Take More Responsibility For Your Breakup

Man walking through town.

It might seem counter-intuitive, but taking responsibility is the best way to get over it and move on.

Breakups and divorces hurt – a lot. About all you can think about doing is making the pain stop. You might try drinking, going out with whomever you can and blaming your ex to make you feel better.

There is a certain logic to all this. The distractions of self-medicating and attention from the opposite sex will certainly take your mind off of your immediate pain, but no distraction will ever eliminate it. Also, blaming your ex for what you’re feeling can make it seem easier to deal with because it’s not your fault and there’s nothing you can do. (Besides maybe get even with them or make them hurt as much as you do. But these are bad ideas no matter how appealing they might be right now.)

However, distracting yourself and placing blame are the fast track to more misery – not the relief you really want.

The only way to quickly and completely move on from a failed relationship is to take responsibility for it. Yup, you read that correctly. You need take responsibility for the breakup or divorce.

Now before you start down the trail of “Yeah, but…” or “No way in H#LL!”, hear me out.

I get that your ex cheated on you or that they were crazy clingy and insecure or that they just didn’t appreciate you anymore or that they just suddenly changed and became someone you hardly recognized. But that isn’t the whole story. Is it?

This is important.

The whole story must include you regardless of what their actions were or are. Because if it doesn’t, then you’re just a powerless victim. A victim who has no control over his life. A victim blown about by the whims of her ex. A victim who lacks all hope that a better relationship is out there.

I seriously doubt you really want to be a victim hoping that someone else will do something to make you feel better.

So what if the real story of your breakup is that you played an active role in it? As uncomfortable as that might be, it’s probably a whole lot closer to what really happened.

What if you took the time to take stock of what you did that helped your relationship and what you did that helped your breakup? If you do, you’ll be taking your first step to REALLY getting over it.

Before you start thinking that they decided to end things out of the blue and you can’t think of anything at all that you could have done differently to make your relationship better, STOP! If that’s truly your situation, your responsibility for the breakup was getting into a relationship with them in the first place. Even accepting this bit of accountability will give you back some control over the situation.

Assessing your part in the death of your relationship is the only way you’ll be able to completely get over it. And believe me you want to get completely over it. You don’t want to be one of those people that others think are great until you tell them about your breakup. Then, all they hear as you tell your story is how bitter you are.

(I can tell you that every time I went out with a man who was bitter, I couldn’t get away fast enough and I certainly wouldn’t give him a second chance. I know I’m not the only one who quickly steers clear of victims who keep throwing themselves a pity party.)

Once you know the part you played in getting you where you are today you can start doing something about it.

Let’s say the only thing you can think of right now that made you culpable for the breakup is that you fell in love with her/him. Obviously that doesn’t mean that you need to never fall in love again – although that might seem like the best short-term answer. What it does mean is that you have a bit of detective work to do to figure out what you can learn from this relationship to choose your next partner more carefully.

Think back to when you first met and the early days of your relationship. And ask yourself questions like:

  • Were there any warning signs that it would end badly?
  • What did you find especially attractive about him/her?
  • Did any of these qualities contribute to where you are today?
  • Did you give it enough time before you jumped into a relationship?

Hopefully, you’re getting the idea. You need to analyze what you can do differently next time.

Thoughtful action away from what didn’t work and toward what does will always help you move on from your breakup.

As you continue your assessments, you’ll probably discover more things you did that contributed to the end of your relationship. That’s a good sign! It means that you’re moving away from the hurt and victimhood and toward healing.

With each new responsibility that comes up, ask yourself what you can and will do differently in the future and then do it. Although all this work won’t guarantee that your next relationship will be perfect, it does guarantee that you won’t be making the same mistakes. And fewer mistakes usually mean fewer problems.

So as counter-intuitive as it may have seemed initially, taking responsibility for your breakup or divorce really is the only way to stop hurting so much.

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 advice. And if you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

This article originally appeared in Wingman Magazine.

6 Reasons Happy Couples DO Go To Bed Angry (On Purpose!)

Fighting late into the night is just disaster waiting to happen.

Sometimes what we take as common sense is really just a bunch of pie-in-the-sky crap! I call it crap because it’s too idealistic or just ignorant of how people’s minds and bodies really work.

