership, but at any given moment we can start a journey where we learn to be the right person for our self right now. When we know what it is to love our self, we are better able to determine whether others in our life are able to support our journey of love and treat us in a loving manner that meets our needs.

Though I believe we spend our entire lives learning how to love and be loved, I have been an intentional student of self love for the past few years after life turned upside down, and I found myself going through a painful divorce and trying to find sure footing once more. Somewhere in the middle of the process of reestablishing a sense of normalcy in my life, finding an identity rooted in myself and not with another, and trying to wrap my heart around what had gone wrong, I realized something vital to my well being.

The onus is on myself to find healing for my broken heart.

Passively waiting for time to trickle by isn’t going to heal me. Avoiding the painful feelings that come from heartache isn’t going to heal me. And diving into something with a new person without taking the opportunity to know myself, certainly isn’t going to heal me. At the end of the day I have realized we must learn to hold our own hand and be strong and loving for ourselves.

Love truly is an inside job, and it needs to begin with cultivating an intentional relationship with our self.

Many of us equate loving ourselves with what we like about ourselves and the good characteristics we identify with most strongly. But what about the rest of the self? If we see ourselves as strong, independent and positive, we often struggle to know what to do when other mood states pop up. How do we think about our anger? Our sadness? Our grief? The parts of ourselves we don’t always like?

Though we present a unified front, in reality we all hold an ocean inside of us consisting of a myriad of shades, nuances, and depths of being. We interact with the world through a fluid, evolving dance that is neither static nor limited to a handful of characteristics. We are a whole, composed of many beautiful parts. Self love offers us the journey of learning to love all of ourselves.

It takes great courage to stare our self in the mirror each day and continually open our heart to what we see. It takes even more courage to learn to love the parts of our self we don’t always like. Especially the parts that feel broken, ugly, and misshapen. But authentic love encourages us to embrace the whole of these things so we can accept our full self.

Self-acceptance leads to self-compassion, and self-compassion leads to self-love.

Somewhere throughout my journey of self love I have met parts of myself I like a great deal. The woman with the iron spine. The creative artist. The joyful free spirit. The healing heart. But, I have also met parts of myself that find less desirable. The girl who likes to throw time limited pity parties. The deep griever who once spent a summer writing miserable, woeful poetry after a bad break up. The cranky dark cloud who occasionally likes to rain on life’s parade just because it’s Monday or she ran out of ice-cream.

However, the longer I have made myself try and look into the mirror each day and find acceptance, I have begun to meet other parts of myself I didn’t know existed. The supreme comforter. The part who will not judge my process. The resilient spirit who seeks out silver linings. I have started to see myself with new eyes filled with compassion, eyes that refuse to reject. A sense of radical self love has risen up the longer I have done this, and I have realized the parts I don’t like are still part of me and therefore no less deserving of my love.

I may not always like some aspects of who I am, but I have become aware that those pieces I am most tempted to reject have powerful lessons to teach me. How to more fully recognize my needs. How to grieve. How to let my tears wash me clean, water my inner soil, prepare me for new life. How to love that which can sometimes feel unlovable.

I tell my clients all the time that wholeness is found in the integration of self. We will struggle to feel whole if we label parts of our self as bad, shameful or fearful, and cower away from full knowledge of our own being. If we cannot shine a light into ourselves and learn to see what is there, who will do this work for us? If we cannot learn to accept ourselves, how can we expect others to?

Acceptance is the beginning of learning to love ourselves.

Sometimes we need only stand still and learn to accept ourselves in this present moment. With compassion and grace and love. Knowing that love isn’t designed to be meted out when we reach some standard of being, love is designed to be bestowed and received at any given moment. And it has to start inside of us.

Just as we are.

We know how hard relationships can be. As a loyal blog reader, we are offering 50% off all our Mend Classes for a limited time. Use code BLOG50 at checkout. We cover topics like sex with your ex, letting go, and how to recover from reboundsSign up to get started.

How Art Therapy Can Help You Mend Post-Breakup

Art therapy has been proven to be an incredibly healing practice. It can be described as using the creative process of art to express yourself, heal, find comfort and process emotions.

An art therapist can help you see things about yourself that you may not have recognized otherwise. It’s a very gentle yet effective form of therapy. Sessions can help you deal with emotions and feelings that you are struggling with, so you can really begin healing. Art therapy is something that’s becoming more common and accessible, and the therapist will use the modality of creative art in many forms such as painting, drawing, sculpting and coloring to guide you through the process of creative expression. They can also offer you insights without judgement on what your creations show about various aspects of yourself.

Art therapy is really about self-exploration. It can help you realize things about yourself that you might have been burying or overlooking. One of the best effects of art therapy is a sense of relief and release.

Anyone can benefit from art therapy so if you are curious, don’t worry about having to be good at art or that you have to be an ‘artist’ for it to benefit you. It’s not about judgement or the end result, it’s about healing and expression. So it’s easily something you can do on your own to just relieve stress, discover yourself in new ways and heal. It’s also something you can do with other people.

Here are a few ideas on some art therapy techniques you can use at home:

Draw or paint your emotions and what you’re feeling. This can be really useful if you struggle to articulate out loud or in your own mind what emotions you’re experiencing. Just go with the feeling and open up a blank page to see what comes out.

Turn up the music and draw or paint whatever you feel inspired by. This can be a great art therapy technique used to relax you. Immerse yourself in the music and moment and just draw or create whatever you feel called to.

Finger paint. This can be a really fun one and a way to unleash your inner child again. Therapists recommend getting your fingers really messy and to have fun with colors and patterns. This can be a wonderful technique for releasing pent up emotions and relieving tension and stress.

Coloring.  Over recent years, adult coloring books have become incredibly popular, and for good reason! The simple act of coloring can be a great way to wind down and relax. There are many books out there ranging from patterns to mandalas to images so go with what you feel most drawn to.

Take photos of things you love. Even if you don’t consider yourself a photographer, try taking photographs of anything you think is beautiful. It can even just be on your phone, don’t feel you need any fancy equipment. Then you can either just have them to refer to or you can print them to be reminded of those things daily. This is a great one to create a feeling of gratitude and love.

Three Ways to Shift Your Mood in Two Minutes

The mind-body connection has been well documented for decades. Medical research has consistently shown that our emotional experience (stress, anxiety, anger, sadness, etc) can have a negative impact on our health. The good news is that, when harnessed correctly, we can use our mind to help heal the ailments of the body. The reverse is also true. When we are in emotional distress, we can use the body to shift our feelings.

