Breaking up and letting go

Our resident Dating Therapist answers your breakup questions

San Francisco therapist Bart Hatler weighs in on how to take charge of your thoughts, process change, and prepare yourself for something new.

How do I get myself to stop thinking about him/her? It consumes my day and mood. How do I distract myself?

It sounds like you’re either at the beginning or end of a romance. Either way, when we start obsessively thinking about someone it usually kicks up a bunch of uncomfortable anxiety and dysregulation. It’s really important to actively get your mind OFF of that person, and onto any other good you can find. What’s good in your life? What good can you find in not being with them (freedom, time for friends, opportunity to grow in other ways, dig deeper into your own appreciation/self-love)? What is good about you that you like/love? In addition, do something with that anxious energy: go for a run, get to the gym, hang out with a friend, journal it out, listen to some great music and get your body moving. Those are a few ideas, but the main point is don’t let your thoughts be in charge of your body. Choose to dig yourself out of the rut and take action in a different direction. It’s an opportunity to learn some new skills that will serve you well in other times of stress.

What’s the point of going on dates if nobody I meet ever measures up to her/him?

If no one ever measures up to your last love, my guess is you haven’t completely let go of him/her. All relationships have strengths and weaknesses and when we fairly evaluate, we can see the good, the bad and the ugly. However, if you aren’t with that person anymore there’s a good chance you’re only recalling the sweet stuff which leaves you with an idealized, fantasy version of them and the relationship you had. Nobody could measure up to that. Can you come up with some things you didn’t like, that weren’t fun, that didn’t work? Try having an honest conversation with yourself (or with a friend) about those things, let go of the fantasy of who they were and let them be a real, flawed human being. And then let yourself start to be open to meeting a new, perfectly imperfect, lovable person.

How long should I wait to start dating? I feel like I need to meet someone new immediately so I stop thinking about him.

How long you wait depends on each person, situation and lots of unique factors. Having said that it’s usually key to your mental and emotional health to process the loss of the relationship and let go of the person so that you’re truly ready and available for a new relationship. Psychological, emotional and physiological attachment occurs when you’re in a relationship and just like any wound or injury, when that get’s severed you need time to heal and repair. The impulse to jump back into something new with someone else is often an attempt to avoid the hurt and anxiety that comes up. Get some support and process through it so that you give yourself and the next potential relationship a fair chance.

Bart Hatler is a San Francisco-based licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, specializing in Couples Counseling and Dating Therapy. He helps successful singles create the love they want in their lives.

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