Cited in LadyLux – How to Let Go When the Relationship is Over

Screen Shot 2014-07-12 at 10.23.43 PMI was pleased to contribute in this terrific piece about how to let go after a relationship is over.

“It is so very hard to let go of a romantic relationship – indeed some say there is nothing more painful than heartbreak – and this is a challenging issue for many of the patients I see,” said Alicia H. Clark, PsyD, PLLC, and a licensed clinical psychologist.

“While conventional wisdom holds that the partner who does the breaking up has an easier time letting go, my clinical experience has shown that it has more to do with how you think about the relationship, and how much you let yourself fantasize about the ‘highlight reel’ memories, and what could have been. Few struggle to let go of the realities of the relationship, but many have a hard time letting go of the fantasy of what they wanted their relationship to be,”

Don’t skew your memories

It’s normal to mourn the good times of a relationship, once it’s over, but it can easily become problematic, Clark said.

“In thinking so much about the good times, and fantasies of what might have been, one’s thoughts of the relationship can become skewed from reality into fantasy. Moreover, this fantasy reverie can become a go-to salve for the painful reality of loss, making it more and more of a part of one’s thoughts. Indeed, as people flock to feel-good movies to dull the pain of reality, patients reveal that their fantasies about their relationship offer them a respite from their pain, even if temporary and fleeting. What many don’t always realize is that every retreat into fantasy comes at the price of keeping us attached,” Clark said.

Interrupting this fantasy process is a critical step in letting go of a relationship. Becoming aware of the negative impact of fantasy can be a key to healing as a more truthful narrative of the relationship is created, Clark said. “This truthful narrative sets the stage for recognizing the choices we have, rather than the choices we wish we had, and sets the stage for moving forward in a way that is adaptive. For the ultimate test of letting a relationship go is being ready for a better one.”

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Alicia H. Clark, PsyD