This year, instead of a house filled with delight and stockings full of gifts, home for the holidays is taking on a new meaning. Your relationship has been given its walking papers, and suddenly, all you want for the holidays is a shelter from the storm and a soft place to curl up and retreat.
It doesn’t matter if it was a long marriage or a short-lived relationship, if you cared and connected, you may feel like you are on a sleigh ride without the runners, the snow, or even the bells. What was once a season that was joyful and bright has now lost all its charm!
Grieving over your love loss any time of the year is challenging enough, but the holidays bring another dimension of “shell-shock” and darkness to an already stressful time.
Trust me, as a relationship therapist, divorce mediator and a veteran of two divorces myself, I’ve seen it all and I get it. What works in getting over a breakup is a holistic approach addressing four core areas: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. The following are highly effective strategies from the healing section my book Chatting or Cheating, using each of those four core areas to get you on the road to recovery from that breakup — fast.
1. Meditate, don’t medicate. Avoid overusing drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and coffee, and resist the urge to stuff down your feelings using chocolate and food. You’ll only end up feeling worse about yourself. In times of stress, having an extra drink or two, another piece of cake, or downing a quart of ice cream may be tempting, but doing so will only cause you to spiral down into a depression, lose sleep, and gain weight. Instead, take five minutes to sit quietly, meditate, practice yoga or pick up a book that gives you a gift of knowledge, hope or inspiration.
2. Eat healthfully and regularly. Your body can’t function properly without the proper nutrition. Don’t skip meals or resort to convenience food. Treat yourself well; eat wholesome meals that are balanced and freshly made.
3. Get plenty of sleep. There’s nothing better than the gift of sleep to refresh your brain and your perspective. If you’re struggling with punishing, pain-producing thoughts that keep you awake, try this: Keep a journal by your bed, write down your anxieties and imagine them flowing out of you and onto the paper. Say, “I fully release you and let you go. I give myself permission to peacefully sleep.”
4. Exercise your blues away. The absence of pleasure-producing endorphins after a break up can make you feel sluggish and miserable. Exercise increases your endorphins. Join a health club, take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk to work, do some yoga, or take a salsa lesson. Make a promise to do something active for 30 minutes a day for 30 days, no excuses.
5. First off, STOP scaring yourself! NO! Your divorce is not the end of your life. It’s not the end of your family. It’s not the end of your happiness, and it’s not the end of having cheerful holidays. Your body automatically responds to the messages you say to yourself. Replace your negative thoughts with positive responses. Think positive. Think opportunity. “I can do this.” “I’ll get through this and move on!” ‘What doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger. I’m getting stronger and stronger.’
6. Feel your feelings. Don’t ignore or stuff them down. Let the tears flow and express your anger. Ignored emotions will only make you calloused and afraid. One way of unloading your feelings is to write out what might be too difficult to say out loud to others right now. Or better yet, start a dialogue with your broken heart, asking yourself questions and giving it the solace and attention it needs right now.
7. Surround yourself with smiles and happy vibes. Make time for uplifting things — anything from having a cup of tea with a friend, to appreciating the pretty lights on the houses and tress, to playing a round of golf or whatever you love to do. Be sure to surround yourself with people who are your true supporters. AND hang out with friends who make you laugh. Studies have shown that laughter, or just smiling, has a way of lifting your mood instantly. A funny movie or hilarious TV show is also good. It’s about making the conscious effort to choose activities and people that lift you up.
8. Stop obsessing. Yes! Right now! All those obsessive thoughts and instant replays of “…would have, could have, should have” head trips must stop NOW. The best way to do it is to say: “STOP!” If the thoughts won’t stop, then say, “NO! STOP NOW!” If they persist, then continue, “ENOUGH! NO MORE! STOP!”
Saying “STOP!” interrupts the obsessive thought process and breaks the cycle of pain. Immediately, redirect your thoughts away to something good that is happening in your life.
9. Take regular 60-second vacations. Relaxation is literally a breath away. Anytime you feel stressed, take a minute, slow down and breathe deeply. Thinking relaxing thoughts and verbalizing calming statements starts the healing process and helps you lessen anxiety. Take a deep breath and say out loud, “I am calm, I am safe and I can handle this.” Anything from smelling a flower to petting an animal can help take you away for even a minute, which starts the process of feeling free.
10. Set new goals. You have a brand new year ahead. Where do you want to be this time next year? Use some of your alone time and mental powers to set goals and make plans for getting what you want out of the coming year.
11. Give to others. When you’re depressed, anxious or stressed, there is a high degree of focus on the self. Focusing on the needs of others literally helps shift your thinking and your mood from victimhood to empowerment. Studies show that the happiest people are ones who give the most to others, and what better time of year to put that into practice? Spreading light in the darkness is a practical way of raising your spirits, too.
