How to Mend a Broken Heart

This week I’m delighted to feature a guest post from psychotherapist and author Christine Webber.  If you have angina, talk to your doctor, but if your heart’s broken, you need Christine’s wisdom.

Chris WebberIs there a worse pain in the world than heart-break? I don’t think so.

It can happen if you’re made redundant. Or if a parent or partner dies. But most of us associate it with being dumped. And that is one of life’s truly devastating losses.

You lose your partner. Your investment in the past and future. Your certainty about who you spend Sundays with. And – most distressing of all – you can feel that you’ve lost your judgement too.

As one heartbroken client of mine said: ‘I picked him. Then I put up with all sorts of awful things when we were together – but soldiered on because of our children. Now I wonder what on earth I was thinking when I got together with him in the first place.’

So what can you do to get over your broken heart?

First of all, don’t make things worse than they already are by assuming that life is going to be hateful for ever.

Often, when people are heart-broken they say: ‘I feel rejected, and miserable and low …’ This is entirely logical, and understandable.

But then they compound their distress by saying something illogical like: ‘And no one else will ever love me again, and life will be total hell from now on.’

However, without a crystal ball, they can’t possibly know  that!

broken heart

So, no matter how hurt you are, try to confine your focus to what’s happening now, rather than making painful assumptions about your future.

Secondly, accept that the relationship is totally over. It’s agony acknowledging that your partner has really gone for good – but it’s easier in the long run than living in hope that he or she will have a change of heart.

Another thing you need to accept is that you may never understand why you’ve been dumped. Often people insist that they can’t move on till they know for sure what went wrong. This is a waste of time and energy. Vast numbers of individuals never feel satisfied with the reasons their ex gives them for wanting out. So the sooner you give up on getting a plausible explanation the better.

Next – no matter what the temptation – don’t try to be pals with your former partner. He or she may try to persuade you to stay friends, in an attempt to lessen their own guilt. But this is unlikely to benefit you. You’ve got friends. You wanted your partner to fulfil a totally different role. In time, perhaps you will be able to restore some sort of friendship – especially if you share children – but not now.

Above all, NEVER HAVE SEX WITH YOUR EX. Afterwards, you’ll feel more lonely and wretched than ever.

Of course your ex-partner may hint that he or she has made a terrible mistake. If that happens, you should talk together, have dinner, talk some more …  But don’t let this person join you in bed unless the relationship is fully back on track.

Finally, write a list of things about your ex that you don’t miss. This is very therapeutic. Carry it with you at all times and add to it every time you think of another negative aspect of this person who has hurt you so much.

One day, like the characters in One Night at the Jacaranda, you’ll realise that you’re ready to start dating again, and that you’ve got a whole lot of living to do yet. I can’t promise you when that will be, but it will happen.

Christine Webber is a psychotherapist who specialises in sex and relationship problems, and the author of How To Mend A Broken Heart.

A Bit of a Smokescreen

Not with real smoke, obviously (I gave up years ago and you should too).  Just a smokescreen to conceal what’s on my mind.  So today I’m letting Dorottya from One Night at the Jacaranda do her thing.  If you’re acquainted with Dorottya, you’ll know how appropriate this is.  And she lives on Bensons.

Dorottya tossed her long black hair over one shoulder and lapped up the attention she always got, especially when she wore bright red lipstick and a Romany-style scarf.

red print scarf

She had removed her wedding band, although she doubted if any man would have noticed had she left it on. Men were such idiots, she told herself while bestowing a dazzling smile on the congregated males.

This she had suspected from a young age. Her theory had been confirmed on leaving her home town of Szeged and going to work for her first family in England. Then, her hair had not been so glossy or so black, nor had her teeth been so white, but modern science could do a lot for mousy girls with stained incisors. English lessons helped, though progress was less about pronunciation and more about fluency in body language. By her third au pair job, she had reinvented herself as a femme fatale, albeit one with impeccable references when it came to looking after young children, helping them play creatively, cooking nourishing meals and keeping house. This last au pair posting was a huge success. So successful that she had been promoted to stepmother. 

