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Dealing with Divorce (or the end of a partnership)

What to do and how to cope with the end of a relationship

Any time a relationship ends you stand a good chance of feeling angry, hurt, bereft - or even worse. There's no such thing as a broken heart, but it can sure feel like your heart is wounded beyond repair, especially if your lover leaves and you thought the relationship was working well. Here is some advice on the ways in which you might find it easier to cope with this situation.

Step 1: Admit that it really is over. There's a real tendency in the human to believe that things will work out, that our lover will come back (perhaps when he or she has seen the error of his or her ways!). But the reality is probably rather different: you need to accept that things are over between you, and focus on moving on to another emotional place and perhaps another relationship.

You will need to grieve the loss of this relationship, and the first step in doing that is to accept the reality of what has happened. Feel your emotions, whatever they may be - rage, anger, hurt, jealously, loss, depression.....but don't let your emotions interfere with your thinking. You need to keep that clear, to help you accept that your loss really has happened, and to work out how you can move on.

Step 2: So, feel your emotions. Loss can be very hurtful; and the emotions that go with it are no exception: depression, rage, insecurity, hopelessness and despair. All of these reflect the power that attachments have over us - we bond with our partners very deeply, and the breaking of those bonds is a cause of much emotional turmoil. Let yourself feel the emotions fully, and see if you can describe them or give them a name. To know that you are depressed, say, can actually be helpful.

It makes sense of your feelings. And so does talking to others, or writing in a journal. To hear others reflect back your feelings and experience empathy from them can be very helpful in coming to terms with your loss. For one thing, you can make more sense of the experience you have gone through. For another, releasing the emotions by talking about them will help you feel them less intensely: and so will any other way you can release the motional energy, for example by running, shouting, screaming, exercising, punching a punchbag or cushion, and so on.

Don't let sex in a future relationship be tainted by the residual guilt, anger or sadness around your past relationships. You may find that you suddenly develop premature ejaculation, or perhaps experience erectile dysfunction, or maybe even delayed ejaculation - see www.retardedejaculationtreatment.org for treatment for delayed ejaculation - in a way you never have before. But the truth is that, while sex is subject to emotional influences, it is entirely possible for you to enjoy great sex with a new lover without dysfunction due to the impact of a previous relationship.

Step 3: The end of a relationship always changes our self-image, whether we are the one left or the one who felt obliged to leave. But this does not mean that you have fundamentally changed as a person: you're the same loveable, dependable, interesting (or whatever) person you were before the relationship ended. It's important that you keep a clear perspective of who and what you are, even after the relationship has ended.

To think or feel that your world has come to an end, or that you are worth nothing without the loved one, is mere catastrophizing. Others will tell you the truth - and though you may not believe them, in the end the positive reinforcement they offer will help you come to terms with the loss. Look after yourself, with plenty of food and exercise. To do otherwise is a sign of a lack of self-care, perhaps even an indication that your self-esteem depended on the presence of  your lover in your life. If that's true for you, then work on raising your self-esteem, perhaps consider seeing a therapist or counsellor to get an objective view of the situation.

The other important thing is not to allow guilt or regret to overwhelm you - there is no point in either of these emotions unless they prompt you to action. Certainly, spending huge amounts of time worrying about the things you may have done, or not done, or what would have happened if you had behaved differently, is a waste of time. Use your energy wisely to process your grief.

Step 4: Live for the moment. It's possible to find pleasure in all kinds of things and situations that don't depend on your lover, even though the memory of them may keep coming back to you as you encounter stimuli that spark off memories of how life used to be. Don't think of all the things that might go wrong now your relationship has ended, such as long lonely days ahead: giving in to this kind of despair is unhelpful, and prevents you from seeing the opportunities around you in the here and now.

Moreover, being able to be "in the moment" while you process your relationship grief will slow down the racing emotions that go through your mind. You can help to anchor yourself to the moment of your life that is happening now, buy taking some clear, firm action: for example, stamp your foot hard on the ground, shout out loud "I'm alive and I'm surviving!" or something equally powerful. As you really attend to what is happening around you right here, right now, you may find you reconnect with the miracle of your life and existence on the planet - even though it may be painful! Most of all, try and let go of the bitterness that can corrupt your enjoyment of the moment.

Step 5: Think of how life was before you met your lover: your friends, your interests, your pastimes. There may be some things there that you can pick up and reclaim as your own. Life changes when we get into a relationship, certainly, but this doesn't mean that the things we used to do become irrelevant or unimportant.

Step 6: Try hard to construct a life that is meaningful for you now. This takes a lot of effort, and it may require changes in lifestyle if you want to avoid the places and events that you shared with your lover. Letting go of shared activities and friends you both had in common can be painful, but you can still find a richer life than your previous one.

You will of course have to devote some time and effort to this process, including taking the risks that come with meeting new people and perhaps engaging in sexual relationships with a new lover again.  Think of it as though you've moved to a new country, where you have to put in effort to meet new people and make new friends. Do what you want to do! This is your time again, you are single and you don't need to live with compromises any more.

Step 7: Hope for the best....with good reason. There are millions of potential lovers out there, and they are all waiting to find a partner who they can love. Of course, if you subscribe to the view that there is only one true love for you, it might be harder to find them,  so open up your thinking to allow the possibility of meeting someone different to your previous lover, someone who can show you a new way of life, new interests, and a different way of being. There is no single way of living the right life: this may be your opportunity to find a new way of life as well as a new relationship.