Take Back the Reigns – Harness the Power of The Mind-Body Connection

When we are stressed, scared, or sad, common feelings after a breakup, the brain sends cues to the body that danger is present and the body assumes it’s natural fight or flight response. This can result in muscle tension, increased heart rate, increased body temperature, indigestion, shortness of breath, etc. This fight or flight response is very helpful when there is actual physical danger present (i.e. help us run from a potential predator), but rest of the time it just sounds a fire alarm in the body even though there is no smoke. However, we can send a message back to the brain that things are actually safe by making subtle, yet powerful shifts in the body. Through adopting different postures, changing our facial expressions, or even placing a hand on our heart we can slow the body’s stress response and start to sooth the emotional pain we may be experiencing.

Smile – Especially When You Don’t Feel Like It

When Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh said “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy” he was really on to something. Turns out that there is evidence to validate his assertion. Research by Tara Kraft and Sara Pressman at the University of Kansas demonstrated that smiling can alter our stress response in difficult situations. Their study indicated that smiling, even if one is not feeling happy, can slow heart rate and decrease perceived levels of stress. Smiling sends a signal to the rest of our body that things are okay, it’s safe to let down our guard. So next time you are feeling overwhelmed, try smiling, even if you don’t feel like it. It might just make a difference. (Tip: If you really can’t get yourself to smile, practice holding a pen or a chopstick in between your teeth. It mimics the same expression as a smile and can produce the same effects.)

Posture – Sit up Straight and Take up Space

Shifting our posture can also shift how we feel. A study by Brion, Petty, & Wagner in 2009 reported that sitting up straight positively influenced peoples feelings of self-confidence, while slumping over had the opposite effect. Additionally, research by Amy Cuddy and Dana Carney at Harvard University has shown that holding “power postures” for 120 seconds can create a 20 percent increase in testosterone (helping to boost confidence) and a 25 percent decrease in cortisol (reducing stress). In order to reap these benefits try assuming an open and expansive posture. Take up space, put your hands on your hips and spread your feet (think wonder woman) or lean back in a chair and spread your arms. Hold the posture for at least 2 minutes. For more info on Cuddy’s research you can watch her Ted Talk “Body Language Shapes Who You Are.”

A Hand on Your Heart Is Not Just for the Pledge of Allegiance

Touch is also a very powerful healing tool. When we are sad we often turn to others for a hug or to be held. We can actually provide ourselves with some of the same benefits. During a particularly distressing moment try placing a hand on your heart, rubbing your own arms, or massaging your own head. May sound cheesy, but it actually can be very helpful in slowing the body’s stress response. Pairing this with the self-compassionate thoughts such as “This is really painful right now, but this too shall pass” can help sooth the discomfort of the present moment both physiologically and mentally.

So next time you are feeling overwhelmed by whatever is arising for you emotionally try standing up straight, smiling, or putting a hand on your heart. For a super boost, try all three.

Sexologist Shan Boodram On Love Addiction

Shan Boodram is a certified sexologist, sex educator, and relationship expert. Her book LAID (Seal Press) was a Canadian bestseller and her YouTube channel, a sex-positive platform, has over 40 million views. She is also an ambassador for AIDS Healthcare Foundation. We asked Shan some questions about heartbreak and she opened up about how overcoming a breakup is, in a lot of ways, like overcoming an addiction.

Thinking back to breakups you’ve had, did you have any breakup vices (checking your ex’s Insta, etc) and how do you conquer them?

“With my latest breakup about a year and a half ago, I LUCKED OUT!! I don’t know why because I don’t speak to him but literally like a few weeks after we broke up he stopped using social media. It was so weird but so so helpful. If you don’t luck out in that way you just HAVE to have discipline – the other option is misery…so why even consider that?”

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about love so far in your life?

“There are two versions of any one person: 1) who they are 2) how they make you feel. The how they make you feel part is actually WAY more important. The person could be Barrack Obama on paper but if they make you feel insecure, unhappy, and uninspired you should not give your love to them, it’s a dead end.”

Do you think exes can be friends? Do you stay friends with your exes on social media?

“I would treat this question exactly how I would treat anyone healing from any addiction. An alcoholic or cigarette smoker has to put a LOT of time between them and their vice before they can engage in it casually. The same goes for friendships with your exes, if you start engaging with them too soon you will have a much harder and longer road ridding yourself of the addiction.”

What keeps your heart open, despite the heartbreaks you’ve had in your life?

“Oh man I’ve never really been scorned to the point that I’ve feared trying again. I face a LOT of rejection and disappointment in my career so maybe that’s part of my conditioning. I just think a guarded lukewarm life sounds boring. I want the best out of life and I can’t expect that if I’m half stepping so I run to my desires – and with each failure I get better at understanding the importance of direction.”

What is your favorite song about heartbreak?

What is your favorite movie about heartbreak?

“Hmmmmmm I love 500 Days of Summer

What projects are you currently working on, and looking forward to most?

“So many things, my life is incredible! Mostly and most poignantly to this amazing service you guys have – I am doing a visual audio book of a short story I wrote on the struggles of a woman addicted to love and searching in the wrong places. That comes out in May…of course it was inspired by some experiences I’ve had in my life. Like I said, heartbreak can inspire some really awesome art, so turn your pain into perseverance.”

How to Find the Right Therapist

So far in our series on “Demystifying Therapy” I’ve covered why therapy can be helpful during a breakup and how to start your therapist search. Now, let’s cover my top three tips for finding the right fit once you have a few therapists you’re considering.

Interview People Who Might Seem Like A Good Fit

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of potentials, give them a call. Get a feel for what they are like on the phone. Do you feel comfortable talking with them? Do they seem interested and empathetic? One of the things people often say to me is “I feel like you really get it.” This may be a lot to ask for in a 20 minute phone call but you should at least feel heard and not judged. In addition, I would suggest asking the following questions:

What is your style like?  This is important. Even if someone is a very skilled therapist, his or her style may not jive with yours. Try to get a feel for what it would be like to be in the room with the person. For example, as a therapist I am very active and engaged with my clients. It is much more of a two way conversation — a game of verbal Ping-Pong. While I don’t explicitly give advice, I offer feedback and suggestions. Some therapists have a style that is more focused on holding back, listening, and reflecting. One is not better or worse, you just need to know what feels good for you.

Do you have experience working with breakups? If we were working together on this issue what can I expect? You want to make sure that the therapist has familiarity and is comfortable working with the issue that brought you to therapy. Additionally, you want to get a sense of how the therapist might approach working with that concern. Here you might learn more about the therapist’s theoretic orientation (there are many – see some styles listed in parentheses below). Will they be using primarily talk therapy, free association, and dreams to look at the unconscious roots of your current and past symptoms (psychodynamic)? Will they be helping you to identify and challenge problematic thoughts that are preventing you from moving on or that contributed to problems in the relationship (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)? Will they help you focus on creating acceptance around the breakup so you can dedicate your energy towards living a life more aligned with your values (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy)? There are many different ways to approach healing from a breakup, and while you may have no idea specifically what style you want, make sure that what the therapist is proposing something that feels aligned to your needs.

