In my “Dear Wendy” advice column, I’m often telling people (usually to a chorus of “hell yeahs” from the peanut gallery) to dump their no-good, not-right-for-them, space-filler boyfriends and girlfriends. I’m convinced many people write to advice columnists hoping for validation in making those difficult decisions. But, of course, ending a bad relationship is always easier said than done. Check out some tips for leaving a relationship that isn’t working from the Daily Mail, plus a few from yours truly…1. Stop making excuses for his bad behavior.
“People show us who they are all the time, we just have to be brave enough to listen. Stop making excuses for him, and suddenly you can see your relationship far more clearly – and whether you still want to be part of it.”
If a friend told you her boyfriend was doing and saying the things your boyfriend does to you, what advice you might give her? Now turn that advice on yourself. Sometimes it’s easier to see the truth when we imagine it’s someone else’s truth.
2. Don’t waste more time defending your mistake.
“No one wants to be proved wrong, which is why so many of us choose to stick with a bad relationship rather than admit we made a bad choice. But staying in an unhappy relationship for five years is a mistake – and staying in it for a lifetime is a catastrophe. Far better to stop defending the decision you made way back when and start considering a new decision based on what’s happening now.”
Don’t think of yourself as having made a mistake; think of yourself as making the right decision to leave something that doesn’t work for you. What could be more right than that?
3. Remember who you used to be.
“Women are also more likely than men to make changes during a relationship, and it’s easy to forget you were once an independent person with an enjoyable life. Now is the time to review those changes. Perhaps there are friends you stopped seeing because he didn’t like them, or interests you no longer had time for? People who socialise recover more quickly from a break-up, and being with friends who are fond of you feels good.”
4. Set new relationship standards.
“Choose behaviours that have hurt you in the past, and begin each sentence with: ‘I will not go out with a man who… doesn’t do what he says he will / makes me feel stupid / refuses to talk about the future / never has any free time.’ [...] Always bear in mind that it’s far easier to choose well in the first place than attempt to change a person six months down the line.”
5. Believe there is someone better out there.
“Don’t be put off by a string of bad relationships. It doesn’t mean you’re hopeless at picking people – we’re all guilty of showing our very best side at the beginning. It just means that when the danger signs started to show, you chose to ignore them. Being ‘unlucky in love’ simply means you haven’t got out of bad relationships fast enough.”
Breaking up with someone wrong for you just means you’re that much closer to being with someone who’s right for you.
6. Don’t expect to be happy immediately.
“The reason so many people rebound back into bad relationships is because they expect to be happy the minute they leave. But you left to give yourself the chance to find happiness. It’s like cleaning out a room so you can start to repaint.”
Also like cleaning out a room, things have to get messy before they’re re-organized. Expect the mess and give yourself plenty of time to clean it up. The pay-off will be space you feel good in, and eventually that disorganized room you once called home will be a distant memory.
7. Distance yourself immediately.
The temptation to do the slow fade may be great, but in the long run, it’s going to be much easier to move on if you immediately cut off all contact with your ex. That means no “harmless lunches,” no phone calls, no emails, and no texts. Resist the urge to stalk him on Facebook and Twitter, too. In fact, delete or hide him from your friends’ list. Having access to his cyber life is a crutch. You’re better off learning to run without it right from the get-go. In time, when you feel in your heart you’re healed, you can decide if you want to have him in your life as a friend. When that happens, an email here and a lunch date there may be appropriate, but always pay attention to your internal warning signs. If you feel yourself being pulled back into the drama, let him go forever.
8. Allow yourself to be lonely.
I can’t tell you how many letters I receive from “Dear Wendy” readers that say they don’t want to end their relationships because they don’t want to be lonely. Look, you’re going to be lonely. It’s going to suck. And then … it’s not going to suck so much anymore. And if you give yourself a chance to heal and move on, you’re eventually going to find a new relationship and you won’t be as lonely anymore. Hopefully, you will have learned something and you’ll choose more wisely the next time and your relationship will be great. The only way to get there, though — to get from being in a crappy relationship with someone who’s all wrong for you to a happy relationship with someone great is to allow yourself to be lonely for a bit. It’s not the end of the world and it’s not going to kill you and if you’re like most people, you’ll quickly realize that it’s a hell of a lot less lonely to be alone on your own than to be lonely in a bad relationship.
9. Remember why you ended the relationship.
After breaking up with someone — especially when the loneliness starts setting in — it’s easy to romanticize the relationship and remember the things you really liked about your ex. After all, there must have been some good points or you wouldn’t have ever gotten together in the first place. But it’s important to remind yourself — over and over, if necessary — that the bad outweighed the good. Make a list, if you have to, of all the things you hated about your ex and your relationship, and get that list out and look at it every time you start feeling nostalgic about “the good ol’ days.” “Great kisser” isn’t such a selling point when it’s paired with “cheated on me with three different people.”
10. Take care of yourself.
Give yourself a few days to wallow in your grief with a pint of ice cream and a stack of magazines, but on the third day, rise again. Get yourself outside for a jog or brisk walk. Put away the Haagen Dazs and fill up on healthful foods. Feed your body and nourish your soul with activities that make you feel good. Exercise releases endorphins that “trick” your body into thinking you’re happy. And as the old saying goes: “fake it until you make it.” Pretty soon, you won’t be tricking your body at all. Being happy will be as natural as putting one foot in front of the other. Until then: take it step by step.
Bonus tip: Congratulate yourself for being strong and wise enough to walk away from a relationship that no longer worked for you. It isn’t easy to do, but you’ve given yourself a gift: the opportunity to find happiness on your own and make yourself available for a better relationship in the future. All the money in the world can’t buy a gift that great.