In this compassionate book, marital therapist Andrew G. Marshall brings thirty plus years experience working with couples to explain how to recover from a break-up the healthy way. Whether you are the leaver (the person who has initiated the split) or the sticker (who has been questioning whether this is the right choice), he covers:
- Knowing when to stop trying and accept the inevitable
- Emotional first aid to make it through tough times
- What helps and what hinders recovery
- Making sense of your break-up
- Helping your children cope
- How to fly high again
|Publisher:||Health Communications, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.40(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
STEP 1: DENIAL
Human beings are not comfortable with change. We want things to stay the same. Nowhere is this instinct more apparent than in our relationships. When we tell our beloved 'I love you,' there is an implicit promise that we'll be therecome what may, for richer for poorer, for ever and ever. So there is nothing sadder than a couple arriving in my counseling room with one claiming 'it's over' and the other hurt, shocked, and puzzled but wanting to 'save' the situation. Sometimes it seems that each person has been in a different relationship and neither can understand the other's viewpoint.
If your partner has recently decided that you have no future together, the news can be simply unbelievable. Especially if, like many people in this situation, you have been motoring along reasonably comfortably. There might have been disagreements and attempts to try harder but it seems impossible that things have got this bad. What's more, you have a lovely home, beautiful children, and have spent many years together. Sure there are problems, every relationship has problems, but how could it come to this?
If you have recently announced that you want to end years of unhappiness and countless attempts to 'try harder,' which went nowhere, it can be frustrating that your partner cannot see that the relationship is broken and that it would be kinder to separate without further heartache. Even if you expected your partner to be upset, the full extent of his or her pain, the pleas for another chance, and the angry demands to know why it's over will probably still have left you feeling bewildered. Worse still, no matter how hard you try to explain your decision, nothing seems to get through to your partner.
Therefore this first chapter focuses on helping you understand, or explain, how your relationship reached this point. In my experience, relationships get into trouble for one of five main reasons:
The moment of falling in love is magical. We can't stop thinking about our beloved, it's like we're walking several inches above the ground and the world seems a far better place. Psychologists call this phenomenon 'limerence' and once under its spell, even our beloved's faults become assets: 'It doesn't matter that she has a temper because I can help her tame it' or 'So what if he drinks because I can save him from himself.'
Under normal circumstances, obstacleslike living great distances apartwould be a serious problem. Under limerence, they become just another chance to prove our love. I have counseled couples who met while one was on the run from the law and others where one partner was a heroin addict. All their friends felt that the chance of long-term success for these relationships was slim to zero. However, under the spell of limerence, love is literally blind and these couples plowed on regardless.
Unfortunately, limerence does not last forevernormally about eighteen months to three years. Once its effect wears off, reality begins to intrude. A good example is James and Cathy, who met when they were recipients of organ transplants from the same man. Cathy had lived a very sheltered life: 'Even as a child I'd needed regular kidney dialysis and whenever I asked to go somewhere or do something my parents would say: 'I don't think that's a good idea.' But I never minded too much because they made up for my handicap in other ways.'
When she came for counseling, she reminded me of a china dolleven though she was nearly thirty. James was a complete contrast; he was slightly older, more confident, and a bit full of himself: 'I take life as I find it.' In hospital, they had spent time recovering together and their unique bond quickly developed into love. Cathy's parents violently disapproved. James was not 'good enough' for their 'Princess,' but Cathy was enjoying her freedom and took no notice.
Once limerence began to wane, the couple seemed almost comically different. James would come home and relax on the couch in his dirty work overallswhich was abhorrent to Cathy, whose father worked in a clean office but still had a shower and changed when he arrived home (in case he'd brought any germs into the house). Their rows were particularly destructive because under the influence of limerence, they had never really argued before; they had instead distracted themselves by leaping into bed.
Couples who make the transition from limerence to long-term love learn how to argue effectively and negotiate a way through their differences. Over time, they develop confidence in the 'rightness' of their relationship by surviving crises together and developing a multifaceted bond. This is a real resource on which to build a future. Unfortunately, limerence can bind mismatched coupleslike Cathy and Jameswho wake up and realize they have major problems and nothing to fall back on but fantasies of how life could be together and the memories of the crazy part of falling in love. This scenario is particularly painful when one partner comes out of limerence before the other, realizes that he or she has made a mistake, and their boyfriend or girlfriend is still deep under its influence.
These couples have had long-lasting relationships but the bond has weakened over time and seems more based on habit than love. The children get off to school at the right time, there is food on the table, and the house is clean, but there is very little joy. Sometimes one partner can be very controlling and the other feels that he or she cannot truly be themselves if the other is around.
Whatever the circumstances, the couples develop a 'his and hers' vision of the marriage. Often one partner will be happy enough, enjoying the quiet life and comforts of being one half of a relationship. These people have low expectations but at least they are met. In contrast, the other partner is living a life of quiet desperation. 'I looked around my kitchen. I'd just folded the dish towels and watered my pots of herbs growing on the windowsill and thought: 'There's got to be more to life than this,'' said Martha, thirty-five. 'Philip doesn't like spicy food so I have to smuggle my herbs into my cooking. He seems happy enough with the same old, same old but I want to see the world. I want to have some fun.' She tried on many occasions to discuss her feelings but Philip was happy staying at home.
When the crisis point comes for this kind of relationship, it is very seldom dramatic. 'I'd come back from the grocery store and I was surrounded by half-empty shopping bags. Philip walked into the kitchen. He nodded. He might have grunted but he certainly didn't talk to me. He just made himself a cup of coffee and took it upstairs. I stared at the unpacked shopping and thought: 'If he can't even say hello or offer me a cup of coffee, what's the point?' It was like a blinding flash of clarity in a life of grayness.' When Martha announced she wanted a divorce, Philip was stunned. 'We get on, we have a lovely house, two great children. Isn't that enough?' He offered to make hundreds of cups of tea and he researched a vacation in Venice, but no matter what Philip promised, Martha remained adamant. It had been the final straw. Her underlying vision of the relationship had switched from good enough to broken and their 'his and hers' philosophies of marriage could no longer be reconciled.
Train Track Relationships
These couples work very well as a team. Each partner has their separate sphere: normally he is a successful businessman and she has brought up the children. Their lives run along parallel but separate tracks with little or no crossover. He does not talk about his work and she makes the decisions about the children alone because he's away and does not understand the intricacies of the family timetable. They often have a good social liferevolving around the family or other couplesbut spend little or no time together. Even if they did once have things in common, their central relationship as lovers has been replaced by joint parenting. There is no friction because either they seldom have meaningful conversations or they have traded control in one area (for instance, how money is spent) for no influence in the other (such as what's happening this weekend).
A typical example would be Adam and Jenny who were in their mid-forties but had known each other since college: 'We want different things. I'm very sporty and go potholing and take hiking vacations. Jenny is more 'book on the beach.' That bores me stupid; I'd have to go waterskiing and it's not so much fun on your own. When the boys were younger they joined me but nowadays they're not so keen on vacationing with Mom and Dad.'
Train track relationships are often derailed when the eldest child leaves home. In fact, the most common problem that first-year students bring to university counseling services is their parents' sudden and inexplicable divorce. Without the glue of children and the distraction of their demands, couples wake up and realize that they are strangers. This can be an opportunity to rediscover each other but train track partnerships often fall foul of either one or both of the next two reasons.
©2018 Andrew G. Marshall. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Heal and Move On: 7 Steps to Recovering from a Breakup. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.
Table of Contents
Step 1 Denial 3
Step 2 Crisis 19
Step 3 Adjustment 35
Step 4 Acceptance 63
Step 5 Helping the Children 85
Step 6 Reclaiming Yourself 99
Step 7 Recovering 121
Final Nutshells 135
A Note on the Author 141