“Can I get you a drink?” asked a short man whose eyes were too close together.

As usual the women were much better turned out, thought Dorottya. She giggled strategically and replied “I’ll have pink champagne.”pink champagne

“Bubbly, eh? Just like you.”

She could feel his desperate breath as he handed her the glass.  “Thank you.”  He was repulsive and there was no way she was going to hook up with him, as the English expression went.  Still she lowered her eyelashes as she took a sip. He was no accountant, she thought, because you could end up buying lots of expensive drinks on a night like this without seeing a return for your outlay.  And he obviously hadn’t been speed-dating before, unlike Dorottya.

She sighed.  One was forced to find a little fun from time to time. 

Something Special for the Bedroom

Everyone knows you need a sexy bedroom.  So Laure is off to the sales.  There are acres of bedlinens on offer, she realises as soon as she hits John Lewis, but which is going to have the right effect?

Laure is one of the characters from my new novel One Night at the Jacaranda.  She doesn’t normally have trouble making up her mind, but this purchase, she senses, could be crucial.

Back in her student days, it never mattered what the bedroom looked like.  While she’d hankered after a nice set from BHS, her mother packed her off to uni with some hand-me-downs embellished with touches of Tesco Value.  So in her first term Laure’s bed had looked like this:

Did her mother think teh ensemble would work as a chastity belt?

Did her mother think the ensemble would work as a chastity belt?

One orange bedspread. God knows which part of the attic it had been in.

Navy print sheets that were fitted but didn’t quite fit (‘But they’re very nice,’ said her mother. ‘They’re Laura Ashley, darling.’)

A couple of flowery pink pillow-cases because the rest of the navy ones couldn’t be found anywhere.

One weird turquoise duvet cover that should have gone crying and screaming all the way back to the 1970s.

The effect was so loud Laure couldn’t sleep.   Good job that wasn’t what she’d gone to uni for.

So she’d had turned the lights low and painted the walls dark.  Even lighting reminiscent of Luton bus depot couldn’t dampen youthful enthusiasm.  In those days, a pretty undergrad needed romantic lighting and designer bedlinen as much as she needed expensive perfume, which was not at all.  Laure could have dabbed cat’s piss behind her ears and still pulled.

These days it was another story.  She could afford anything but couldn’t get it right.   The past few years had seen a succession of different sheets and covers.  There’s been more variety in her bedlinen than in her men.

Today there was a lovely pinky-purple set on display.  Too girly, maybe?

pink bed

The patriotic look probably appealed to lots of men.  She wasn’t sure it was for her.  Too masculine.  With possible political overtones.

Union Jack bedding

She moved on.  There was always the innocent girl-next-door look like this one, the snag being that she didn’t fancy her neighbour.

the girl next door look

Perhaps she should she go for all-white bedding?

white bedding in a grey room

She walked around the display, twice. Sat on the edge. Languidly removed a shoe, then put it back on again when a couple stopped to stare at her.

The coordinated threads did look rather splendid, with a calm sophisticated presence that would reflect her good taste. Yes, that was the one.  Delighted with her choice, she filled the shopping basket: sheets, duvet cover, pillow cases, a throw and handful of small cushions.

Only when she exited with her bags into the cold air of Oxford Street and the hordes of other shoppers did she wonder:  what if the tea got spilled?

Six Characters in Search of a New Year Resolution

There’s something refreshing and renewing about making resolutions, especially as it happens only once a year.  Here’s what six characters I know have resolved to do.

Ex-con Dan lost a lot of life behind bars, so he wants to make the most of the new year.  Resolution one: he’s going to get a job.  Doesn’t matter what at this point.  Two: he’s going to learn a new word every day.  Useful words to help him go up in the world.  There are plenty of those in the dictionary he just bought.  Three: he’s going to find someone. prisonIt’s a long climb from where he is, but hey, one day at a time. One word at a time.

