Moving On and Loving Again

Countless popular songs have been written about relationships – including relationships that have not worked out. We have been told that we will survive, or have claimed that we will never fall in love again. People have been admonished to stand by their man/woman or to go on and kiss him/her goodbye. These sweet, simple concepts may sell CDs, but they don’t go far in helping someone recover from a physically, emotionally, and/or psychologically hurtful relationship and risk being vulnerable again with a new person.

  • What are some of the reasons why people might not want to risk a new intimate relationship? Reasons may include:
  • They were abused in some way by a previous partner
  • Their previous partner cheated on them
  • They thought everything was going well, and their partner surprised them with a sudden breakup
  • Their previous partner went through a dramatic, unexpected change, and more

In intimate relationships, we can become vulnerable in different ways. What feels vulnerable to some may not to others. For some people, being naked in front of another person is the most intimate and risky thing they can do. For others, letting themselves go and having a rip-roaring orgasm without caring what their faces look like or how their bodies respond involuntarily requires a huge amount of trust for them. Still others feel vulnerable expressing emotions.

In any relationship, there are invisible, unspoken lines that we know we cannot step over because the pain would be too great, too irreparable. Using one of the examples above, someone whose partner has trouble being naked in front of her or him will know never to make any kind of disparaging or even teasing remark about that person’s body. Stepping over that line can result in hurt that is immeasurable and often long-lasting. The pain is double-headed – the comment itself is hurtful, but so is the fact that the partner knew what a source of vulnerability it was.

Emotional healing guidelines

The good news is, you can heal from and move past a hurtful relationship. The bad news is, it isn’t easy. Emotional healing takes time, and it takes work. So how does it happen? Everyone is different, but here are a few general guidelines that may help you figure out the best route for you:

1) Talking helps. Far too many people subscribe to the “ignore it, and it will go away” school of thought. Many professionals agree that sublimating or suppressing negative feelings only causes them to fester and grow, not go away. These feelings can then come out in other unhealthy ways, such as being nasty to other people, overeating, smoking, drinking, or using illicit substances, and more. So talking it out is important.

2) Know when to seek professional help. There’s a fine line between when we should seek out our friends and confidantes and when we should seek out a professional counselor or therapist. A few ways you can figure this out are:
     – Was the relationship abusive? If so, a therapist is definitely the way to go.
     – Have you been talking about your relationship with friends and family a lot, and for a long time? If so, you may be stuck in a rut and need some professional help to help move you forward so you can pursue other relationships (and give your friends and family a break!).
     – Are your thoughts about your hurtful relationship(s) affecting your daily functioning? For example, are you staying home from work so you can sit at home and obsess over how much someone hurt you? If so, you would definitely want to work with a counselor or therapist.
     – Are you avoiding social situations? If the thought of getting into another relationship where you could end up vulnerable again keeps you from seeking out social interactions, you might want to talk with a professional about it. It’s completely normal to want to hide from the world post-breakup, but if you are someone who is interested in being partnered, a past hurt does not necessarily need to keep you from trying to find someone who will treat you with love and respect.

In the end, there are always – let me repeat that ALWAYS – risks involved in any kind of intimate relationship. There are no guarantees that any, short or long-term relationship, will work out. There is, however, a pretty set guarantee that you will step on each others’ toes from time to time, argue, and end up hurting each other. How you argue and disagree is an important factor in determining the health of your relationship, as is how you apologize and make up for these hurts. It’s easy to be respectful and loving when all is going well. But when things are challenging or stressful, that’s when our true natures can come out. If we are able to get through the stress without stepping over each others’ lines, we’re in a pretty stable relationship.

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