Posted by fxckfeelings on September 8, 2011Share This Post
Getting over a relationship can mean a lot of things—a bad haircut, eating entire pints of ice cream, sex with people you wouldn’t normally make eye contact with, etc.—but what’s most important isn’t how you get over it, but what you get out of it. If you come out the other side with bad feelings but great insight, you’re feeling worse but doing way better than the person who feels great but lacks perspective altogether. Those who don’t learn from relationships are doomed to repeat them, no matter how many bad haircuts it takes.
I can’t seem to recover from my wife’s infidelity. Six months ago, when I found out, it nearly destroyed me. I stopped sleeping, and started eating compulsively, and felt depressed and anxious all day. I have a demanding job and we have a 2-year-old son and I simply had to keep going. Now, after months of couples therapy and my wife’s promising to stop drinking and then starting up again, I’ve gotten strangely detached. I don’t think our marriage is going to make it and, on some level, I don’t care. I can’t lose the 20 pounds I gained, I don’t exercise the way I used to, and I can’t seem to get my confidence or happiness back. What more should I be doing?
I want to take this opportunity to congratulate you, not for losing a horrible spouse (that seems both insensitive and obvious), but for becoming a fat, lazy mope. Most people consider “letting themselves go” to be a bad thing, but in this instance, it’s a positive side-effect of recovery at work.
After all, the best measurement of how well you’ve recovered from trauma is not how good you feel. This Sunday marks a rather grim anniversary for many Americans, and after 10 years, some of those people still hurt, and some of those in pain are also in shape. Trauma doesn’t factor into it.
Depending on the trauma and what it means to you, there may be no way to feel good for aa long, long time, no matter what you say or do. What counts is how well you cope with it, and coping well doesn’t necessarily make you feel good or hit the treadmill.
For instance, you’re telling me that you’ve continued to co-manage a growing business and parent a 2-year-old boy despite a severe emotional shock. At any size, that’s amazing. You’ve also accepted the fact that your wife has resumed drinking and is unlikely to get control of other behavior. It’s sad, but you’re not obsessing about what you did wrong or what you should do to change her.
This is the kind of pain you need to have. Not that you deserve it, but life sucks, and it’s far better than the pain that would come with denial, holding on to what you can’t have, or assuming responsibility for things you don’t control.
Indeed, the fact that your weight and appearance come last is also a strength. You’re absolutely right in acting like what comes first is parenting your son, making a living, and accepting what happened. Dieting should never be your top priority.
Exercising would help if you have time for it, but there are times when you don’t, and shouldn’t, have time for it. When the chaos subsides a bit, you can renew your gym membership. For now, be proud that you’ve got your priorities straight, even if you feel rotten and sluggish and look large.
You’ve done the right thing under difficult circumstances for both yourself and your son, so stop mourning how far you’ve let yourself go and instead admire how far you’ve come.
“My heart remains broken and I don’t have the energy I used to have, but I’m doing what really needs to be done and I’m realistic about my options, so I know I’m doing the right thing, even if I feel far from confident about myself and life in general.”
I’ve think I’ve gotten over my last boyfriend, but my friends tell me I still need help. They know that my ex had a fidelity problem and a way of borrowing money from me and not paying it back, but I didn’t tell them about how worried I was that the loan sharks would hurt him (and I knew he wanted to pay me back), so it was more complicated than my friends realized. In any case, I eventually realized he was getting money from someone else and, when I confronted him, he said he couldn’t stand my nagging and that he needed someone who would give him more respect. I was shattered, but I’m OK now, and I don’t know why my friends don’t believe in my recovery.
Once again, the point of getting over a bad relationship isn’t to feel better; as nice as it would be, your top priority in “getting over” something isn’t to land in the sweet valley of bliss (and weight loss). Instead, you get through it in order to learn what went wrong so you can do better next time or, at least, figure out whether there was any way you could have seen the bad stuff coming.
If you feel better without learning something, you won’t feel better for long; there’s always more trouble coming, and no valley in sight.
Don’t try to forget him before first trying to remember what went wrong and searching for warning signs. No matter how shocking a boyfriend’s bad behavior can seem, most guys who have fidelity problems don’t develop them the moment they meet you. They’ve had them for a long time and the behavior problem isn’t invisible if you know where to look (and aren’t blinded entirely by the good feelings that come with a budding romance).
Usually, it’s just a matter of asking straightforward questions about past relationships and getting corroboration from friends and family—the same methods a dumb cop would use. Ask yourself whether your love of romance caused you to turn off not just your inner detective, but your brain entirely.
Trying to protect loved ones from behavior they show no signs of stopping is another red flag, announcing that you have a weakness for your own nurturing instincts. It’s a good thing to protect babies and children, and a terrible idea to protect grown babies from behavior that can take you both down. I suppose he doesn’t see himself as having a problem, and that’s his cross to bear. That you also don’t see it is a big problem for you, and that’s what worries your friends.
Of course, there are smooth-talking-but-bad boyfriends whom no one can see coming—those polished psychopaths who fool everyone because they believe in their own lies and are good at hiding their pasts. If your inquest doesn’t uncover that kind of nutjob, then you have less to worry about, because you didn’t make any mistake other than to have bad luck.
So before you insist he’s in the rearview and you’re feeling great, figure out exactly what you’re putting behind you; do your homework, figure out what went wrong, and then it’s OK to forget about him. As the old saying goes, you don’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been. If you push through the pain and figure out what your last relationship was really about, you’ll be able to go forward without getting over quite so much.
“I’d prefer to put the past behind me, particularly because I’m much more attractive and fun to be with when I’m feeling happy, but I’ve learned more from my mistakes than from the relationships that went well, and I take pride in being a good learner.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname