Psychotherapist Rachel Sussman counsels women through the grief and confusion that often accompany the end of a relationship.
It’s not the Bible you swear on, but many an ex-wife may find herself swearing by “The Breakup Bible: The Smart Woman’s Guide to Healing From a Breakup or Divorce” (Three Rivers Press). In it, psychotherapist Rachel Sussman uses her decade-plus experience to counsel women through the grief and confusion that often accompany the end of a relationship. We recently chatted with her about some of the book’s guiding principles.
Q: You tell women to stop seeking validation and closure from their exes. Why?
A: The person doing the breaking up often feels very righteous in why they made their decision, so they do the breaking up and disappear.
When women keep going back to their ex saying, “I don’t know why you did this. I can change. Those things aren’t true,” the conversations are just brutal. And the more you try to engage your ex, the more you’re chipping away at your self-esteem, which has already been hurt by this breakup. It’s dangerous.
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There are other ways to get closure. Read my book, go to a therapist, talk to a really great girlfriend or sister who will be honest and help you take accountability and move forward.
Q: You also say not to compare your own recovery time to your ex’s.
A: Men often have a hard time sitting alone with their feelings, so they want to schedule themselves 24/7. Or they immediately put themselves on Match.com and start dating. It can be brutal to think about your ex out there having a great time, but in actuality you don’t know what he’s doing and going through at all.
Think instead about a friend who handled herself really well or even a celebrity who handled herself really well. Find someone else in your shoes who’s doing a good job and emulate that person.
Q: This is interesting: As painful as breakups are, not all relationships are meant to last.
A: You have to go through a lot of relationships until you find the person you’ll have the longest relationship with.
When relationships end, they’re supposed to end. Even if 9 out of 10 things were perfect, there was something you were too immature to see at the time or didn’t have the communication skills to work through. You’ve got to tell yourself it wasn’t supposed to work out and the next one will be better.
Q: You suggest writing a “love map” as a way of understanding why you love who you love. Why?
A: The biggest recovery mistake is not figuring out what went on in your relationship. You’ve got to figure out why you chose your ex and how you behaved in the relationship, and how you’re mourning the loss. It’s a time for huge personal growth. Only then can you … get back out there knowing exactly what went wrong and exactly what to do right this time.