Are you licensed?  You want to make sure that you are working with a licensed professional. Some people who claim to do therapeutic work do not actually have degrees or valid licenses to practice such work. There is a big difference in training and education between a licensed therapist and a life coach or other kind of healer. All of them have valuable tools to offer, but if it’s therapy you seek, then make sure to find a real therapist. Some unlicensed therapists see clients in private practice as a part of their training in preparation for licensure, and if you choose this option, make sure you ask questions about who is supervising their work. Some professional designations you might see after a licensed therapist’s name are LCSW, MFT, LPCC, PhD, PsyD, and MD. (I would encourage you to seek out a licensed therapist who has been practicing for at least 7-10 years. From personal experience I can attest that the longer you practice the more you grow and the more tools you have to offer your clients.)

The Relationship Is More Important Than the Resume

Don’t be overly focused on finding someone with long list of accomplishments. Just because a therapist may have written several books on breakups, be a featured relationship blogger for The New York Times, or have a busy public speaking schedule, it doesn’t mean that they are the right fit for you. The number one determinant of the success of therapy is the client’s motivation to change, and the second is the relationship with the therapist. It is essential that you have a safe and strong connection to your therapist. So ignore the resume and focus more on what really matters here: how you feel in the room with the person.

A First Appointment Is Not a Commitment to Ongoing Treatment

Think of the first session as a trial run. See how you feel interacting with the therapist. If you don’t have a positive experience or feel safe with the person, then you should start the search over. It might feel a little uncomfortable or awkward to disclose intimate details to a stranger at first, but you should get the sense that you would eventually feel at ease with this person. You should feel that they are easy to talk to, understanding, and non-judgmental. It’s okay to set up several first appointments with different people who you connected with on the phone. Think about which experience you felt you got the most out of and make a decision from there.

If you’ve missed previous articles in this Demystifying Therapy series, be sure to get caught up below.

Part 1: How It Can Help

Part 2: Beginning Your Therapist Search

If You Can’t Get Over Your Ex, It’s Time To Do A Digital Detox

Dating in the digital age can be a blessing and a curse. It makes meeting people easier. And when you’re in a relationship, social media can be a great way to stay connected with your significant other. Whether you’re sending each other silly snaps or posting cute #tbt’s of your first date on Instagram, your relationship’s online presence will leave behind some sort of footprint. 

When you’re going through a breakup, however, social media can act as a sharp reminder of someone you are trying to forget. You might not even realize it, but h aving such easy access to your ex and their cyber-life may be hindering your ability to move on. 

If you’re feeling stuck after a breakup, it might be time to do a digital detox so that you can stay #onthemend on and offline:

1. Block their number

This is mostly for your own sanity. When you’re used to texting your ex all day, everyday, the silence from your phone post-breakup can be enough to drive you crazy. Some people even suffer from Phantom Vibration or Phantom Ringing Syndrome, which is the perception that one’s mobile phone is vibrating or ringing when it isn’t. 

It’s way easier to stop obsessively checking your phone when you’ve eliminated any possibility of receiving a call or text from your ex. The reality is it’s not that hard to find someone’s number again once you’ve blocked it, but it will require an extra step to call versus just a quick thumb tap. Sometimes that’s all you need to realize you’re about to make a mistake.

2. Delete their texts

Stop rereading those texts you sent to each other during your honeymoon phase. It doesn’t help to reminisce on the good times or analyze every word sent back and forth until you’re in a phone-induced coma. Additionally, deleting old texts will keep you from rereading any highly charged post-breakup messages you exchanged (sober or otherwise).

If you’re hanging on to them because you don’t want to delete them, just back them up somewhere else (in iCloud if you’re an iPhone user) and then delete them off your phone. Having them at your fingertips isn’t healthy, just like you wouldn’t walk around with a handful of handwritten love letters 24/7 in the 1950’s. It’s not healthy!

3. Reset your keyboard

Oh, to live in the age of emojis. It’s almost funny that this is a problem these days but alas, it is and we’re here to help because there’s nothing like an ill-timed auto correct to send you into a downward spiral. 

If you don’t want reminders of emoji related jokes and nicknames to pop up while you’re texting, a brilliant Mender let us know you can simply reset the recently used tab on your text keyboard if you’re an iPhone user. 

Go to Settings > General > Reset > Reset Keyboard Dictionary. And voila! Clean slate!

4. End the Snap streak

Snapchat has definitely taken cyber-stalking to a whole new level (as I recently learned the hard way). Since Snapchat allows you to add a time and geotag to pictures and videos, it’s easy to get paranoid about why your ex was at a bar two cities away at 3AM on a Tuesday. Who is he with? He never stays out this late. Is that a new shirt?!

Another fun lesson I learned from having an ex on Snapchat is how heartbreaking it is to watch your “best friend” status disappear and get replaced with that stupid emoji that suggests they are snapping someone else more than you. (Um excuse me?!)

Also, deleting your ex on Snapchat will make you far less paranoid about whether or not he saw that sexy selfie you posted along with a caption that was specifically targeted at him…*Raise your hand if you’re guilty.* 

Avoid the drama and snap out of it!

5. Unfriend on Facebook

Sometimes, changing your relationship status back to single is not enough. Unfriend your ex on Facebook as a safety measure so you can force yourself to stop checking up on their life. If you can’t bring yourself to unfriend, you can leverage Facebook’s Breakup Tools, but beware that it still requires a lot of self restraint that usually doesn’t exist post-breakup.

Creeping on his cyber whereabouts will not help you move on. It will only make you crazy every time he goes on a trip or checks into a fancy restaurant. Plus, there’s nothing more soul-shattering than seeing your ex’s relationship status change to “In A Relationship” when you’re not quite ready to know.

6. Unfollow on Instagram and Twitter

Unfollow your ex’s Instagram and Twitter accounts to avoid seeing reminders that they’re still functional human beings without you. (Yes, I know it’s hard to believe that they didn’t shrivel up and die upon losing you.) 

Although deleting their presence from your timeline is beneficial, it will also take extra willpower to not go out of your way to visit their profile if they’re public. Stay strong and resist the urge, Menders!

7. Reward yourself for progress!

Here’s a little extra tip I came up with that has actually helped me a lot. I modeled it after those reward systems that some stores have, where you get a discount after spending a certain amount of money. 

1. Choose a goal item that you would like to purchase. (ex: Concert tickets, new shoes, a vacation, etc.)

2. Open your Mend app and keep track of how long it’s been since your last ex contact (although this timer is meant to count the number of days since you contacted your ex, I also like to use it for the number of days I can go without cyber-stalking).

3. For every day that passes, reward yourself $1 of spending money (This doesn’t have to be an actual dollar, just an amount that you can tally up) For example, 100 days without ex contact = $100.

4. If you contact your ex or check his profile, restart your timer and start your money count again (boo!)

5. Once you’ve reached your goal amount, treat yo-self! 

This will give you a positive incentive to keep moving forward because let’s face it, buying those designer boots is all the more satisfying when you know you’ve earned them.