For example, take the whole idea that a couple should never go to bed angry.

Now, I’ll be honest with you, I used to believe that this was a great rule to live by. But that was back when I was in a relationship that lacked passion – including the passion to argue.

These days I’m in a much more vibrant relationship and know without a doubt that if we didn’t go to bed angry we’d still be arguing about some stupid thing that happened three years ago. (Yeah, we’re both stubborn enough that we just might be.)

Going to bed angry is actually great for our relationship because things usually look completely different in the morning.

When the alternative is a sleepless or nearly sleepless night going to bed angry is best for most relationships. The reason is that sleepiness from staying up to argue can actually make things a whole lot worse.

How does sleepiness make arguments worse?

Here’s what the sleep experts have to say:

  1. Sleep loss makes you stupid. Stanford sleep expert, Brandon Peters, MD, explains in his Huffington Post piece that difficulty sleeping interferes with higher cognitive functioning of the brain.

    This means you need sleep to be able to pay attention, concentrate, reason and PROBLEM SOLVE! If you’re so sleepy that you can’t problem solve, then how on Earth are you going to resolve an argument? Yeah, you’re not.

  2. Sleep deprivation can lead to serious health problems and increase the risk of death, according to WebMD.

    OK, the data shows that it’s chronic sleep loss that can dramatically impact your health, but if you’re regularly arguing instead of sleeping it will add up. Who knows, the next time one of you says “You’re killing me” during a late night argument, you might actually be right!

  3. Lack of sleep kills your sex drive. Dr. Robert D. Oexman, Director of the Sleep to Live Institute in Joplin, MO, told Shape that chronic sleep deprivation can lower the sex drive hormone (testosterone) in both men and women.

    So for those of you who think that your epic arguments at night will lead to amazing make-up sex you are probably going to be disappointed. Sleep specialists have found that both men and women report less interest in sex when they’re sleep-deprived.

  4. Sleepiness is depressing. There’s a definite link between lack of sleep and depression according to WebMD. And it seems to be a bit of a chicken and egg situation. Insomnia can be a sign of depression and lack of sleep can play a role in causing depression.

    Let’s face it, even if neither of you have depression, it’s just almost impossible to feel great and excited about the day when you’ve missed a lot of sleep the night before because of some ridiculous argument. In fact, you’re more likely to feel depressed about the argument which could lead to even more discord and yet another sleepless night.

  5. Sleep deprivation makes you forgetful. In 2013, sleep researchers at UC Berkeley discovered a “dysfunctional pathway that explains the relationship between brain deterioration, sleep disruption and memory loss” (Medical News Today)

    Now this forgetfulness could really go either way toward helping or hurting your argumentative ways. If you both forget what you’re arguing about because you’re too sleepy to remember, then that’s great! You can catch some zzzzz’s and address the issue (if one of you can remember it) in the morning when you’re both fresh.

    Alternatively, you could also forget that word you want to use to really let your partner know you’re right and how wrong they really are. And on the argument goes…

  6. Sleep loss impairs judgment. WebMD also says, “Lack of sleep can affect our interpretations of events. This hurts our ability to make sound judgments because we may not assess situations accurately and act on them wisely.”

    So the longer you stay up arguing, the worse the argument will probably get because both of you lose your ability to realize that staying up to fight just isn’t worth it.

Look, just because you now know that going to bed angry won’t end your marriage either, it doesn’t mean that you’re ready to give up all the crappy “common sense” that you’ve adopted as part of your marriage. What is does mean is that you’re ready to start questioning it. Like, what’s the deal with make-up sex being the best?

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are contemplating divorce. Should you stay, or should you go is a powerful question and I’m here to help you make a smart decision that will lead to your greatest happiness… whether you stay OR go. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And, 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.

Healing From Divorce: Overcoming Your Loneliness

Bearded man wearing a hooded coat struggling with overcoming loneliness.

No matter how horrible you feel, there is a simple way out of the loneliness of divorce.

One of the toughest parts of healing from divorce is the loneliness which can feel like it’s sucking your soul right out of you. You wind up feeling as if you’re just a shriveled husk of who you were.

