Can I speed up emotional healing?

This guy hurt me badly. I'd like to be over it. How can I speed up the process?

Published September 22, 2013 11:00PM (EDT)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Zach Trenholm/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Cary,

I know there might not be enough advice in regard to this, but it seems like a good shot.

I recently broke up with/got broken up with my boyfriend, a week or so ago. We started dating last December, and when things seemed to be working out, I moved in with him by the summer. I would start grad school, and it made sense to live together, we got along really well, enjoyed each other's company, etc. A month in to moving with him, I found out through my own means that he actually had a family (two daughters, one newborn) and the day I discovered this I moved out with the help of my family and friends. He said he didn't want to tell me because it had snowballed and he thought I would leave him. I decided to forgive him, and we got back together, with the idea that we would find an entirely new apartment together. I was still living on my own.

A few weeks passed and it seemed like he had started seeing his daughters more regularly, as it seemed like he hadn't previously made an effort. He also started going to counseling.

However, it seemed like he started getting more distant in some respect, not as eager to see me, etc. He ended up blowing me off, and then just decided to break up with me in a text message.

I just can't seem to let go of the hurt he has caused me and don't know how to move on productively. I asked him to man up and meet me in person and tell me why we didn't work out, and he mentioned that I deserved better and that he had commitment issues. I know I can move on eventually, but my feelings were compromised, as was my respect, both his respect for me and my self-respect. I think I hurt myself by giving this individual a second chance, and it is hard for me to move on.

Is there anything I can do to speed up this process? Am I the one who let this happen, or did it just happen that I stumbled upon a messed-up individual?



Dear M,

Your question about whether you can speed up the process of getting over the breakup is a great one. It goes to the heart of how we interpret and process emotional hurt and what meaning we give it. What makes it harder is that you broke up with him once, but then gave in and got back together, just so he could then cruelly break up with you. So what can you do?

The first thing you can do is reach a conclusion about your part in what happened and what you yourself could have done differently. It can help to conclude that, yes, you made a mistake in moving in with this person so soon, and you made a mistake in giving him a second chance. It helps to admit that you made some mistakes. That's not the same as saying you were to blame. It just clarifies your part in the situation. It has the following benefit: You can then forgive yourself. You can say yes, because I was impulsive, because I loved him, because I am optimistic and believe that things will work out, because I perhaps was not as cautious as I could have been, and because conditions made it possible for me to do this, I did it, and it turned out to be a mistake. So now I forgive myself and I try to benefit from this experience by remembering, so next time I am in a similar situation I can do things differently.

If you consider yourself blameless, no self-forgiveness is possible and no change is possible. Only by identifying your own part in it can you forgive yourself and come up with a better plan.

The other thing to remember is that emotional hurt can be long-lasting. Grief and loss can remain with us, so that every time we think of it, we feel it intensely. Accepting this fact may or may not hasten your getting over it, but it should make the symptoms more bearable. That feeling in your chest, that flash of anger: Knowing that it is normal makes it easier to endure.

Also, make choices about how you express and embody these emotions. That is, you have a choice of whether to  demonize him and express a global sense of failure and outsize frustration and anger, or to work consciously to frame it in a more balanced way. You can say, Oh, he was an jerk, all men are jerks and liars, I really screwed up, I hate my life, this is a tragedy, I'll never trust another man, I'll never get over this, etc. Or you can say, instead, that you were genuinely crazy about this guy and really thought it would work out and took a risk and moved in with him and then got hurt and humiliated, but took steps to end it and are now picking up the pieces and moving on.

That's not to say you shouldn't be angry and feel things. Be angry. But be aware that with everything you do, you are building a set of emotional habits. Try to build helpful, compassionate ones. I believe that this will help you over the next year or so, and in the future when similar situations arise.

By Cary Tennis

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