We hope you guys found this guide helpful! What are your great Digital Detox tips? Share with us at hello@letsmend.com.

Mend 60-Day Ex Detox

Nine Steps to Forgive for Good from Forgiveness Expert Fred Luskin

Dr. Fred Luskin is a bona fide forgiveness expert. He has dedicated his career to revealing the link between forgiveness and our psychological, emotional, and physical health and wellbeing as Director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project and bestselling author of Forgive for Good. We caught up with him to talk about forgiveness and romantic relationships.

WHY HE BEGAN STUDYING FORGIVENESS
“A very close friend betrayed me and I struggled for years to let it go. I was angry and full of mistrust and the pain went on for years. Until finding the word forgiveness I was stuck in anger and despair and was alienating my wife. I complained a lot and felt victimized. He had certainly done wrong, but I was stuck in a pit.  Then, I found the word to forgive around the time I started work on my doctorate at Stanford. 

“I used what worked for me as the basis for my dissertation and the successful resolution of that work launched the Stanford Forgiveness Projects. The successful dissertation project allowed us to get a larger grant which replicated the research on a much larger scale. Then when Bill Clinton had his affair with Monica Lewinsky we got a good deal of publicity because forgiveness was a hot topic for a while and we had research showing it could be health-enhancing.”

ON HIS 9 STEPS TO FORGIVE
“This has been a very useful framework for making me better able to handle life’s inevitable difficulties. The simple reminders to calm down, affirm that I am not the center of the universe, remember to smell the coffee and stop talking like a victim underlie most effective strategies.”

“When they are practiced regularly they rewire the brain and become easier to practice. I am a gentler person and one who is more willing to say and do kind things because of the regular teaching and practice of these steps. The teaching of forgiveness helps me because it reminds me over and over again how to react to difficulty with skill and compassion.”

Step 1. Know exactly how you feel about what happened and be able to articulate what about the situation is not OK.”

Step 2. Make a commitment to yourself to feel better.”

Step 3. Forgiveness does not necessarily mean reconciling with the person who upset you or condoning the action.”

Step 4. Get the right perspective on what is happening.”

Step 5. At the moment you feel upset, practice stress management to soothe your body’s fight or flight response.”

Step 6. Give up expecting things from your life or from other people that they do not choose to give you.”

Step 7. Put your energy into looking for another way to get your positive goals met than through the experience that has hurt you.”

Step 8. Remember that a life well-lived is your best revenge.”

Step 9. Amend the way you look at your past so you remind yourself of your heroic choice to forgive.”

More on these steps.

WHAT HE’S LEARNED ABOUT PARTNERSHIPS

“That each person is a vulnerable mess and needs help and care including me. That each person comes with a unique set of difficulties based on biology, past experience, and current stresses. That each person will continue to display their difficult qualities and it is each partner’s responsibility to try to be tender with those qualities. That ultimately I am choosing the partner that I can live with; that includes their flaws, wounds, difficult aspects of personality.”

“That the romantic relationship is the place for old wounds to be healed and for each partner to feel safe enough to share. That requires a lot of listening and a lot of talking and I learned I have to make the decision to engage on a daily basis. The acknowledgment that I made a choice of partner and choice to every day engage leads to taking responsibility for myself and forgiveness of both of us.”

“Whenever possible be kind. This sums up relationships. It’s hard… and it requires us to bring our best self to the table. Where else is there to go than to search for and give love? Our brains are wired for connection with other human beings. Our hearts are designed to join with others and our souls crave the broadening of caring for others.”

HIS FAVORITE SONG ABOUT HEARTBREAK
The Heart of the Matter by Don Henley

Nutrition Expert Danielle Levy On Healing Heartbreak In Nature

Danielle Levy is a Montréal-based Certified Nutrition Consultant and Registered Holistic Nutrition practitioner who specializes in digestive health, sports nutrition, food allergies, and women’s health. She is a passionate plant-based cook and food photographer, who shares knowledge in order to inspire others to live a healthier life. When she’s not sharing recipes, Danielle teaches cooking classes and nutrition workshops to spread the joy of sustainable eating.

We got a chance to ask Danielle a few questions about her experience with heartbreak and she shared how living a healthier lifestyle and building a relationship with nature helped her heal peacefully.

If you think back to the first time you were heartbroken, what advice would you give to that younger version of yourself?

“I would tell my younger self that I am no less valuable, or worthy of love – regardless of whether or not someone else recognizes my worth. Growing up, whenever things ended with a guy, I would harshly, and unfairly blame myself. Over recent years, I realized how turning against myself this way, was the most painful part of the breakup experience. Thankfully, after much hard – ongoing work, I have learned to love myself more – and not be my own worst enemy.”

What has heartbreak taught you about yourself?

“Heartbreak has taught me about inner strength and resilience – something I draw from each day. By fully embracing, and riding out the storm of heartbreak, I have gained more self-awareness, about fears, and insecurities – which has gifted me greater self-compassion. I have learned to forgive (myself and others) more fluidly, and to let be more easily. Harnessing heartbreak as a conduit to personal growth has ultimately helped me to become my own ally – so the pain has not been in vain.”

What are your rituals during a breakup?

“Nature has always been healing and calming for me, so I ritually visit a quiet natural place. I have vivid memories of post-breakup mornings, going out into nature – in all kinds of weather, and feeling lighter, freer, and grateful to experience another day.

Journal writing is a practice that helps me mend. Writing down thoughts and feelings can be a therapeutic way to process difficult, emotions and experiences. The beautiful thing about spending time in nature, and journal writing – is that they are both essentially free! available to everyone, at any time.

Meditation is another invaluable practice that has supported me through breakups and other challenging times. Sitting quietly, and finding that still place inside – gives me a safe space to go through the process.

There have also been a few significant people in my life, who have helped me mend, and continue to open to up these people – for support. I have also benefited from the professional help of an incredible therapist, who has been another invaluable resource. As a health care practitioner myself, I have never succumbed to the cultural taboo of therapy, and value mental health as much as physical health – understanding how inextricably linked they are.”

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about love so far in your life?

“I have learned that love exists inside, always, and is not really about the person who may spark feelings of love in me. To me, relationships are vehicles for learning and growing. But at the end of the day, people will come and go – so I try to focus on keeping that inner love open and alive.”

Do you think exes can be friends? Do you stay friends with your exes on social media?

“I think it’s about personal, healthy boundaries. To me, being at peace with people who I have been involved with, does not necessitate ongoing communication or regular online interaction. I simply try to listen to, and respect my own needs – on a case-to-case basis.”

What keeps your heart open, despite the heartbreaks you’ve had in your life?