Her boyfriend may be perfect (he often says as much) but Harriet needs to get her own act together.  First, she’s going to hone her negotiating skills so she gets decent money for the articles she writes.  Second, she plans to break into the broadsheets.  Third, she’ll try to win her first ever journalism prize.  Hopefully this year there won’t be too many entries for the Carrot Consortium awards.  Then again, maybe she should just concentrate on resolution four: staying in the black.  She sighs and shuts her notebook.

GP Geoff is tired of New Year resolutions.  His patients never lose weight or stop smoking.  From January 1 he plans to focus on his own wellbeing. stethoscopeAs every medic knows, erectile problems are often a marker for heart disease or diabetes.  These days his dick is as limp as a lettuce, so he’s obviously on borrowed time.  Fuck it, that’s his resolution sorted.  He’s going to write a will so his ex doesn’t get it all if he snuffs it.

Laure has money, looks and brains.  Still she doesn’t feel beautiful inside, her home looks unloved, and there hasn’t been a man in her life for two years and three months (she doesn’t count Martin from the commercial property department).  The resolutions are writing themselves:

  1. Find someone special
  2. Stop being so critical of myself
  3. Make flat more welcoming.

self help booksThis may take a while.  And a few more self-help books.

Karen has big plans for the coming year.  She’s going to get out more.  Find a job (one that fits in with term-times).  Get her kids to stop fighting.  Buy from more upmarket shops (isn’t there a new Oxfam in Stanmore?).  Karen throws another Lego pirate into the box.  And meet a nice man, of course.Lego modelSanjay has whittled his resolutions down to one.  Beating cancer for another 12 months will do just fine.

If you want to know how it turns out, you can find out by reading One Night at the Jacaranda.

Have you made resolutions for 2014?   I’d love to hear what they are.

Finding a Man: the Sure-Fire 5-Point Plan (part two)

“Get yourself out there” says Rose. “I’ll babysit.”

So far, Karen’s sure-fire dating plan has failed to produce a suitable man (or, as her friend Rose points out, any man at all).

Just to explain, Karen is a mum of four who normally lives between the pages of my novel.  Any mother who’s newly single knows her predicament: lack of time, money, and a decent man.

“You’ve got to leave your comfort zone.  Open some doors.  Go where the fellas are.” Rose hands out wisdom along with a cup of tea.open doorway

Karen hopes that won’t mean betting shops or football matches.  Car maintenance classes might work, especially given the state of her Toyota, but she isn’t sure how attractive she’d be wearing overalls and Castrol GTX.

The gym, of course!  Then she thinks of her shapeless boobs, wobbly thighs, and a bladder that might not stand up to 5 minutes on the cross-trainer.   She’s after male interest, not abject pity. 

“I heard about this mingle” says Rose.   It’s at a large London library, apparently.  Karen likes books though she’s not sure how many she’s finished since her kids arrived.

On the night, she puts on a Primark dress and tucks a paperback into her bag.  You’re meant to take a book to swap at the mingle.  The Women’s Room will do nicely. Karen doesn’t need reminding that shit and string beans take over your mind.

When she arrives, there seem to be about 60 people there already.  She’d have got there earlier, only four-year old Edward decided to pull his big sister’s phone to pieces to see how it worked.

Karen puts her Marilyn French on a table.  It joins Sartre, Sebastian Faulks, CJ Sansom, Stephen Hawking and Dickens.

Everyone is offered a piece of paper out of a hat. library hat

Seems there’s a different hat for men.   Karen unfolds her paper. Lady Hamilton.  There’s no guarantee she’ll get it on with Lord Nelson, but a free glass of wine is on offer for those who find their missing half.

That’s why people are circulating, talking books, music, folding bicycles and other singleton stuff.

“I got cheap tickets.  Great production.”

“Goes right past the dome of St Paul’s.”

“Yeah, but you feel miles better next day.”

