Why Your Breakup Hurts SO Much (And How To Start Healing)

Woman on couch in blue blanket crying while looking at photograph

Knowing WHY you’re hurting can be your first step to getting over it.

Heartbroken. Sometimes that’s the only way to describe the tidal waves of grief that come with a breakup.

Ending a relationship with someone or, worse, having someone break up with you causes incredibly painful feelings because of all the losses. You grieve the lost connection with that person. After all, you loved them so much. But let’s get real about that. Are you sad because you’re not with the person you had a relationship with? OR are you really upset because you’re not with the person who you thought your partner was?

If you’re like most of us, you’re upset to have lost who you thought your partner was. Because, let’s face it, if they really were the ideal person for you, you’d still have a relationship.

Being heartbroken also means grieving lost couplehood. It feels good being connected to someone else — to not have to face the world on your own. Yet, breaking up with someone means you’re suddenly alone. It’s no longer two against the world. It’s just you, feeling naked, isolated and afraid.

There’s another reason for your fear of being alone. Being alone means that before too long you’ll have to look for another someone — someone to love and to love you, and someone who just might break your heart too.

Grieving the loss of your ideal mate and couplehood are the more obvious reasons for being heartbroken, but there are others.

You’re probably despairing your lost dreams of the future and “happily ever after.” Regardless of how long you’re in a relationship with someone, you’ve dreamed of the future with them. Those dreams are part of what brought the two of you together. But now, those dreams are lost forever.

The end of a relationship can also leave you feeling shattered and unsure of who you are without the relationship or your former partner. In the midst of grieving the losses, it seems nearly impossible to recreate and redefine yourself too. Yet, that’s what you need to do because you’re not their other half any more. You’re you.

Finally, what if you’re anguished because of broken trust?

Your former love broke your trust, but you broke it too. You broke your own trust by convincing yourself that the relationship was the right one for you, and by all the little ways you gave yourself away to make the relationship work. Now you’re left wondering if you’re capable of trusting yourself to enter into another relationship and not give yourself away. You’re also wondering if you can trust yourself to choose a better person next time.

Heartbreak is a complicated issue, and so is dealing with all the grief all at once. There are just so many things lost when a relationship ends. However, the more you know about what specifically is causing you to feel heartbroken, the easier it is for you to get over it and choose a better relationship next time.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly adviceAnd, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.

This article originally appeared on YourTango.

8 Brutal Signs You Hate Your Ex MORE Than You Love Your Kids

Child stuck in the middle as mom and dad sit back to back showing brutal signs that they hate each other more than they love their kids

All is fair in love and war? Not when your kids become casualties!

Divorce changes everything — especially your feelings about your ex. Far from the love you felt on your wedding day, now you probably feel something closer to frustration, anger, or even downright hate.

Hostile feelings during divorce are common but we all know NOT to expose our children to that toxic resentment, right?

In my experience working with divorced families, most divorced parents claim they’re all about their kids. They pat themselves on the back endlessly, thinking that they ALWAYS put the kids first and would never do ANYTHING that might harm or distress their children. But in practice, that altruism is rarely present.

Are parents saying these things to convince themselves or others? I’m not sure. All I know is, those declarations of “my love for my children comes first” are rarely true.

And I challenge you to reflect on your own behavior to see whether you hate your ex more than you love your children!

What do I mean? I mean that when it comes to making choices about your reactions or behavior, your anger for your ex poisons your decisions — you just can’t hold your tongue, or resist sliding in that passive-aggressive potshot. Hating your ex is one of your favorite pastimes. And I get it, our exes are often infuriating.

It’s just too bad the energy you pour into chronicling every evil detail about your ex isn’t being poured into loving, supporting, and focusing on your kids (like you say you want to). Your kids crave a home full of ease and joy, not your unrelenting resentment. But, of course, it’s all your ex’s fault, right? They “make” you act this way.

Wrong! You choose your responses. And your responses currently are hurting your children. Children see the world as revolving around them. They believe your actions (and inactions) are because of them. And all the time you’re stewing about your ex, your children wish loving them was enough to keep you happy and focused on them.