“I think it’s everyone’s true nature to love, so I try to stay true, and open – which feels better and right to me. Embracing vulnerability, as part of this process, is something I work on daily – which gets easier with practice. Another thing that has helped me stay open is letting go of shame, for the ‘brokenness’, that is part of being human. The cracks in our hearts that remain – are signs of our strength and resilience in mending and overcoming.”

A Zen Master Shares His Secrets to Keeping Love Alive

Finding love is the easy part. But keeping it alive? In the introduction to Love’s Garden: A Guide to Mindful Relationships by Peggy and Larry Ward, preeminent Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh explores the metaphor of love as a garden, and explains why mindful relationships are the most fruitful kind.

Relationships Must Be Cared For Like A Garden

Hanh starts by pointing out the obvious, if painful, truth: relationships are tough to maintain and must be cared for: 

“If you’re not skillful, if you don’t practice, if you’re not wise, suffering will be born in you and in the other person. When you see someone else, you might think you’d be happier with them. In Vietnamese we have a saying: ‘Standing on top of one mountain and gazing at the top of another, you think you’d rather be standing on the other mountain.’”

A True Partner Encourages You To Look Deeply In Yourself

When our partners fall short of our expectations (which is inevitable), he says we must come back to one simple truth: 

“Beauty and goodness are always there in each of us. This is the basic teaching of the Buddha. A true teacher, a true spiritual partner, is one who encourages you to look deeply in yourself for the beauty and love you are seeking.”

Don’t Distract Yourself From Your Pain

If love is like a plant in a garden, then we must be selective not to water weeds or to distract ourselves from our pain, as many of us do:

“Whenever we have fifteen ‘free’ minutes, or an hour or two, we have the habit of using television, newspapers, music, conversation, or the telephone to forget and to run away from the reality of the elements that make up our being. We think, ‘I’m suffering too much, I have too many problems. I don’t want to go back to them anymore.’ We have to come back to our physical selves and put things in order.”

You Have To Go Home To Yourself

To not run away from our problems, but instead acknowledge them without judgment, is to water our love plant with mindfulness. But the work starts with ourselves:

“If you have a difficult relationship, and you want to make peace with the other person, you have to go home to yourself. You have to go home to your garden and cultivate the flowers of peace, compassion, understanding, and joy. Only after that can you come to your partner and be patient and compassionate.”

You can read the rest of his beautiful excerpt here. Also, be sure to check out our podcast Love Is Like A Plant, on iTunes and Soundcloud for more about how to love well.

Therapist Daniela Tempesta’s Advice on Breakups, Grief and Finding the One

Daniela is a familiar name around here and very close to our hearts at Mend — she was one of the first guest contributors to take a chance on our concept of a “breakup website” when we launched. She is a Stanford-trained psychotherapist and founder of The Tempesta Group in San Francisco, a practice that blends psychotherapy and coaching to help people design and live a life they love.

At the time of this interview, she had also temporarily become a bakery owner When her mother Bonnie Tempesta  (also known as the Baroness of Biscotti for bringing biscotti to the American market) passed away suddenly, Daniela was faced with a decision: stay in her successful private practice or take over her mother’s business. She decided to take over the bakery for a time before returning to her therapy practice.

HER FIRST HEARTBREAK
“The first time my heart was really broken, in the ‘I want to crawl into a hole and never come out’ kind of way, was my senior year of college. At the time I truly believed that I had found my soul mate. We seemed to align on everything and suddenly there was someone in my life that seemed to love all of me, the good and the bad. Even though our relationship was long distance, we still managed to see each other every two weeks. It was an intense relationship. Our lives revolved around each other. Our families spent holidays together. We often spoke of our plans of getting married in the future with friends and family. Though we had some geographical issues to work out, I felt like I was set for life. We planned to move in together for the summer before I went away to grad school and a few weeks before graduation he ended things with me really abruptly. I felt like I had been hit by a freight train. I knew things weren’t perfect in our relationship but I certainly believed that we were both committed to working through anything that came our way. His reason: ‘I just miss the way it used to be in the beginning when everything was easy and we didn’t have to work at it.’ It took me years to fully recover and learn to trust in relationships again.”

WHAT SHE WOULD TELL HER YOUNGER SELF
“Maintain a sense of self and really know your own value outside of the relationship. I really lost myself in that relationship. While all my friends were doing fun stuff senior year of college, I spent most of my time traveling to Boston to see him or in my dorm room on the phone. If I could go back in time I would have had a lot more balance between the relationship and the rest of my life. And also, there is no reward without risk. Even though your heart’s been broken, keep putting yourself out there. I was so afraid of getting hurt again, that for years I only dated people who I knew liked me more than I liked them in order to protect myself. But if you want that  Oh my God, how did I live my whole life up till this point without you  stomach-flipping kind of  love, you HAVE to be willing to take the risk to get hurt. Once I finally figured that out, I met my husband. I don’t think the timing was a coincidence.”

Daniela 1

HER MOST RECENT HEARTBREAK
“I recently learned that heartbreak comes in many forms, not just the ending of romantic relationships. In September of 2014, I lost my mother to breast cancer. She was my best friend, hero and the person I relied on most in the world. I can honestly say that losing her was the most painful heartache I’ve ever experienced in my life. I felt like I lost a limb and that I had to learn how to walk all over again, but this time with just one leg. I’m still learning how to walk. Grief is an unpredictable little beast. It’s much more chaotic and uprooting than anything I’ve felt before. One minute you’re laughing, and the next you’re laying on the floor pounding your fists and screaming like a child.”

AN UNEXPECTED SHIFT
“My mom spent her entire life in the food industry. She was actually the first person to introduce biscotti to the American food scene back in 1983 when she started her first company. Most recently she had started a small, artisan biscotti company called Boncora, which is focused on high quality, locally sourced products and also a commitment to giving back to the local community. When she passed away I was faced with a difficult decision — keep the bakery open or close its doors. Keeping the bakery open meant walking away from my psychotherapy practice and stepping into a whole new world, one where the learning curve would be high and I would be a complete beginner. I mean, I literally knew nothing about the food industry. The logical decision would have been to stick with my thriving therapy practice, but my heart kept pulling me back to bakery. And I decided to listen to my heart on this one. Having the opportunity to carry on my mother’s legacy feels like the most important thing I could be doing right now. Things are finally starting to come together and the product is picking up some momentum, so I’m really excited to see where I can take the business in the next year. I’m focused on getting the product to a broader audience so everyone can enjoy what my mom did best.”

Daniela 5

HOW SHE MENDS
“Marathons of awesome TV shows! As a therapist, I’m generally not a big fan of avoidance as a strategy for dealing with suffering, but when it comes to breakups you just need to get your mind off of it for a while. Getting sucked into the lives of fictional characters is a good way to temporarily forget about your own sorrows. After one breakup I think I must have watched 3 seasons of Sex and the City in 2 days. I soaked up all the love I could get from friends and family. The loss of a relationship can sometimes leave a big void, so I let it be filled by the love and support of all the people out there who adore me. And I practiced mindfulness and self-compassion. This is the hardest but also probably the most important. Finding stillness, accepting what is and being compassionate to yourself are essential tools for healing. I highly recommend checking out Kristen Neff’s work on self compassion, a very useful resource during a difficult time. I particularly like the guided meditation Soften, Soothe, Allow.”