Nobody seems to be fretting about their offspring.    A white-haired man bumps into Karen.  “Are you Heloise?”

She’s not, so off he goes.  She watches him as he weaves his way through the crowd, his desperation increasing as woman after woman shakes her head.

An incredibly tall man bends down double and starts talking to her.   He’s Tristan, not Lord Nelson.  He spends two minutes asking Karen about her job (none at the moment) then wanders off to track down Isolde.

Sometimes it’s tough to be optimistic without wine.   Karen buys a large glass of red but it doesn’t make her feel any better.

Romeo and Juliet have already found each other..  Now they’re comparing notes on their daily commutes.

The white-haired man comes back to check she’s not Heloise.   He looks crestfallen when Karen says she’s Lady Hamilton.   There’s no sign of Lord Nelson.   Posh is deep in conversation with Becks.   Fred is with Wilma, and Napoleon, who’s an Aussie, is describing his fitness regime to Josephine.

Nobody has talked to Karen since Abelard.  It’s all very well leaving your comfort zone, but intense discomfort is counter-productive.

She finishes her drink and leaves early, grabbing a book from the Swap Table on her way out.  What’s so wrong with The Women’s Room anyway?

***

‘When your body has to deal all day with shit and string beans, your mind does too’, said Marilyn French in her debut novel The Women’s Room.  See Valli’s Book Den http://srivallip.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/the-women-room-by-marilyn-french.html

Finding a Man: the Sure-Fire 5-Point Plan

You’ve got to be organized, especially when you’re a single mum with four kids.  Karen’s good at lists.  Most of them look like this.

RSPCA memo pad

Karen is a character from my forthcoming novel, but if you have kids you probably know her. Her latest list is a plan.  A sure-fire 5-point plan to find herself a man.  Here goes:

1.  Be optimistic

2.  Look great at all times

3.  Network

4.  Go where the men are

5.  Leave comfort zone

OK, so she hasn’t met anyone since Tom moved out six months, but it shouldn’t be rocket science. After all, she used to be in HR.  She’ll get her man.

Point 1:  easy.  Karen’s always upbeat.  Her motto is ‘It’ll be fine’.  It’s simple, easy, and versatile.  It can be shouted when your 8-year old’s team is 7-0 down, as was the case last Sunday. Which sort of worked, because Damon didn’t let in any more goals after that.

All may not be fine, Karen admits, unless she implements 2 Look great at all times.  She learnt that lesson trying to flirt at the recycling centre when she looked like one of the totters.  Now she brushes her hair, applies lippy, and wears matching shoes even if she’s only doing the school run.  The other morning Charlotte watched critically from the doorway (she’s 10. Critical’s what she does).

“Mummy, why do you need mascara and blusher just to go to the bank?”

“You never know, sweetheart.  Suppose I run into Harry Potter in the high street?”

Karen has a new get-up too.  It’s for everyday wear, instead of the joggers that are only suitable for the garden, ideally on the compost heap.  She hadn’t been looking for new clothes, but she was in Sainsbury’s walking down the wrong aisle, which had a lot in common with her wedding.  Unlike her ex-husband, it was 25% off and came with double Nectar points.  

Sainsbury's signThe top isn’t quite the right size, but Karen fixes that in no time.  If she doesn’t raise her arms, nobody will even notice the staples.

On to point 3: Network.  Not so much using LinkedIn as mining existing contacts.  Surely somewhere there’s a friend of a friend who knows a single guy who isn’t an axe-murderer.  Karen doesn’t have the nerve to ask every mum at the school gates if they have a brother or a discarded husband/lover/toyboy, but she drops a few hints.

The outcome is the dinner party from hell, with single bachelordom represented by a monosyllabic quantity surveyor with personal hygiene issues.  Her hosts aren’t speaking to each other, which makes the evening as fun as a conference of Trappist monks.  The dinner is a roast and the meat wasn’t local.  Karen chews in dutiful silence, trying not to think of live lambs trapped for hours in an overcrowded container lorry.