12. Gratitude is grounding. Have you ever noticed that it’s impossible to feel grateful and depressed at the same time? Gratitude can transform pain into love and bring peace to your emotional chaos. Remind yourself of all the things you’re grateful for. Better yet, write it down. This strategy works miracles for bringing you out of any gloomy mood.
Instead of allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by the breakup blues or thoughts of being newly single, choose to do the activities that will help you feel better: exercise, visiting friends, being kind to yourself and those in need, giving and receiving gifts, etc. The holidays aren’t wasted because you aren’t with your partner anymore. Instead, think of this time of year as an opportunity to reinvest in a healthier, more grounded and more spiritually enlightened YOU.
To see my original post of this article on Divorce Magazine, please click here.
Remember a time when you couldn’t keep your hands off your partner?
One look, one touch, and you’d spend all day glowing in what felt like an all-consuming passion. You seemed to have endless energy and time for romance and lovemaking.
But, now that you’ve been together a while, things have changed.
Your days are now filled with to-do lists and social obligations rather than steamy all-nighters and poetic love notes. When your partner caresses you, you might get sleepy rather than turned on. A nap, posting on Facebook or watching TV might sound better than sex.
You love your partner, but maybe you’re just not “feeling it” anymore.
When we first fall in love, the romantic thrill happens effortlessly because pleasure-boosting hormones create a neuro-chemical cocktail that drive us toward greater intimacy. Nothing is more important than being with that one person who makes you feel like you’re on fire. It certainly didn’t take planning or feel like work to keep the flames of lust burning and your interest in one another growing.
Unfortunately, this euphoria rarely last forever especially when the demands and responsibilities of real life take over.
Suddenly, there’s precious little time or energy left over in your day for an affectionate caress, an intimate conversation, or a night of romance. It isn’t long before your partner seems more like a roommate than a lover. You lay down each night next to a person who feels miles away from you. You begin to wonder if you even know each other anymore. When this emotional disconnect starts to happen, you’re treading into the danger zone.
For monogamous couples, is it just a matter of time before the romance is dead and the relationship begins to drift apart?
Not necessarily. It depends on the little things you do on a daily basis that can mean the difference between a passionate, thriving relationship and one that’s on a slow death walk towards infidelity or divorce.
Is it really possible to keep the passion and romance alive after 5, 10, 20 years together?
Giving each other a daily dose of what I call the 3 A’s—ATTENTION, APPRECIATION and AFFECTION—are the critical factors in keeping any relationship alive with interest, desire and love.
If a nap,(watching tv, being on Facebook, working overtime, chatting with friends) sounds better than making love to you… APPLY these 6 strategies to get the enthusiasm and closeness back PRONTO!
Try this. Leave a love note on their pillow, stuck in their purse, briefcase or book they’re reading. Bring home a special treat you know your partner will love. Text, call or email them to say, “I’m thinking of you.” Write a list of all the reasons you love and appreciate them and whisper each one into their ear. Sometimes it’s the little gestures that make the biggest impression.
2. Shake things up.
Break through the ho-hum “I’m so bored” barrier that often plagues long-term relationships by learning something or doing something new together. Sharing activities of mutual interest is the glue that makes relationship work and create happiness. Go ice skating, take a salsa lesson, rent rollerblades, go for a full moon hike, rent a bicycle built for two, or celebrate a milestone other than your anniversary—like the anniversary of the first day you made love. It’s amazing what getting out of your normal routine and pushing your comfort boundaries will do for your love life.
What you focus your attention on, grows. Say “thank you,” offer a hug, pay your partner a compliment—anything that communicates you acknowledge and value how important they are to you and that you appreciate them. Accentuating the positive and what is good in each other and in the relationship is a win/win for both partners. When you feel grateful for the good things in your life, you attract more of those good things to you.
4. Touch and embrace often.
So many couples hold back kissing, touching, or holding each other until they have time or the desire to have sex. Researchers have found that holding hands relieves stress and affectionate touch boosts the body’s feel good hormones. Let’s face it, touch is a fundamental part of our existence since we were born. So even a simple hug each day is actually good for your health and wellbeing. Hold hands. Stroke your partner’s arm or shoulder softly as you walk by. Give your partner a 20 second kiss when they walk in the door or are leaving for the day. Affection is the way to make love all day outside of the bedroom.
5. Create intimate time.
Nothing says “I love you” like spending quality alone time together. Before rushing out the door in a frenzy in the morning, get up one hour earlier and share breakfast in bed, read an inspirational passage aloud, or go for an early morning walk. At the end of the day, instead of plunking down in front of the TV or computer, give each other a massage, take a shower together or do something novel like reading erotic literature out loud or telling each other steamy stories before turning in for the night. Carving out time during the day to be intimate and present to your partner strengthens your bond and builds the desire for affection, setting the stage for great lovemaking.