HER BREAK UP VICES
“Cyberstalking. It’s bad news bears. It’s like a rash – it itches so you want to scratch it, but when you do it just spreads and gets worse. And the worse it gets the more you want to scratch.”

CAN EXES BE FRIENDS?
“Honestly, it really depends on the situation. Every once in a while it can work, but I’ve seen it cause more problems than it’s often worth.”

HER PHILOSOPHY ON SOCIAL MEDIA
“I don’t stay connected to exes on social media. I think it’s best not to get ambushed by constant updates of what your exes are up to.”

Daniela 2

HER HARDEST LESSON ON LOVE
“Love doesn’t always come in the package you expect. I had a lot of silly rules about how my “future husband” would have to be, but in the end, love is about connection, not a checklist of traits. Be open. Stretch yourself. When my now husband told me he had children from a previous marriage on our first date, I seriously contemplated playing sick and leaving the date early. I wanted no part of being a step-mom. Kids equals deal breaker, I thought. But it turned into a 6 hour first date. Two months later he gave me the keys to his place. And 3 years later we walked down the aisle: me, him and my amazing step-children. The heart wants what the heart wants.”

HER FAVORITE SONG ON HEARTBREAK
I Can’t Make You Love Me by Bonnie Raitt.”

WHAT KEEPS HER HEART OPEN
“I truly believe that we are put on this earth to love. I’ve learned through my personal experience and my work as a therapist that loving and being loved are as essential to our well being as water and oxygen. Getting your heart broken sucks, but denying yourself the chance for real love is a far greater loss.”

Daniela 3

HER INTENTION: MANIFEST
“I really believe that we can manifest the things we truly want in our lives if we focus our attention and intention towards them.”

Photographed by Ellen Huerta in Sonoma, CA.

The Reason You Should Distract Yourself after a Breakup

We didn’t need research to tell us that, in the wake of a breakup, most people spend a lot of time thinking about their ex-relationship, and that the tendency to mull it over again and again can cause distress. How much does our thinking impact us, exactly? Is all the talk of positive thinking just a glass half empty?

To find out, researchers at the University of Iowa recruited over 400 students to participate in 3 studies where they measured participants’ emotional and psychological states on a series of customized scales. The emotional states the researchers were interested in understanding included how often the students struggled to stop thinking of an ex-partner, how lonely or depressed they felt, whether they were experiencing a loss of self identity (or a rediscovery of it), and whether or not the students felt okay with the way their former relationships ended.

Most of the results fell in line with what previous research has shown: that as time goes on, we think less and less about our past relationships, and all the accompanying feelings – positive or negative – diminish. However, there was one surprising finding that held up consistently across the 3 smaller studies. While other studies tend to find that recalling positive memories from a past or present relationship makes us feel good, in this case, researchers found that recalling happy memories actually seemed to make people feel more miserable.

The bottom line: sometimes distraction is the way to go: check out our top picks on Netflix or our favorite breakup books.

Clinical Psychologist Dr. Jen Chrisman’s Advice on Breakups, Vulnerability And Motherhood

Dr. Jenn Chrisman is a clinical psychologist and professional coach based in the Los Angeles area. She teaches women how to transform critical self-talk, grief, trauma, and fear by healing the unconscious negative patterns that have collected over a lifetime. She also writes for Tiny Buddha and Mind Body Green.

HER FIRST HEARTBREAK
“My first real heartbreak was when my dad committed suicide, just before I turned ten. That was my first introduction to the fragility of relationships, and the devastation and disappointment that happens when someone can’t show up for you the way you’d expect them to. This set into motion a belief system that I see in myself and so many other women: we often personalize someone else’s behavior as a reflection of our lovability, and we do it as children and into adulthood. For me, it was such a poignant moment in learning that his actions had nothing to do with my lovability. Unfortunately, it took many years to understand this and instead I spent most of my young life personalizing his actions – I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough, smart enough – this was a mentality that stuck around and really prevented me from being able to have a typical, adolescent, twenty-something experience. I was so convinced that I was unlovable. That if I did love someone, they would leave me. Any time there was any possibility of anything happening with someone, I would shut it down so fast.”

HOW SHE COPED
“I zipped myself up very neatly and put up a wall of perfectionism. I was very intuitive emotionally, and smart, and I could read people easily. I knew who I needed to be to get through, so I became that person. I made a declaration at a young age that I would never follow the path of my parents, and I did everything I could to be sure of that. I wasn’t a straight A student or the hardest worker, but there was this drive in me to succeed. The problem was that it was totally based in insecurity, in this need to overcompensate for how small I really felt. A lot of success and amazing things have come to be because of that part of my resilience, but at the same time, it’s been very difficult for me in terms of actually learning how to connect with people.”

WORTH THE WORK
“Of course, I would want to instill the message at a younger age that I was lovable, that the people in my life who weren’t able to show up for me were really limited; that they were human beings in their own right, going through things that had nothing to do with me. That I didn’t need to take things personally. That their actions were not a reflection of my lovability. But it’s hard to imagine where I would be today if I hadn’t had to work so hard to find that on my own. There’s something to be said about finding that resilience in yourself. We don’t often hear about it because there’s so much focus on post traumatic stress, but the other side of it is post traumatic growth. We’re forced to go inside ourselves and find resources we didn’t know existed. I’ve done that for myself, and I think it’s allowed me to find an authentic confidence, as opposed to the pseudo-confidence of accomplishing things and never believing that I was worthy. I’ve fought for myself and come so far from where I started, and I can be authentically proud of that.”

HER MOST RECENT BREAKUP
“I was in a friendship with someone who brought out all of this neediness in me. My entire sense of self became invested in this person. Throughout my life I had been so cautious with people, only letting in a select few, and only those that allowed me to maintain my secure distance. For whatever reason, this particular relationship brought out the exact opposite in me in a way I’d never seen in myself before. I was so dependent on this person’s attention and approval. It was just a really unhealthy relationship. It got to a point where it was so toxic, and they were the one who “broke up” with me, but it was more of an emotional cut-off that happened because we were still connected in a professional role that required us to see each other. I was devastated. I spent a year trying to win the affection back, and it was a very low point in my life. Because of the circumstances, we were still around each other and this person wouldn’t even acknowledge me. It brought out the youngest parts of me. I just wanted to be loved, and this person was not having anything to do with me. I tried and tried. It was such a confusing time: there I was, a married, professional woman who’d just had a baby and was going through heartbreak like I’d never experienced. It forced me to have to look at myself differently; to see how lost I was. I felt like I literally had no sense of self.”