So, is this you? Do you hate your ex more than you love your children? Here are nine behaviors that indicate the war with your ex is your top priority and your kids are becoming causalities of that war: 

1. You withhold child visitation to punish your ex.  
Don’t like that your ex is dating again or resent an email he sent? Suddenly your kids can’t go to dad’s house. Your kids love both of their parents. Denying your children time spent with the other parent hurts your KIDS. You’re ultimately punishing them! And what did your children do to deserve such severe punishment? Nothing. They aren’t pawns to dangle and withhold. 

2. You skip child support payments.
It’s astounding how many parents do not grasp that child support is for your children, not money you’re giving to your ex. Your children need to eat, a safe place to live, suitable clothes to wear, and maybe even enjoy a treat or adventure now and again. Your children interpret your refusal to pay child support (a.k.a. lack of financial care) as them not being worthy of being cared for. How horrible for them to feel that way!

3. You belittle your ex within earshot of the children.
Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with talking in private about how you feel about your ex. We all need a place to vent. But, there is definitely something wrong with letting your kids hear it — even by accident.

Your children love their other parent (even if you don’t). When you put down your ex, your kids start to wonder if you secretly feel the same about them. They feel forced to take your side when they’re with you because they don’t want you to stop loving them, too. And I call that emotional blackmail (and it’s cruel)!

4. You gripe about your ex’s family.
Just like your child loves their other parent, they also love their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins on your side and your ex’s. Being part of both extended families helps children feel safe and loved. Maybe you’re glad to never see your ex mother-in-law again, but your children still love their grandma.

Do you really want to take that away from them by talking poorly about people who love them?

5. You compare your child to your ex unfavorably.
“You sound just like your mother!” or “Your father never keeps his word either.” Your child isn’t stupid. They know that comparing them to the other parent you clearly hate is an insult to them. This hurts them on so many levels but most they fear they’re at risk of you hating them, too.

6. You grill your kids about the other parent’s actions.
Your kids are not your personal spy. Putting them in that position forces them to take your side when they’re with you and taking their other parent’s side when they’re away from you. It’s a no-win situation for your child that teaches them your love for them is conditional on giving you info that fuels your beloved hatred of your ex. 

7. You guilt trip your kids when they enjoy life with your ex.  
If you really love your kids, you want their genuine happiness … and that includes wanting them to enjoy time spent with their other parent, too.

But when you make snide comments about that trip to theme park or new toy or fun vacation (“Well, I’m sure it’s nice for your dad to afford such things when his child support payments are so low.”) your child feels guilty. The same occurs when you change the subject, or even ignore your child, when they innocently share with you the fun afternoon they had with their other parent.  

Every single time you do this, you undermine your child’s joy. Instead, you’re sending the message that their happiness is a betrayal to you, that they can’t be real with you, that they can’t love their other parent, and that you won’t love them if they do.

8. You “forget” to call or spend time with your kids to avoid your ex.
So, you bail on your kids because you don’t want to deal with your ex? Seriously? Talk about putting the war with your ex BEFORE your kids (and your responsibilities of being the best parent you can)! Nothing hurts a child’s self-esteem more than believing their parent doesn’t find them worth the effort.  

Look, getting (and being) divorced is not easy. I know that. The toxic anger divorce stirs up is extreme and feels all-consuming sometimes. Maybe you’ve never considered how your behavior impacts your kids before now, but now that you know the harm it causes … it’s time to change this pattern.

Your first responsibility (and amazing gift) is loving and nurturing each of your children to the best of your ability. The value of that trumps your annoying ex any day! 

But, breaking the “I hate my ex” obsession isn’t easy. And if you catch yourself focusing on your anger more than your love for your kids, just remind yourself (regularly) just how precious your kids are and do your divorce recovery work. Your kids (and you) are worth it … and, you know what they say: “Living well is the best revenge.”

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly adviceIf you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

This article originally appeared on YourTango.

3 Bullsh*t Ways WOMEN Bully Men After Divorce – P.S. Your Kids Notice

Woman yelling and running.

