post relationship stress disorder? 3 tips for keeping your shoes on

**originally posted on my column at elephant journal 2013

Break up number 1,067: The straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back.

You didn’t eat for a week. You couldn’t sleep well for a month. You wondered if you would ever laugh again. You hurt. Deeply.

I understand—I’ve been there.

Now, time has passed, and you’ve had thoughts of throwing yourself back in to the dating world. But you fear that it will be bad again, that it will end in more hurt. So you sit and do nothing. You’ve given up.

Why would anyone want to live their live that way? I’m not entirely sure, but I see it all the time. That fear of it being bad again really is the only logical guess. Fear that the same pattern will keep repeating.

Married? Unavailable? You run when you get close? They run when you get close? Sex issues?

I’m not certain which it is, but we all fear it nonetheless.

Every time you meet someone new, no matter how wonderful, no matter how much they show up, you wait for the other shoe to drop.

How do we come back from the depths of a soul sucking relationship? You know, the one that, in retrospect, you would have preferred eating your own face off instead of staying? How do we get back in the ring with post relationship stress disorder?

If you haven’t read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, I highly recommend it. When you re-enter the dating war zone these “agreements” can save you from a potential meltdown situation, and keep you out of the past. I’m not suggesting that this is a quick fix. It took a bit of chewing gum and spit, a lot of inner work and a ton of loving myself out of the pain. The first two that really made a difference in my life are his agreements; the third is my own.

1. Don’t take things personally.

Ruiz writes, “You take it personally because you agree with whatever was said. As soon as you agree, the poison goes through you and you are trapped in the dream of hell. What causes you to be trapped is what we call personal importance. Personal importance, or taking things personally is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption everything is about me… (pg 87-88) When we really see other people as they are without taking it personally, we can never be hurt by what they say or do. Even if others lie to you, it is okay. They are lying to you because they are afraid. They are afraid that you will discover that they are not perfect.”

“I’m running late.” “I can’t make it tonight.” “What did you do to your hair exactly?”

It’s OK. Breathe—it’s not personal.

2. Don’t make assumptions.

As Ruiz states says:

“We have the tendency to make assumptions about everything. The problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth. We could swear they are real. We make assumptions about what others are doing or thinking—we take it personally—then we blame them and react by sending emotional poison with our word. That is why whenever we make assumptions, we’re asking for problems. We make an assumption, we misunderstand, we take it personally and we end up creating a whole big drama for nothing.”

We all know the old saying about assuming. (Or should I not assume that?)

A hot woman comments on his Facebook page. It’s just a comment. What if he likes her? You panic. No one is going to take out every other attractive person on the planet, genocide style. If you are having an irrational fear, call anyone but him. Be confident. Why? Because you are unique. He had to cancel because he said he was sick. He’s either actually sick, in which case I’d bring him some soup, or he’s lying through his teeth and out with another woman.

If it is the latter, best you know now anyway.

3. Don’t let your past predict your future.

Easier said than done, right? If you start with the simple reality that the new person in your life isn’t the old one, it’s a great beginning. It’s not to say that they aren’t an asshole, but they aren’t the same asshole. It’s not to say that they are either. They may be everything good that you can imagine but you won’t know until you give them a fair shake.

We all get affected by past experiences. It’s okay. It makes us who we are and hopefully makes us stronger. I can find 12 million reasons not to date again. My ex-husband got re-married. I had a guy end it with me via email. I dated the master of emotional unavailability, several times. His actions did not match his words. Not once.

The reality is that my ex-husband found the right person for him. Why would I not be happy for him?

And email guy? Why would I think that not having him in my life is a loss?

It’s all about perspective. It’s key to getting back in the ring , not expecting the other shoe to drop and getting back out with your heart intact if things don’t work out.

When we really see people as they are; humans, with their own set of faults, it’s easier to grasp that it isn’t about us. No one is perfect. I know that I’m not. Sometimes two people aren’t perfect for each other. Sometimes two people are perfect for each other for a while, then lessons are complete, and we can let go with love. Sometimes two people are forever.

I may have days where I find that opening the dating door may be a bit scary, but I will never let it slam shut solely based on fear.

I’ll keep my shoes on—and if he’s lucky, perhaps they’ll be black stilettos.

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