What’s the best way to get over your first love for w 4 1/2 year toxic relationship?

I was with a man who I loved dearly. He hurt me in many ways. I still want him. Not sure why. I miss him. Though I hate him. Cheater and drugs. I know deserve better but I don’t understand why losing him hurts if I know it’s for the best.
Asked by Hannah

Any break up of a long term relationship is never ever easy and 4 1/2 years is a long time.  No matter where you live or what you do for a living or what support you have.  It is just hard to process.  I am guessing that the relationship is over so will write from that perspective.  So "now what?" is the question to answer regardless.  

The breakup is a life interruption that creates a grief process.  Being “left” (even if our knowing it is for the best or was even our decision) creates sadness, numbness, confusion, anger, frustration, and every other negative emotion, especially after a 4+ year relationship.  I have to think that you saw a future and a life with this person to have so many friends intertwined and a life you knew, to now find yourself alone with no support. Our partner relationships are wired into so much of our daily to dos.

The grief process is one that is helpful to have someone help you with and support you with some grounding techniques to begin to help you move through the phases and get to a place of okay and manageable in your daily life so that you can make some next step decisions. I am glad that you reached out as you must now create a new normal for you. Know that each day with intentional action does help to sort and file what the relationship was and what it wasn't as you move to what's is needed in your life next.

It is common to feel unclear and foggy because typically you are not sleeping well, you may have no exercise routine at the moment, your eating is out of whack and you may not be hydrated.  And you probably still have to deal with the boyfriend in some ways, like seeing pics on social media or perhaps in the same places in your community.  This creates an emotion that is even harder to deal with when you are unclear and feeling out of balance or control.  When I read that there was cheating and drug use, there were times that were amazing in this relationships and times when it was hell.  And typically, you are left feeling, I am not good enough or I should have done something different.

The next steps I would suggest for you are these steps that are completely in your control to gain some certainty in an uncertain time.  Uncertainty creates stress and I want you to feel in control of yourself to then be able to make clearer decisions.  These are simple to give you moments of the knowledge that you are doing the best that you can until there are more of these moments.  May sound too simple, but it helps your brain in ways that you need to experience as the moment.  These are not just my opinion but are rooted in science.

  1. Hydrate - the brain and the body function better when hydrated. 
  2. Movement - 30-45 minutes of intentional movement, even walking, begins to help the stress be alleviate.  Your brain cannot process unless you move.  Sitting or doing things like having endless hours of screen time does not help you move forward.  You can have screen time after you devote the time to move too.
  3. Nutrition - Carb loading or not eating puts the body and brain into a situation where it does not function at the high level that you need right now. Take today and plan out what you know you need to eat.  Have your comfort food after you eat the healthy that you have planned.
  4. There is a great app that has great meditation practice in a way that can be inactive short bursts if this is new to you or in longer segments if this is something you know how to do.  We all have to practice stopping the thought loop that is not helpful to us.  To get more sleep, try the app 'Unplug' to practice stillness for your brain to get rest so that you can have the clarity and presence that you need right now to decide your next steps.  If you are sleeping too much, set an alarm and make yourself get into a regular rhythm of going to bed and getting up.  Circadian rhythm is a very real thing that affects our brain energy and capacity to heal.
  5. Remove the people in your life on social media that it causes you pain to see what they are doing.  It only creates a re-injury right now.  You are in control of what you see so remove them, unfollow them or remove the app for the next 30 days.
  6. Read a book, the 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins.  When your brain starts down the spiral of thinking, the 5 Second Rule is a game changer to stop what is not helping and to start what will.

Lastly, consider having a BetterHelp therapist to help guide you.  We all need coaches and guides in our life when we find ourselves in unfamiliar and unchartered waters. 

Let us know how we can support you in this season of life - Dawn Rochelle, MSW, LCSW