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Make The Best Of Your Breakup


Sure it feels bad right now, but follow these steps and some good can come from your heartache…honestly!

By Elsa Simcik

t’s been two months since my friend Lauren’s boyfriend, Chris, broke up with her. Sure, she sulked for awhile, even got into the ice cream a bit. But now that she’s ready to move on (which she proved by taking down the dart-infested photo of Chris off her wall), she’s setting some new standards.

You see, Lauren’s using her breakup as a learning experience. After all, why make that year with Chris all for nothing? “I refuse to let a failure go without squeezing out an answer from
Have your pals remind you of your ex’s downside.
it,” says Greg Behrendt, co-author of It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken. And you can (and should!) do the same. Here, some post-breakup questions to ask that can make your broken heart much smarter.

What did I like about him?
Now, don’t turn this into a sap-fest, but just consider the traits that drew you to him in the first place and realize which ones you still value. “Even though it didn’t work out between my ex-boyfriend and me — he never wanted to get married, I did — I loved how he was such a gentleman, always opening my door and standing up when I left the table,” admits Chelsea Fredrickson, 28, of Nashville. So now Chelsea can put “chivalry” down as a requirement for her new guy.

What didn’t I like about him?
Grab a couple of girlfriends for this one. “They’ll welcome that conversation,” says Behrendt. Was he possessive? Arrogant? A cheese snob? Once you identify traits that turn you off, you can nip the next relationship in the bud before you spend another year with someone who says things like, “Sliced cheese? Puh-lease!” Seriously: If you bought a car without power steering, you’d never make that mistake again.

What didn’t I like about me with him?
Behrendt recommends that you “go back and look at the whole thing and try to see it as it really was. Ask ‘what was my part?’…. Maybe he was demeaning, but your part was that you put up with it.” So as long as you have your friends over for the boyfriend-bashing game, go ahead and ask them if you changed when you were with him. Were you a bit of a snob when you were together? Too eager to please him? Too busy with your guy to do your best at work? Once you figure out your mistakes, you can say, “Never again!”

How did my relationship with him affect other relationships?
Did you abandon your friends once he came into your life? And when you broke up, did you call them and ask, “So where are we going tonight?” as if you’d hung out with them the whole time? Oops. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in relationships we push our other priorities down the list, including our friends and families. “My family didn’t like my boyfriend (and now I see why), so I didn’t attend Thanksgiving at their house for two years in a row,” admits Tina Sauer, 26, of Pittsburgh. Now’s a good time to take stock and vow not to go down that path in your next relationship.

What would I do differently?
Everybody knows that “what ifs” can consume you, and if you’re not over the breakup yet,
Ask yourself what you didn’t like about yourself when you were with the ex…
you should hold off on this exercise. But if you’re ready, thinking about what you would have done differently could be an enlightening experience.

“I dated a guy for three years and there was always drama,” says Christine Finke, 33, of Houston, “He would pick fights for no reason. But I would never break up with him because I was scared of being alone. After he finally broke up with me, I realized I should have done it a long time ago.” Now that Christine’s free of her drama king, she’s vowed that she’ll never stay in a contaminated relationship just for the sake of having a boyfriend: “I’m so much happier now. I could have been this happy a year ago if I had spoken up!” she admits. Understanding that you can play a more active role in how relationships unfold is a lesson definitely worth learning.

The power of perspective
Asking and answering these questions can be one powerful tool. Behrendt says, “When you look back at the relationship and you have some clarity, you may realize there were maybe five things you liked about the person and 15 things you didn’t like at all.”

Plus, you may notice that there were always some clues. Behrendt says to ask yourself, “What were the things they said at the beginning?” For instance, if you were with the “I’m-not-so-sure-about-this-marriage-idea” guy before, you know that being a “Well-maybe-I-can-change-his-mind” girl doesn’t work.

It’s up to you: Your breakup can be excruciating or educational. But, really, listing everything that was wrong with your ex-boyfriend (and learning from it) sounds so much more appealing than listening to another encore of R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts.” Don’t you agree?


Elsa K. Simcik is a freelance writer in Atlanta. Her work has appeared in newspapers and magazines including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Dallas Morning News, Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine and CNN.com.
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