When you’re in the throes of loneliness, your mind wanders down a treacherous path. You begin by wondering if you’re destined to be alone for the rest of your life. Then you realize that of course you will because of the long list of your “flaws” that you remind yourself of over and over again. It doesn’t matter right now that those imperfections are just part of what makes you wonderfully you. You get stuck on a downward spiral of misery which leaves you feeling horribly trapped.

Yet being stuck isn’t doing you any good when your real goal is to heal from your divorce.

What I want you to know is that no matter how lonely you feel right now, you’re not really alone. I promise. Everyone who gets divorced experiences gut-wrenching loneliness. (Some people even experience it during their marriage before they divorce.) The difference is that not everyone deals with their loneliness in the same way.

Some choose to ignore it and immerse themselves in activities like dating. Some will use their loneliness to fuel their anger at their ex. Others, like you, know that despite how miserable the loneliness feels it’s just part of the process of getting over their divorce.

The loneliness is really just part of the grief – saying goodbye to so much including a sense of belonging (which you also wonder if you’ll ever feel again). Knowing that it’s part of the process doesn’t necessarily make it easy to get through though, does it?

Luckily, there is a simple way to start feeling less lonely. Begin with feeling a sense of belonging to yourself.

Yeah, it might sound a bit strange, but usually a sense of belonging is about feeling complete, whole and cared for. And that’s definitely something you can achieve all on your own.

How? Well, the easiest way is to start logically and then allow your emotions to shift naturally as you begin caring for yourself. It might sound complicated, but it really is simple.

Logically, you know there’s a big difference between being alone and feeling lonely. Being alone is a situation. Feeling lonely is an emotion that is crying out for soothing.

And believe it or not, you can soothe yourself by doing simple things that indulge your senses (sight, taste, touch, sound and smell). Here’s a list of some sensory experiences you can experiment with the next time you’re feeling lonely:

  • give yourself a hug and feel the warmth of your embrace
  • drink a cup of fragrant tea or coffee and enjoy both the aroma and the taste
  • listen to uplifting music and be carried away by the sounds
  • light some candles and watch how the flickering flames create amazing shadows
  • turn on the TV so it sounds like there’s someone at home with you
  • snuggle with one or more pillows (I use 4) in bed at night
  • treat yourself to your favorite meal savoring every bite
  • pet your pet (or someone else’s) and notice how wonderful their fur feels and how beautiful it looks
  • hug a tree and notice the texture of the bark against your chest and cheek

There are a million different things you can do to soothe yourself and engage your senses. The key is to focus on the sensations, smells, sounds, tastes and sights. You’ll find that by indulging your senses you’ll experience a catharsis which lightens the heaviness of your loneliness.

The more you can comfort yourself when you’re feeling lonely, the quicker you’ll start to realize that your soul can stay right where it is and that you don’t need to remind yourself of your “flaws”.

Before you know it, you’ll come to appreciate having some alone time. It’s then that you’ll know you’re well on your way to healing from your divorce.

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 adviceAnd, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.

If you’re looking for more help recovering from your divorce, read more articles about Healing After Divorce.

Unhappy Marriage? Here’s How to Make It Better (Part 2)

After you know what you want, it’s time to start laying the foundation to make your unhappy marriage happy.

As I mentioned in Part 1, if you’re in an unhappy marriage you’re probably feeling trapped and hopeless.

But you can create some hope that things will get better. All you need to do is create your idea of what “happily ever after” means to you now and everyday find one thing that’s good about your marriage.

(If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, you can read it here.)

Now that you know what you want from your marriage, you can start laying the foundation for your new “happily ever after”. Begin by asking yourself what would you have to do to get it if you really want to change your unhappy marriage to a happy one.

My guess is you’ll discover these 5 areas (connection, caring, congruence, competence, and freedom) are the most critical for you to take action in.

  1. Connection – Of all our relationships, our intimate relationship has the most impact on our happiness. We all have a deep-seated need for connection. It’s one of the things that makes us human. According to Brendon Burchard in The Charge, “Our desire to bond and belong outweighs almost every other desire – often even our desire for survival.”Despite our desire for connection and belonging which often requires conforming to our spouse’s needs and wants, we also want the freedom to do, think and feel as we want without challenge or question. This desire for both belonging and freedom is where conflicts in unhappy marriages come from.

    And that’s why learning to understand each other and learning to communicate clearly and compassionately with each other fosters the connection you crave from your marriage.