Karen describes the evening to her best friend Rose.

“That’s no use” says Rose.  “You’ve got to go where the real men are.”

Karen recalls a teenage pastime.  “What, like hanging around the barracks and hoping to pick up a squaddie?”

“No, silly.   You’ve got a car.  And you like books, don’t you?”  Rose has a couple of suggestions.bookshelf

Coming soon: what happened when Karen left her comfort zone.

Meanwhile here’s one of dating blogs Karen has been reading http://www.nerve.com/advice

If her kids are still up, she looks at this site instead http://www.nectar.com

Where on earth can you meet someone?

When you’re 30-something, it’s tough to meet people.  I know a couple who met on an allotment, but, when I tried growing vegetables, all I pulled was a bunch of deformed carrots.

Laura has a similar problem.  At uni, men were young, plentiful and persistent.  Now it’s a different story.

She dreams she’ll randomly meet a hot guy while out shopping.  He’ll have eyes like molten chocolate and a French name like Yves.  They’ll swap phone numbers and then – well, the rest will be in soft-focus.   shoppingIn point of fact, the only time she spotted anyone attractive in a shop, she up-ended her handbag in the aisle.  Instead of helping her collect coins and tampons off the floor while begging for her number, the guy turned away and carried on studying tea-bag prices.

Back to dating websites then.  Where she’s 34, called Emma, pretends she’s not a lawyer, and gives a fake phone number.  It’s a pay-as-you-go mobile she can easily discard.  All those phoney layers will have to come off if (or when?) when she meets someone nice.  She’ll cross that bridge when she gets to it.

Geoff is another character out of my forthcoming novel.  He’s a newly divorced doctor, and the nice pay packet no longer makes up for sky-rocketing patient demand and new government diktats every other day.  During his years working in hospitals, women threw themselves at him, and academic awards came equally fast and thick.  stethoscopeBut he’s been a GP for over 10 years now, and the sea is remarkably empty of fish.  GMC guidelines forbid relationships with patients, and he doesn’t fancy the new receptionist, even if the patients adore her.   Plus there’s a new problem now.  He can’t perform as he once did.

Geoff returns the call to the nursing home.  Bad news: 94-year old Mrs Montgomery fell out of bed again so he’ll have to visit.  She seems fine, they say, but as always the staff want to ‘cover’ themselves.

Get yourselves a duvet, thinks Geoff as he gets into his car.

Karen, now.  Men haven’t exactly been beating a path to her dilapidated front door.  No, her best friend tells her, the meter reader doesn’t count.

Newly single, Karen has 4 children and no job.  She’s still confident she’ll meet someone eventually, even if all the evidence so far is against it.

After a clear-out, today she’s headed for the recycling centre.  It’s on her way to the hairdresser’s for a much overdue appointment, via the shoe repairers and the bank.  Why spend more on petrol than you have to?  Karen doesn’t obsess about her appearance, especially when she’s busy cramming her clapped-out Toyota with bags of garden refuse, broken toys, mouldy trainers, 994-piece puzzles, and clothes that her kids have worn to death.recyclingParking her car in front of the containers, she notices a man in a green T-shirt unloading a wardrobe from the back of his estate car.  Nice buns.

He turns to face her.  It’s a Nike T-shirt, and more to the point he has a great smile.  She makes eye contact and returns the smile with a Hi, ready to talk about the wardrobe, or anything really.

He clocks her, but his smile promptly fades.  In fact he hot-foots it back to his car, driving off a lot faster than the 5 mph limit.

When she gets to the hairdresser’s, Karen is ashamed to see in the mirror just how bad her roots have got, how much garden rubbish she has on her sweatshirt and, in short, how bad she looks.

Michael knows exactly where to meet women.  After all, he’s an accountant, so he’s got it planned down to the last detail.  That’s how he does everything, even watching porn.

More to come in my novel on dating. Meanwhile why not take a moment to share your experience of meeting people? I’d love to hear your tips too.