Talking to each other is one the main tools we use to connect with each other. When we extend ourselves and let our partner know who we are, what we need and how we feel, we open the doors to greater intimacy. Take at least 30 minutes and put out your ‘do not disturb sign’ to the world. Turn off the phone, close the door, and tell the kids, unless there is an emergency, not to even think about knocking. Then, sit down and take a few minutes to breathe and settle in with each other. Ask your partner what he or she needs from you. Take turns. Openness and honesty are essential. The goal is to show more and see more of each other, rather than defend the status quo. It takes time and patience but is worth it.
You get out of your relationship what you invest into it.
When you make daily love “deposits” of attention, appreciation and affection into your relationship account, you’ll be able to maintain a healthy and sexy love “balance”. By following these six simple strategies and making love a priority in your life, everything else in your life will feel a whole lot sweeter.
Imagine for a moment that someone you met on Facebook sent you a message saying they thought you were incredibly sexy and attractive.
If you were in a committed, monogamous relationship and responded with your own flirtatious, suggestive comment, would that be chatting or cheating?
Ricki Lake recently invited me to appear on her show as an expert marriage and family therapist to advise a couple who were struggling through a similar situation.
The couple had been married for eleven years with three children. Gary, the husband, was spending a lot of time on Facebook, and his wife Janet noticed a flirtatious message he had sent to a single friend on the social media site.
Janet wanted to know, was Gary merely innocently chatting with his single friend or was the fact that he was flirting with her mean that he’d crossed the line into cheating?
In these sorts of situations, what I suggest is to apply the rule of the 3 S’s of emotional sex chemistry:
Secrecy: Is your partner keeping their actions and conversations with their “friend” secret from you?
Shared Intimacy: Are they talking about their innermost thoughts and feelings with this other person?
Sexual Energy: Is there sexual tension, flirting and arousal?
Unfortunately, Gary’s situation was applicable to all 3 S’s and that meant that he had crossed the line into cheating.
If you or your partner spend a lot of time on social media sites like Facebook, it doesn’t automatically mean you’re cheating. However, if you’re giving any one person a lot of attention, whether it’s through message boards, text messaging, or on Facebook and Twitter, it’s attention you’re taking away from the closeness you should be nurturing at home.
Every relationship needs a healthy investment of the 3 A’s: Affection, Appreciation and Attention. Simply living in the same house and sharing household responsibilities doesn’t automatically create a healthy relationship. When life gets dull, predictable or stressful, the desire to escape and seek excitement or distraction elsewhere can be overwhelming.
Fortunately, there are easy things you can do to put the spark back into your relationship that will demonstrate to your partner that you still love them, appreciate them and want to stay close:
1. Show your love in unexpected ways. Write a love note or draw a cute picture on a sticky note and place it on their car’s dashboard. Text them to tell them you miss them. Bring home a special treat you know they’ll love.
2. Shake things up. Do something new together. Take a salsa dancing class, rent a canoe, attend a concert, go for a full moon hike…be create with your time together. It’s amazing how busting out of the routine can spice up your love life.
3. Touch and embrace without an agenda. So many couples hold back kissing, touching, or holding each other until they have time or the desire to have sex, because they think that affection is just a prelude to sex. But hugging and cuddling is not only good for your relationship, it reduces stress and increases your wellbeing. Find ways to be affectionate throughout the day, every day.
In my book, “Chatting or Cheating” I explain the 6 top relationship problems that lead to infidelity and may be making you or your partner vulnerable to crossing the line from chatting to cheating online. I also go into depth about cyberchatting and virtual affairs on page 29, where you’ll learn the bio-chemical reasons why flirting with strangers online is so addictive and can very quickly lead to a real-life physical affair.
You get out of your relationship what you put into it. Make love a priority in your life and you’ll reap the sweet rewards in more ways than one.
This article was written by Dr. Sheri Meyers Psy.D., America’s leading love and intimacy expert.
“Love at first sight is easy to understand; it’s when two people have been looking at each other for a lifetime that it becomes a miracle.” Amy Bloom
The “I’m so into you” kind of romantic, adoring love doesn’t naturally have to fade over time. It happens when we stop feeding our relationship with the nourishment it needs: Attention, Appreciation, and Affection. Think of these elements as the prime ingredients that feed the soul of our love.
Let me ask you 3 simple questions. Be honest.
On a daily basis how much…
- Loving attention do you give and receive from your partner?
- Appreciation do you give and receive from your partner?