You’re not fooling anyone, ladies. And your kids notice it, too!

When we think of couples going through “an ugly divorce,” people often assume that if one side is being an emotional bully, it’s the man. We instantly imagine it’s the poor, beleaguered ex-wife who is left to struggle under his oppression and vicious attacks—emotionally, financially, and sometimes even physically.

Honestly, I thought that, too, until one of my male family members went through a divorce years ago. Then it became painfully obvious that there are plenty of ex-wife bullies out there, too.

Are YOU an ex-wife bully? No one wants to admit so, of course. We all believe we’re in the right by default, but are you?

Here are three tell-tale signs YOU are the mean one in your post-divorce relationship … not him:

1. You manipulate by withholding child visitation.

To clarify, this is one of the cruelest and most vicious ex-wife bully tactics. Obviously, if your ex is a true threat to the safety of your children, the court should become involved in deciding what safe visitation entails. But outside of that, deciding to not let your ex see the children because you’re mad at him—because he has a new girlfriend, or gave the kids junk food, or said something unkind to you—is NOT a reason to keep your children from their father.

Nor is you wanting increased child support more important than their time and relationship with their dad.

According to an oft-cited study “Visitational Interference—A National Study,” by J. Annette Vanini, M.S.W and Edward Nichols, M.S.W., “77 percent of non-custodial fathers are NOT able to ‘visit’ their children, as ordered by the court, as a result of ‘visitation interference’ perpetuated by the custodial parent.” FYI: that’s YOU, Mom!

In other words, moms not honoring court-ordered visitation is a significantly BIGGER problem (3 times bigger, actually) than dads not honoring court-ordered child support. And you better believe keeping your children from building a relationship with their father impacts them negatively.

2. You undermine and belittle your ex-husband’s parenting.

You desperately want to believe that YOU are the only “good parent.” Everything your ex-husband does with the kids is stupid, shocking, terrible … and wrong. If they dare to parent differently than you, you criticize. And if they actually follow your parenting style, you imply they continually fall short in some way.

But here’s the thing, Mom: those potshots at your ex actually damage your children. Those mean-spirited “in the moment,” “no big deal” comments carry enormous short and long-term repercussions for kids.

It’s like poison you contaminate every conversation with, sending the message, “your father is wrong and loving him is wrong.” Oh, and that subtle way you initiate conversations with your children for the sole purpose of berating their father (oh, yes, you do) is nothing but an obvious (and selfish) attempt to drive a wedge between your kids and their father. You better believe both your kids and your ex know what you’re up to.

3. You micro-manage your ex’s interactions with the kids to prove you’re the boss.

Your ex is taking the kids camping? You send along sunscreen and bug spray. Your ex asks if he can pick the kids up at 6 pm, and you say 6:30 pm just to make him wait. Your ex says he’s going to take the kids to a new movie, so you take them first before his visitation day. When your ex’s parents gift your child with money for her birthday, you take it and tell her you’ll decide how she’ll spend it.

You’re a control freak. Why? Because the thought of your children being entirely fine without you drives you crazy! Even worse, the thought of your children happily getting along with your ex’s new girlfriend or wife really sends you into a fury.

Your emotions are understandable (perhaps), but your poor behavior in response to them is not okay.

Newsflash: You don’t get to control what happens at your ex’s house. You don’t get a say in how or when he moves on to a new relationship. And you definitely don’t get to pick what toothpaste the kids use at his house.

If your child isn’t in true danger (in which case you need to speak to the court, not your ex), your opinion on anything else is entirely unwelcome.

So, does this sound like you? Are YOU an ex-wife bully?

If so, please know you can do something about it. Changing your behavior won’t happen overnight, but for your children’s sake … you need to knock it off.

