Compassionate Counseling

Spiritually-Integrated Psychotherapy and Counseling, a service of CSER

Compassionate Counseling

How to Mend a Broken Heart

The best way to deal with a broken relationship is to get over it; the best time to get over it is now. There’s an old saying that time mends a broken heart. After months or years, the wounds heal and you’re able to get on with your life. But why wait months or years? Why not get over it today? Why subject yourself to one minute of misery, let alone months or years of it?

Easier said than done? Certainly. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible, either.

Having your heart broken is a painful experience. The reason it is so painful is because it is not just one unpleasant feeling: it is three separate feelings all rolled into one. When we experience this three-in-one feeling, we say that we feel “hurt.” 

What are the three feelings that combine to make you feel hurt?

You feel angry. You’ve been let down, rejected, and betrayed by someone you believed loved you. How dare she treat you this way? You tell yourself that he is just one more example of male bastardry and unreliability. If you could get your hands on her now, you’d throttle her. You’d really like to see him suffer.

You feel self-pity. You tell yourself that you don’t deserve this. You were good to him, and now you’ve been kicked in the guts. This is totally unfair and unjustified.

You’re convinced that being rejected by your lover is intolerable and more than you should have to bear.You feel contempt for yourself. You tell yourself that your lover rejected you because there is something fundamentally wrong with you. If only you were a better person, this wouldn’t have happened. She has seen your flaws and doesn’t want you, and it’s likely that no one else will want you either.No wonder you feel hurt. Anger, self-pity, and self-contempt are all painful enough on their own; but when you mix them together you suffer a triple-whammy.

Not only do you feel hurt, but you’re confused as well; you don’t know how you feel. One minute you are angry with your lover, the next minute you’re angry with the world for being so cruel and unfair, and then you’re upset with yourself for being so inadequate.  It’s as though your emotions are in a washing machine being tumbled backwards and forwards. In short, you feel like an emotional wreck.

The hurt that you feel comes on top of the break-up of the relationship. Although it seems like one big problem, it’s actually two problems: (1) your relationship has ended; and (2) you feel hurt. You have two problems for the price of one.

There’s probably not much you can do about the first problem, but there’s plenty you can do about the second one.
You’ll notice that each of the feelings—anger, self-pity, and self-contempt—are associated with certain thoughts and beliefs:
Anger is associated with the thoughts about what a bad person your former lover is and how he deserves to suffer;
Self-pity is associated with thoughts about how unfair the situation is and how you deserve to be treated better;
Self-contempt is associated with thoughts of your own character flaws and personal inadequacy.

The key to feeling better is to change your thoughts from ones that create pain and misery, to thoughts that are less painful. Imagine how you would feel if you thought to yourself, “Thank goodness the relationship is over. She was really getting on my nerves. Instead of feeling hurt, you’d feel relieved that the relationship had ended.

But of course, you don’t think this way; it’s untrue and totally unrealistic. Even though you’d feel better if you believed these thoughts, you’d have a hard time convincing yourself of them because they are so far off the mark.

So, although you want to change your thoughts to less painful ones, it is important that you don’t sacrifice the truth in the process. You want to change your thoughts to ones that (1) are realistic and true; (2) will help you to feel better now; (3) will encourage you to seek happiness and fulfillment in the future; and (4) will allow you to effectively pursue your goals.

The following five steps will show you how to get rid of the hurt and to move on.

  • Make a commitment to yourself. Although it was your lover’s decision to end the relationship, it is up to you to get over the pain. Nobody can do it for you, so you must take ownership of the problem. Nothing will improve until you decide that you’re going to get over her and you’re going to do it now!  Make the commitment to stubbornly refuse to feel any more pain.Give yourself unconditional self-acceptance. Stop blaming yourself for the break-up.
  • Sure, you have your faults; we all do. None of us is perfect, and anyone who gets close to us will see our flaws. But don’t turn your flaws into disasters. Accept the fact that you are a fallible human being, and that there is no law that says you must be flawless. You’re entitled to your weaknesses and blemishes. They are what make you human; they do not make you second-rate or unlovable.Develop unconditional life-acceptance.
  • Life is often unfair: good things happen to "bad people," and bad things happen to "good people." That’s just the way that it is. Hopping up and down and screaming blue murder won’t change that fact. All it does is make you miserable. Accept the fact that life could always be better, but there is no law of the universe that says it must be the way you want it. The universe would be a better place if you controlled it, but you don’t.
  • So stop your bitching and learn to live with it.Give your ex unconditional other-acceptance. Like everyone else on the planet, your former lover is fallible. Now she’s gone and made another mistake: she has cruelly rejected you. All humans have an incurable tendency to make mistakes. His actions represent just one more example of that. But that does not make him a total bastard; it merely proves that he’s human. The longer you harbor spiteful thoughts towards him, the longer you’ll feel angry and bitter. The sooner you accept that there is no law that says he should not have rejected you, the sooner you’ll be ready to move on with your life.
  • Set some goals and make them happen. Instead of dwelling on the past and on what could have been, set your sights on the future. Be proactive in seeking new acquaintances or, if you intend to remain single for a while, make the time to get involved in pursuits that you find rewarding. Commit yourself to the pursuit of your own happiness and fulfillment.Following these five steps will help you to get over the break up of a relationship that was important to you. They will stop you from feeling hurt and bitter and will allow you to get on with your life. They will mend your broken heart.

About The Author:
Will Ross — Long-term practice in the application of REBT in voluntary settings such as a suicide prevention hotline counselor. Training and mentoring of hot line counselors. REBT instruction in areas of parenting, relationship management, and stress management.
* For ease of reading the author has stuck with one gender throughout the essay. The gender was chosen by the toss of a coin.