Insight or working through your memories of the happiness, pain and sorrow of a lost lover continually reinforces the damage, while not thinking about “him” or “her” weakens the pain.
That’s why traditional therapy prolongs the pain and sometimes makes it worse. Traditional therapy asks you how you felt about “him” or “her.” And asks you what “he” or “she” was like? And why did you feel that way? I don’t ask those questions because, as I’ve just pointed out, going over how you felt and why you felt that way just reinforces all those old thoughts and images. When a new patient comes into my office suffering from the pain of a lost love, I don’t even let her tell me the whole story and I don’t let him go into the details. They have already gone through their story with all of its painful details a thousand times in their own mind.
When you can’t see or touch or talk to “him” or “her” as you usually do, the limbic part of your brain (which is responsible for your emotional life and where a lot of the formation of your memory takes place) where “he” or “she” has been embedded, becomes hyperactive, trying to make those connections.
Hyperactivity in the limbic, or emotional part of the brain, has been associated with depression and low serotonin levels, which is why you may have trouble sleeping, obsess about your former love, shut yourself off from other people, lose your appetite and nothing feels good anymore. Scientists have also detected an associated deficit in endorphins, which modulate pain and pleasure pathways in the brain and contribute to the physical level of pain you feel during a breakup.”
A couple of years ago, while I was clicking through Amazon’s books, I had a hunch. I clicked again and to my amazement, there it was. I was stunned. I’d written “How to Fall Out of Love” over thirty years ago. At the time it caused quite a stir. I was on Oprah 4 times, the Today show twice, five pages in People magazine, and profiled in the New York Times. But all that was so long ago. And yet, there the book was (and is) still in print.
I hadn’t really forgotten about “How to Fall Out of Love”. I’ve treated hundreds of patients, in my practice in Los Angeles, New York, and Paris who were in love and suffering because their love wasn’t returned or because they were in a dead end relationship. When I saw “How to Fall Out of Love” was still in print, thirty years later with no advertising, or PR, I realized it must be because my systematic, step by step program still works.
Of course I knew it works because with many changes and improvements, I’m still seeing a virtually 100 % success rate healing my patients with broken hearts.
If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Yes, the world has changed in almost every way since those days before the Internet, smart phones, personal computers, satellite TV, those long ago days when he wore bell bottom trousers and she wore flowers in her hair. But one thing hasn’t changed: Human nature hasn’t changed at all.
Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, to bring “How to Fall Out of Love” up to date.
Why do people who barely know each other have sex? A huge number of single adults assume that if they like each other, they’ll have sex on the first date.
And then they wonder why they feel empty and unhappy. If the sex was any good it was a miracle because great sex is all about affection, love, vulnerability, trust and communication. You can’t conjure those emotions and skills out of thin air. Especially not with a stranger. Your chances of getting it wrong are very high. Making love to Sally the way you made love to your former girlfriend Joan is like forcing Sally into Joan’s clothes. It’s uncomfortable, awkward and, well, all wrong. Sex with a stranger can hurt either one of you or both. One of you might feel waves of affection. While the other can’t wait to get away.
Great sex isn’t an accident and it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s worth repeating: great sex is the result of the trust, affection, intimacy and confidence between two people who take the time it takes to know and love each other. Some people need more time than others. Of course there are exceptions, there are always exceptions. Sex and love may not be connected. But great sex and love are.
Daily Assignments for Couples
1. Express three appreciations a day: Set aside 10 minutes in the morning or evening (write in in your schedule book as a non-negotiable appointment) and tell your partner three things you appreciate about him/her.
There is only one criterion for the appreciations: they must be genuine; you need to believe what you say.
Appreciations can be small and specific e.g. I appreciate the help you gave me with Katie tonight.
Or they can be global, about general personality traits e.g. You are a very kind person.
2. Today, reduce your criticisms or nagging by one. Each day try for a reduction of one more until you have a new habit: zero criticisms or nagging. If this feels too difficult, switch to an every-other-day reduction.
Keep track of this on a 5×8 index card. Tally your criticisms every day (l l l l l….) and watch them go down.
3. Every other day, spend 15 minutes doing an Intimacy Island. I can’t give you anything more important than this exercise. It has saved numerous marriages; brought couple relationships closer; improved the sex life of many; added newness to a long term relationship where some staleness had crept in:
a. Do 2-3 minutes of relaxation together. Get very comfortable in a quiet place with the phone turned off. (Use the Relaxation on the website; without moving them, study and count your fingertips and then your toes; go away to a beautiful and relaxing image for a minute; take in a deep breath through your nose and as you exhale slowly, say the word “calm” inside yourself (do this 3 times).
b. Give each other one compliment. Large or tiny. It must be genuine. The person receiving the compliment should make good eye contact and say “thank you.” No discounting the compliment (no, I’m really not that good), no shying away from it by looking away and mumbling something, etc.
c. Ask a Discovery Question, something you’d like to find out about your partner or something you think you know but aren’t sure. We all make too many assumptions about the people we love; there are surprises when we ask instead of just guess. Design your own Discovery Question or pick one from this list. Keep the questions light, fun, bubbly. You’ll find other Discovery Questions on my twitter and facebook.