And if you’re a man dealing with an ex-wife bully, don’t put up with it! There are ways to work yourself out from under her toxic behavior:

  • First, limit communication. Start by keeping your communication with her brief, informative, friendly, and firm (BIFF). And avoid apologies. The less ammunition you give her, the less of it you’ll receive.
  • Next, avoid getting caught up in her drama. It’s natural to want to defend yourself when she’s attempting to tear you a new one, but the best response is no response when she acts like this. The more you get into it with her, the more power you’re giving her behavior. You’re dancing to her tune and you don’t want to continue being subject to her whims. (If you did, you’d still be married to her.)
  • Finally, start standing your ground. Sometimes the best thing to do is call a bully’s bluff. Never do this in the heat of the moment; calling her bluff and standing your ground are things you do when you’re calm and communicating clearly. You regain control of your life and stop the emotional bullying only when you clarify and honor your own boundaries.

Yes, but she’s so frustrating!

The reality is, no matter what you do and how well you avoid caving to your ex-wife’s bullying ways, she’s still probably freaking out and behaving poorly when she doesn’t get her way. And you’ll likely feel frustrated and angry when she does. That’s normal and understandable, but it’s definitely NOT okay that she puts her own anger and ire above the health and happiness of your children.

But don’t let her behavior stop YOU from raising happy, healthy kids who are part of a loving extended family (that doesn’t include her).

The most important thing is that your kids have a happy, rock-solid relationship with you. So pick your battles and keep your eyes on the long-term game instead of the moment-to-moment skirmishes she is so fond of starting.

This is how my family member handled his bully of an ex-wife. He definitely felt pissed at his ex, but he stopped taking the bait when she taunted him. He worked with an attorney when she got really out of control. And, most importantly, he made his relationship with his sons his absolute top priority. And as a result, he has a terrific relationship with his boys.

Remember, your kids are paying attention. So focus on building a positive relationship with them, instead of engaging in a negative battle with your ex.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly adviceIf you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

This article originally appeared on YourTango.

Divorce Can LITERALLY Break Your Heart, Says Science

Models of hearts.

Protect yourself from increased cardiovascular risk with these stress-busting tips.

Everybody knows that divorce is stressful, but what nobody knew until now is that divorce actually increases a woman’s risk of heart attack. A new report in the March 2015 issue of Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes says that (after correcting for other risk factors) women divorced once have a 24 percent increased risk of heart attack. For women divorced two or more times, this jumps to a startling 77 percent increased risk.

Besides heart attack, divorce can also increase a woman’s risk of Broken Heart Syndrome, which, in some cases, mimics a heart attack. According to Mayo Clinic, Broken Heart Syndrome results from “the heart’s reaction to a surge of stress hormones.”

Given these two bits of data from heart specialists, I believe the best way to prevent yourself from becoming another statistic is to effectively deal with your divorce stress. How do you do that?

Try my top five tips for de-stressing during your divorce:

1. Develop Soothing Routines

Nearly everything about your life changes when you get divorced—including the time you used to spend doing activities that calmed you. It’s time to start doing them again. And if that’s not possible, develop new soothing activities. This doesn’t mean you need to get daily massages (although wouldn’t that be nice!). You might find great peace in everyday activities that have recently slipped through the cracks. I know one woman who grooms her eyebrows when she needs to relax and another who takes several deep breaths.

2. Be Active

The hormones released when you’re feeling stressed give you energy. (You’ve probably noticed you feel jittery when you’re stressed.) Getting active by walking, exercising, dancing or even punching a pillow will help you use up that excess energy.

3. Be Kind To Yourself

Yes, even if you don’t feel like it, you still need to take care of yourself. Make sure you’re eating, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, and generally treating yourself as the amazing person you are.

4. Build Your Support System

No one should go through divorce alone. So find the people who can positively support you through the stressful transitions that accompany divorce. You might also want to limit your contact with the people (like your ex) who bring you down or stress you out.

5. Grieve Your Relationship

This is a biggie. We all tend to want to avoid pain, but in this case you need to carefully push through the painful emotions of divorce so you can heal. Avoiding grief will only prolong your stress

By following these simple tips to de-stress during divorce, my belief is you accomplish two important things. First, you decrease your risk for both heart attack and broken heart syndrome. Second, you increase your risk of having a happy and healthy life after your divorce, and that’s almost just as important!

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly adviceAnd, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.

This article originally appeared on YourTango.