Singles expert Christine Webber has valuable advice for anyone who's on their own after being left by their partner.
Virtually everyone has been dumped at some time in their lives - I certainly have - and it hurts like hell. In fact, rejection is so painful it can give you a sense of being physically ill, or injured. People often feel as though their feet have been cut away from under them, rendering them unsteady and unsure. Frequently, inexplicable physical symptoms crop up, and it's very common to succumb to every cold and tummy bug that's going. Worst of all, rejection tears out your heart, leaving a dull, heavy weight in its place that intermittently - and often when you least expect it - explodes into lacerating pain
This torment makes you long for a time when life was easier, so you tend to hope that your ex will return - sometimes even after a couple of years of single-living. You might feel that if he or she doesn't come back, no one else will ever fill that gap in your life and you'll never find love elsewhere. This is nonsense of course - but grief skews our thinking.
So, how can you get over the pain? How can you learn to live again? How can you start viewing your single status as a fresh and fun opportunity instead of a punishment? How can you stop feeling you're unlovable and unwantable and that fate has marked you out for a lifetime of solitude, misery and bad luck?
Well, the first step towards a new positive future is to finally accept that your ex-partner has gone, and won't be coming back. This means facing your grief and allowing yourself to cry for the loss of your hopes and dreams. I'm afraid that this is a sad and sometimes frightening process whether you're a young lad who has just lost the girl of his fantasies, or a fifty-year old woman whose cruel, philandering husband of 30 years has finally walked out. The important thing to remember is that you WILL get over it. Then you should allow yourself to lean on friends and to talk and talk about your ex until you have no words left to say. You'll know you're getting better when you realise that you're actually bored with the subject yourself. Talking is the key to feeling better. When we talk about our hurt it gradually ceases to have power over us, and step by step we recover.
But during this shattering time, it's vital that you look after yourself properly. In fact you should treat yourself like an invalid, or like someone who's had a terrible shock. Take long, hot scented baths, play music that helps you to let your feelings out, tempt yourself with favourite foods and allow other people to get close to you and to care for you.
After acceptance comes a learning process that will propel you forward into a new and better life. I've devised five points to help you. And each point starts with a letter from the word LEARN, so it's easy to remember.
L stands for LIST. Make a list of all the things about your ex-partner that you DIDN'T like. It may start off small, but if you pin it up in your kitchen so that you see it daily, you'll be amazed at how it'll grow. Remember how he always told the same jokes? Or how she used to get drunk at parties? Or how he put you down in company? Write it all down - and start realising that maybe your lost relationship wasn't so great after all.
E is for experience. After a relationship is finished we tend to think that we can never be loved again. This is barmy, of course, but it's what we believe at the time. However, I want to assure you that there's every probability you'll be loved again. Not by your ex-partner, of course. You won't ever again share exactly what you had in that relationship, but you can have just as important feelings again with someone else. No one can take away the experiences you had in your last relationship. They are important. But you can certainly have similar, or even better, experiences with somebody else.
A stands for appreciation. Appreciation of yourself that is. You need to look at yourself in the mirror and pick out your best features and congratulate yourself on them. Do this often. Another helpful task is to write a list of 50 things that you like about yourself. This might take some doing, but it's a wonderfully rewarding exercise. You see, often when we're dumped, we take the blame on our own shoulders. We mentally beat ourselves up for not being more fun or nicer, or better in bed. want you to stop this destructive thinking and, just for a change, to allow yourself to feel your own goodness. I want you to deliberately recall when you've helped someone, or been kind to a stranger, or put yourself out for a neighbour. Learning to accept and value your own goodness, kindness, beauty and talent is very healing.
R is for re-organising. Unfortunately when you've been half of a couple for a while, many of your friends will be other couples who knew you and your ex. Sadly, some of these people are probably avoiding you like the plague now, fearsome in some cranky way that having you around will make their own relationship more vulnerable to a split. But even if you keep plenty of old friends, this is a time when you need a whole new circle of mates of both genders. Obviously you've done a very positive thing in joining Single Living, but you might also think about organisations like the Ramblers' Association - many new friendships and romances grow over five-mile country walks! Evening classes are another great way of meeting new people - and nowadays there's such a variety of activities to enjoy. Try tap dancing, or cooking, or computer studies or psychology, or Spanish - the list is endless.
N is the most important letter in this acronym. And it stands for NO SEX WITH YOUR EX! Often when you've been apart for several months, your ex may suddenly decide that the grass isn't greener outside the relationship after all. Or perhaps he or she will sense that you're getting your life in order and will feel jealous that you're now in a position to find someone else. Or maybe he or she will just fancy a quick snog, for old time’s sake. This often happens when a dad brings the children home after taking them out for the day. Maybe you put the kids to bed together and then, in a weak moment, you offer him a glass of wine. Soon you're reminiscing about your earlier, happier times and wallop - you're into the hanky panky before you've realised what's happening.
The trouble is that sex and closeness might make you feel loved and wanted temporarily, but it will leave you with more sorrow and confusion afterwards. So, don't do it. Be firm and polite and never give in. If your ex begs to come back and try again, then you can make a decision at some later date about whether or not you'll give it a go - but never have sex before this point. Anyway, the chances are that with all the work you've done on yourself, your ex-partner will be the very last person you want to be with!