THE AHA MOMENT
“I once had an important issue and needed to talk about it with them, and they were like, ‘Jenn, when are you going to realize I don’t care? I. Do. Not. Care.’ It was a moment where I felt so small. I was holding on, clinging so tightly, so afraid to let go, so afraid to be on my own. I didn’t want to leave the friendship, but it was like another part of me took over, knowing that I needed to. I had read a memoir around that time called I Love You and I’m Leaving You Anyway, which was such a life-changing book for me. She describes how she had to do kung fu with her mind. It really resonated with me that I had to make an effort. I had to actually practice changing the way I saw myself in the world and adopting new belief systems. I had to find what I was looking for within me, rather than outside of myself. Practices like mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and pilates helped me learn how to make contact with myself in a new and different way. I learned Buddhist principles that helped me come to terms with the fact that I have no control over another person: I can say and do all the right things, and they’re going to feel about me however they’re going to feel about me.”

SET FREE
“I was already licensed, had my doctorate, had been through intense training, had been in therapy, and also doing therapy for years at that point, but inside I was still in such a dark place. For so many years I was in this space of feeling like a hypocrite. I was working with people and caring about and loving them, but not really believing change was possible because I was still in so much pain myself. And then this breakup happened, and it was my bottom, for sure. It forced me to get honest with myself about how I’d lived my life continually searching outside me for the answer; whether that was attention, the way I looked, weight loss, money, or accomplishments. And so I actually had to start practicing what I had been preaching. I really threw myself headfirst into re-learning everything that I thought I knew about myself and the world. For five years of my life, this person had played a huge part in my personal and professional development. But leaving was really when I think I found my strength. It was hard, but it set me free, losing the thing that I thought was so important. My life was so small back then. Now I have a thriving private practice with interns who I get to mentor and supervise. I have two babies now, my family, which I want to go home to and be a part of. I don’t know that I would have been able to show up as well for this life and these people if I hadn’t said goodbye.”

VULNERABILITY IN MOTHERHOOD
“I’ve been with my husband for 13 years and we were friends for a few years before that. He was my one and only boyfriend and has been my best friend for most of my life. There is something to be said about friendship being the foundation for a relationship and the safety and security I’ve always felt as a result of that. Throughout our relationship, there were certainly moments where I thought I was being vulnerable and putting myself out there, but I really think it was my children and becoming a mom that made me experience what vulnerability in love actually is – the pain and beauty of it. I’m a different person now that my children have shown me what it actually means to love, and the pain that comes with loving someone and being able to show up in a relationship. I think across the board it’s made me a better, softer person, with more compassion for myself and the world. As cliche as it might sound, I sometimes feel as though I have an advantage: my kids make it so easy to believe in love and the purity of the human soul, even when they’re assholes, which they are sometimes. There’s something about seeing it, I just can’t question the goodness in people, in the world. It makes me want to be a part of that, despite the possibility that it might hurt.”

COMPASSION IN THERAPY
“Sometimes there can be an over-identification for someone’s heartbreak. You have to have really good boundaries to not take that on and bring it home with you. But mostly, when someone’s really in an authentic pain, there’s something very beautiful that happens. It’s a love, actually, that I feel for my clients. Often people talk about therapist burnout, and I get asked how I can sit and listen to people’s problems all day: people complain, or they don’t really want to change. But when someone comes in with so much pain, and it’s authentic, you can actually feel it. It’s such a privilege to be with them in that place. I have so much compassion in my heart for just how hard it is to be human sometimes. We’re so hard on ourselves and critical of our pain, so I try to help my clients experience love and acceptance as they move through their lives. Of course, we never want to see anyone hurting, so it’s natural to want to take away other people’s pain. But really being able to sit with someone in it is actually the most healing thing you can do.”

BRINGING MINDFULNESS TO WOMEN
“For a while now I’ve been feeling like you can only go so far in private practice, and I have certainly capped out. There are only so many hours per week that one can see clients. So I’m working on building an online course bringing mindfulness to women. It’s what really changed my life and how I live my life.”

EMOTIONAL SOBRIETY
“I do a lot of work on the idea of emotional sobriety. A lot of people think, oh, emotional sobriety, what does that mean? You stop having emotions? Well, no. It’s about relating to your emotions differently. It’s about knowing that I can have a feeling, and I don’t actually have to do anything about it. I can have a feeling of insecurity in my relationship and know that I don’t have to interrogate my partner, or read through their text messages. I can actually sit with the feeling and recognize that it’s going to pass eventually.”

HER MANTRA: HAKUNA MATATA
“It’s about bringing playfulness to life, and really keeping things in perspective. We tend to take ourselves so seriously; going through life investing so much of ourselves in things that really don’t matter. Most of the time the things that work us up are really not a big deal when you think about it. I’ve always been a very serious person with this dark inner self, and that was my identity, the brooding, angsty teenager for so long. So hakuna matata really does sum up my approach to life these days.”

We know how hard it is to heal after a relationship, and that’s why we’ve designed an entire program to support you on the path to wholeness. As a loyal blog reader, we are offering 50% off all our Mend Classes for a limited time. Use code BLOG50 at checkout. Sign up to get started.

The One Question You Should Ask Yourself Every Day After a Breakup

Why is it that, on a daily basis, we hear ourselves say countless negative thoughts and hurtful words to ourselves? Life, especially after a breakup, can be hard enough without the self-imposed pressure and internal commentary we pile on top of it all. Our self-talk can be debilitating. We are often our biggest enemy when we should really be our best friend and biggest supporter.  

During a breakup of any nature—intimate relationship, friendship or a job breakup—change occurs and our sense of identity and the choices we make are questioned and challenged. That’s only natural. But, we have the power to decide whether we treat ourselves kindly or critically through those changes.

I have personally battled many moments of negative self-talk that affected my energy and level of motivation and engagement. During these moments of instability, I realized that my inner dialogue was very critical: how could you have done that? what were you thinking? you are not pretty enough; you are not thin enough; you are so stupid; no one will ever love you; you are worthless. 

How much better would it have been to send myself love and hear: I am loved; I am where I should be; I am strong; I am alive; I am breathing. How much more productive and motivated would you be if you did the same? How much happier and more content would you feel? How much more energy would you have?

The next time you catch yourself feeling down, check in with yourself and ask this question: How can I speak to myself with more love?

You can use the anchoring power of your breath and your words to construct your own self-loving mantra that will give you a boost of tenderness and intention. Start by choosing an empowering word that gives you strength – you will think of this word as you inhale, so this is something you’d like to bring into the moment. Think of words such as confidence, love, comfort. Then, select another word that does not serve you – you will think of this word when you exhale, so this is something you’d like to release. For instance, fear, negativity, loneliness.

Then create your own mantra linked to your breath, like this:

I breathe in confidence and I breathe out fear.

I breathe in love and I breathe out negativity.

I breathe in comfort and I breathe out loneliness.

Say your mantras to yourself throughout the day to consciously turn your negative and hurtful thoughts into ones of love. Release any stale air that is holding you back from fueling and loving the present moment.

When you can truly love yourself from the inside out, you will feel invincible. So let your breath and word choices be a vehicle for spreading love throughout your body and into the world around you. Your energy will increase; your heart will shine brightly, and you will be able to find happiness in even difficult moments.

I truly, warmly welcome you to try it.

Demystifying Therapy: Preparing for Your First Session

Preparing for your first session with a new therapist can be a bit nerve wracking. Sharing your pain and vulnerabilities with a perfect stranger can feel foreign and even daunting. So if you notice yourself feeling nervous, don’t worry, it is totally normal. But don’t let those feelings get in the way of getting the most out of it.

Here are some tips on how to prepare for your first session with a new therapist.

You Have Nothing To Lose – Be Honest

While compassionate and caring, the therapist is not your “friend”. The relationship with your therapist is different than any other relationship you will ever have. You are guaranteed complete confidentiality and an environment free of any judgment or criticism. It is structured this way purposefully to allow for the total emotional transparency that might otherwise feel unsafe.

So while it is normal to feel inclined to censor information when we talk to someone new, this contradicts the whole purpose of the therapeutic relationship. Your therapist is not there to judge you, he or she is there to support you in your pain (and even help you diminish the shame you feel). You are not going to get the most out of the process if you are not being totally transparent. So even though it might feel a bit like swimming upstream, push yourself to be brutally honest with your therapist so you two can address the real issues head on. If you don’t, you may be wasting your own time and money.

Come With A Direction In Mind, But Be Open To A Detour

Think about what you most want to get out of the process before you arrive for your first session. Your therapist will work with you to determine what your goals in working together will be, but don’t rely on the professional to do all the work for you – this therapy is for you and about you. Remember that you are the expert on your own experience and that expertise is essential in ensuring that you are on the right track.

At the same time, be open to seeing new things and considering other directions. The beauty about therapy is that the objective lens of the therapist, paired psychological expertise, will allow him or her to see some things that are not visible to you and together you can work to co-construct a plan that best meets your needs.

Focus On How The Relationship Feels

The most important factor in the effectiveness of therapy is the client’s willingness to change. The second is the relationship with the therapist. So needless to say, ensuring you get the most out of the experience has a lot to do with the relationship you build with this person. Though you may feel uncomfortable at times during the first session (which is normal), overall you should feel a sense of safety and that this is someone you can imagine building a strong rapport with. Hopefully, the therapist will check in to make sure it feels like a good fit for you. If in the end you leave feeling judged or unsafe, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and find another clinician to work with.

So now hopefully you are feeling a little more ready to embark on that first appointment. Keep an open mind, take a deep breath, and take some risks. Good luck!

How To Find A Therapist

Therapy can be an essential part of the healing process when you are trying to mend a broken heart. However, in order to really get the most out of the experience it’s important to find the right therapist for you. Finding a good therapist is easier said than done.

After more than 15 years of seeing a variety of therapists myself, I’ve had my share of bad experiences. I once met with a therapist who greeted me at the door dripping sweat and dressed like Run DMC (sans gold chain), straight from the gym. And while I don’t think a therapist’s outfit is a reflection of competence, I do appreciate a person who cools down first and dresses in a professional manner. Then there was the therapist whose first question was “What’s wrong with you?” There is nothing more welcoming at the beginning of a session than judgment. Sheesh. And I still shiver when I remember the therapist who was consistently 10-20 minutes late to our early morning sessions, leaving me to freeze my butt off on the street waiting for him.

But don’t let me scare you off, I’ve also had amazing, life-altering, not-sure-what-I-would’ve-done-without-‘em therapists. So even if it sounds like you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your “theraprince,” the result is definitely worth it. Below you will find tips for starting your search. On Friday, I’ll dive into how to ensure they’re the right fit.

1. Factor Out Convenience and Cost Whenever Possible

Good therapy and convenient therapy are not the same. While it might be your instinct to ask yourself: “Who has an office near me? Who has appointments at times that are convenient for me? “How much do they cost?” this is not necessarily the best place to start. I’m not suggesting that you completely inconvenience and bankrupt yourself to get to therapy, but convenience and cost aren’t good enough reasons to choose someone. You wouldn’t pick a significant other or a job just out of convenience, would you? Then why would you pick the person you are going to trust with helping you heal the wounds of your relationship on convenience?

I encourage you to view therapy as an investment of time and money in the only asset you truly own: yourself. Most people don’t think twice about dropping dough on a gym membership, but are resistant to make the same financial commitment to their emotional health. Think of therapy as a gym membership for your mind. There are many more important selection criteria that can help guarantee a positive experience.

2. Ask People You Trust for Recommendations

Asking people you trust for recommendations is a great place to start. This could be a friend, family member, co-worker, or other health professional. If someone you trust can make a referral, this can act as a prescreening process. If your friend loves his or her therapist, but you don’t want to see the same person as your friend, ask him or her to ask the therapist for a list of trusted colleagues with a similar style. If you have a friend or family member who is a therapist, they would also be a good person to ask as well. Therapists tend to have good information about other reputable people.

3. Use the Web but Don’t Be Limited By It

The web is a great resource for locating and learning more about local therapists. Psychology Today has a very comprehensive listing of therapists and allows you to search based on several different factors. To be listed on Psychology Today, therapists must prove that they have an advanced degree and up-to-date professional license. You can read profiles or click through to websites to read more about who they are and what they offer. If you are immediately turned off by someone’s tone, listen to your gut and keep searching.

Just make sure you are looking in industry appropriate locations. For example, Yelp is great for restaurants but the same principle doesn’t apply to therapy. Finding a good therapist for you is a lot more nuanced than finding out which restaurant makes the best duck fat fried brussel sprouts. Most therapists do not have profiles or reviews on Yelp, and therapists who ask their clients to post reviews on Yelp are actually violating the ethics of the profession. Reputable therapists would never request that clients break their own confidentiality to grow their business (not to say that all people with reviews have specifically asked their clients to write them). If you rely on Yelp, you are getting a very small cross section of the good people who might actually be out there.

Lastly, some therapists, especially those who have been practicing for a long time, do not have websites. This doesn’t mean they aren’t good or don’t stay current with research, it usually just means that they stay busy enough without needing a web presence. So if you receive referrals you can’t cyberstalk, just pick-up the phone and ask them all of the questions you have.

Now that you are armed with some strategies for finding a therapist, I wish you the best of luck in your search. In the next Demystifying Therapy post, I’ll cover how to interview therapists once you’ve found them, and then I’ll share options for how to seek help with limited funds. Happy Therapist Hunting until then!

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