- Affection do you give and receive from your partner?
Giving and receiving positive Attention, Appreciation, and Affection is at the core of what FEELS LIKE LOVE to most of us on the deepest of levels.
These 3 relationship fundamentals powerfully express:
- You are loved.
- You are valued.
- You are known.
- You are accepted.
While GRAND GESTURES and celebrations are exciting and sensational, LOVE and INTIMACY grow strong, secure and feels safe in the STEADY, READY, & FRIENDLY arms of another’s loving Attention, Appreciation, and Affection. Daily exchanges of the 3A’s cultivate closeness, emotional safety, and more loving behavior.
Dr. Sheri’s 3 A’s Romance Repair Kit
Where are you putting your attention?
If you focus on what is wrong or missing, those are the things that will dominate your perception and drag your energy and your relationship down. When you direct your attention to loving your partner and celebrating what is GOOD, LOVING and RIGHT, it will immediately shift your feelings and improve your relationship.
What kind of daily attention do you give to romance and love in your relationship?
Spending positive, quality time together, communicating, building your friendship, and having fun are all ways to give each other positive attention. There are many ways to say and show “I love you.” No matter how long you’ve been together, do you REALLY know what makes your partner feel most loved by you? When you speak and show attention in the LOVE LANGUAGE of your partner’s heart, romance and intimacy flourish.
Do This Appreciation Check In…
How does your partner know that he or she is valued by you?
Do you express your appreciation and gratitude to each other out loud? How often?
In essence, appreciation involves looking for what is good versus what is bad. Let your partner know OUT LOUD when you are thinking GOOD things about them. It’s just being a little more generous with your praise, acknowledgement and gratitude.
And it’s so easy to do! It’s as simple as giving your partner a couple of compliments a day, a wink of recognition, a hug of thanks. It almost doesn’t matter what you focus on with your appreciation. “Wow, you look beautiful!” “I am so lucky to be with you.” or even “Thank you for sweeping the floor, it looks great.” It’s the recognition that you are appreciating and seeing how important your partner is to the mainstay of your relationship, and in your life.
That sort of seeing, acknowledging, and expression of positive regard communicates so much more than the words convey. The underlying core message you are sending is “I value you.” “You are important to me.” “What you’re doing is important for us.” “Because of you, my life is so much better.” Your partner naturally feels more accepted, loved, and valued. This feeds romance more deliciously than a great dinner out on the town.
“Feeling grateful or appreciative of someone or something in your life actually attracts more of the things that you appreciate and value into your life.” Christiane Northrup
Affection: Keep In Touch
Often, we think affection is sex, or a strategy for having sex. And, that’s certainly one way to communicate your love. But affection is touching heart to heart, not just body to body. It’s your words and open hearted gestures that say I love you and express closeness. It’s stroking each other as you walk by. It’s sending a kiss across the room. It’s making eye contact and really seeing each other. It’s hugging and holding each other. As a matter of fact, being affectionate is GOOD for your health and well being. Doctors have found that touching and being touched helps us to thrive. It takes little time to open our arms to one another and has huge benefits. Giving lots of warm hugs to your partner is a great way to strengthen your ability to give and receive affection.
“Happy marriages begin when we marry the ones we love, and they blossom when we love the ones we marry.” Tom Mullen
I am often asked, is there a way to salvage our relationship after an affair? Is there hope? My answer is, “YES, you can heal!” “YES, you can salvage your relationship!” “There is hope!” I’ve personally counseled hundreds of couples who have successfully survived and thrived after an affair.
In the beginning, after the discovery of an affair, often there is ambivalence, trepidation and fear. It is natural to not feel 100% confident or motivated to repair, heal or trust again. You’ve been hurt and you don’t want to be hurt again. What is vital in the formula of healing is that you BOTH make a conscious decision to begin.
Please note the word BOTH. One person cannot do this alone. Healing can only begin AFTER the cheating partner gives up the lover or whatever the ‘act’ has been whether it be on the Internet, cybersex, prostitutes, an emotional affair, or one that turned physical. This is a non-negotiable.
Although you can’t go back and undo the past events, you can start from HERE to build a happier, more connected, responsive, honest and love-secure future together. THIS is a profound opportunity to transform the damaged dynamics that led to the affair and build a stronger, more secure and lovingly conscious relationship. The truth is that you have nothing to lose and EVERYTHING to gain.
Want to know more? Click here.
Why Your Relationship Needs a Social Media PreNup
After Infidelity - Can a Marriage Be Saved?
Chatting or Cheating: When Does it Start?
Dr. Sheri on CBS's "The Couch"
Cheating on the Web
Why Powerful Men Cheat
The Difference Between Chatting and Cheating
5 Reasons Why Men Cheat
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