    One of the first things you can do to improve your connection is to ask your mate what their vision for your marriage is and then LISTEN to what they have to say. This conversation is all about understanding their point of view – not using it simply as an opportunity to tell them all about yours. (Unless, of course they ask you.)

    It takes guts to have this conversation. But by being courageous, you begin making your lives together better.

  2. Caring – You can only build a great marriage with love expressed as caring for each other. It implies generosity and mutual respect. And among the fruits of caring for each other are attention, acceptance, affirmation, adoration, affection, empathy and respect. (A relationship like that sounds absolutely blissful, doesn’t it?)Notice that I’m not talking about just one spouse being caring. These qualities must ultimately exist in both spouses to turn your marriage around.

    Although I’m not saying there’s no hope if your spouse isn’t currently able to treat you in a caring manner. They may just need to learn how to. If they’re willing to display caring and to accept caring there is definitely hope for your marriage to be happy again.

    For that matter, you may need to learn about caring too.

    Caring is easiest to do in a caring environment. It doesn’t matter if the caring environment is internal or external. When you’re caring toward yourself (internal), it’s much easier to care for others. When you’re around others who are caring (external), it is more natural to care for yourself.

    So, helping your spouse to learn to be caring might be as simple as you caring for them. Yes, it may seem weird, but it’s just a matter of you get what you give.

    (Actually, there’s a more brain science-y way of describing this whole thing by talking about mirror neurons, but it boils down to you get what you give and you get what you surround yourself with.)

  3. Congruence – Congruence in marriage is all about living aligned with who you are, your vision for your life with your spouse and being treated by your spouse in a manner consistent with who they are (which is someone who deeply cares for you).Congruence helps us to feel safe because we know what to expect from each other and ourselves. It’s through lack of congruence that things can get sideways or even completely upside down.

    So how do you start creating more congruence in your relationship?

    You start with your definition of “happily ever after” and boil it down to three words that will remind you of your whole vision. Using the example from Part 1, the three words might be: honor, support and love.

    After you have your three words, you need to put them to use. EVERY time you interact with your spouse think the three words and behave that way. Using our example, that means you would treat yourself and your spouse with honor, support and love.

    By living into the best you and your best marriage, you and your spouse will begin feeling more engaged and happier together.

  4. Competence – It may seem odd to say that competence is an important piece a marriage’s foundation, but it really is! You and your partner both need to know that you’re good at being married and that you each appreciate that about the other.Most couples treat their marriages as just a fact in their lives. They have lost sight of how much more rich and vibrant their marriage could become by gaining competence. (Competence means that you understand what marriage is to both of you and that you each work to successfully create the one you both desire.)

    A natural question is then, “How to you get competent at marriage?”

    You do it by paying attention to your spouse, doing things that support your marriage, being adaptable and resilient when things don’t go exactly as you wish they would (like when you argue), and putting in the effort to make your marriage great!

  5. Freedom – One of the easiest ways to make sure you’re both miserable in your marriage is by trying to control each other. No one likes to feel caged or stifled. And that is exactly how it feels when your spouse tries to control you, isn’t it? (It’s also how they feel when you try to control them.)That’s why freedom is a critical foundation piece of a happy marriage. And I don’t mean freedom without boundaries. I mean a freedom consistent with your marriage vision – ideally your shared vision that you were able to create during your conversation about connection.

    This freedom can also be described as a deep trust that you each bring your best to your marriage and each other. No, that doesn’t mean you never have a bad day or argue. It simply means that you make a conscious decision to be the best you that you know how to be.

Obviously, it’s going to take time and effort to change your unhappy marriage to one that’s less strained. And it’s also not a straight shot. You’ll have times when things go great and times when they don’t.

The key is to evaluate (at least once a week, but ideally after each interaction with your spouse) what you can do better next time.

It’s by focusing on your shared goals for your marriage that you’ll make the fastest progress. However, if you’re working solo on this you’ll still be able to make progress which will challenge your spouse to start working with you to make your shared lives so much better.

But the important thing is that you work on it. It’s only by working on making your marriage better that you have any chance of making it happy.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are contemplating divorce. Should you stay, or should you go is a powerful question and I’m here to help you make a smart decision that will lead to your greatest happiness… whether you stay OR go. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.