People who come to my office for help are in love and in pain. I’m a behavior therapist, and I help stop the pain so you can escape from a nonproductive dream world of unreturned love. So you can love again and be loved.
I first began developing this particular program in response to Laurel, whose partner had suddenly left without warning or explanation the day before their wedding. Laurel and her fiancé were graduate students at Princeton. They shared courses, friends and vacations and they planned to be married the day after graduation and go on to be field anthropologists. The day before graduation, Laurel’s fiancé left (for his parents’ home in Nebraska, Laurel learned later) without a word of explanation. The more she thought about what had happened and why, the more she became obsessed and depressed. After two weeks she still couldn’t bring herself to apply for grants or a job. She felt isolated and felt it must be all her fault. She was so depressed she seldom left the apartment she had shared with her fiancé.
Probably no endeavor on earth begins with higher hopes in the face of fewer chances for success than new love affairs. When the affair or marriage doesn’t “work out” and falls apart for whatever reason, falling out of love is usually a natural, although painful process. Most people can and do fall out of love without help. Time heals, they meet other people, and their lives go on.
On the other hand, for some of us, the loss of a love can be an almost overwhelming obsession and an intense, enduring, immobilizing pain. Being in love when it’s not returned can lead to depression, obsessive thoughts, sexual dysfunction, inability to work, difficulty in making friends, and self-destructiveness.
For all sorts of reasons, some of us hold fast to the memory of love as if it were the real thing.
Love is so precious (real love, false love, or any kind of love) that we fear to let go, afraid of the loneliness, the feelings of rejection, and the anguish. Losing love is so very painful, it’s like losing a part of yourself.
Millions of people are in love and in pain because their love is not returned. Chances are you know several people who are going through the painful process of falling out of love.
Suddenly, without warning, a young research engineer leaves his wife to live with another woman. A graduate student is deserted by her fiancé just before their wedding. An elderly woman’s husband leaves with his young lover for Hawaii. An administrative assistant is in love with his boss who strings him along. A website designer is having an affair with her neighbor but doesn’t want to damage her marriage. A banker falls in love with a client who cannot return her love. A venture capitalist is in love with an alcoholic. A hedge fund manager’s partner falls in love with another man. A love affair ends for the director but not for the actress.
Our whole culture says “love, love, love” is all you need and says it a thousand ways every day. Yes, yes, it’s so easy to fall in love.
But where are the signs to point the way out?
I developed the “How to Fall Out of Love” program from my notes on the first person I ever treated for a broken heart. Of course I realize that poets and song writers have much more to say about the pain of love than any therapist ever could. But I thought I might have something to add. Something that would help people get over their pain and get on with their lives. I analyzed the components of unrequited love: obsessive thinking; putting the person who doesn’t return your love on a pedestal; feeling a strong emotional and sexual attraction for that person; feeling worthless and inadequate; and, typically, intense jealousy about any other relationship that he or she might have.
I then designed ways to change those painful components for the better…
“How to Fall Out of Love” is a painstaking reproduction of an extraordinarily successful behavior therapy program. I wrote it for the millions of people (divorced, separated, or in a destructive relationship) who are suffering and have no idea how to deal with their suffering other than vaguely trying to suppress the love they feel for someone who does not love them, and for people who are in a relationship that gives them only pain.
“How to Fall Out of Love” is a sincere effort to make therapy practical, concrete, accessible, brief, and durable. The point is to stop the pain caused by obsessive thinking about someone who does not or cannot love you and to give you the skills you need to build a new relationship. It’s not a “fun read.” It is a work book, a step-by-step manual on how to stop constantly thinking about someone and how to change the way you think about someone. And how to get on with your new life. As the new cover says, “Someone you know needs this book.”
As I was saying few days ago, the world has changed radically since I first wrote “How to Fall Out of Love”. In that distant time, nobody had heard of the Internet, Walmart, Starbucks and Tim Tebow. Now we connect on Facebook and Zoosk. We Skype, Google and tweet to give our friends the news of our lives with a click. And yet, as much as the world has changed since I first wrote the book, human nature hasn’t changed at all. When love ends today it is just as painful as it was in those distant days before the Internet.
Isn’t it ironic that love, our greatest source of joy, can inflict so much pain?
Half the marriages in the United States end in divorce, casual affairs are common, and there’s a parallel rise in suffering.Perhaps as choices increase and the old behavior codes decline, anxiety rises. Perhaps people are simply more open about their pain.
Whatever the reason, every time I mention that I have a program called “How to Fall Out of Love,” I am swamped with letters and phone calls and personal visits from people who have seen the order of their lives turn to chaos, who suffer emotional devastation and pain and who desperately need help. And now with years more experience, hundreds of new cases, and innumerable improvements to my program, I knew I could make “How to Fall Out of Love” better and I knew I had to renew it.
The more I thought about updating and revising “How to Fall Out of Love”, the more excited I got about the project. So many of my techniques have been vindicated by new discoveries in neuroscience. We know so much more about how the brain works now on a cell by cell level.
So now that phrase from the beginning of the book “if you can learn to unlearn what freedom” is backed up by the new science on how the brain works. You can’t wish for change to make it happen. You can’t just tell yourself to stop thinking about someone who you have been thinking about constantly for months or years. But you can unlearn. And that’s exactly what “How to Fall Out of Love” is, a step by step program to unlearn those obsessive thoughts about someone. And a way to think about them differently.
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.
When twenty-four year old Laurel walked into my office, she was sad, lonely, scared and crying. Like most of us at one time or another, she had become disillusioned to love.
In a forlorn manner, Laurel told me about the man she had been living with for two years. The future plans they had together included both of them adventurously choosing to become field anthropologists after grad school. In fact, that is partially what made Laurel convinced that the love they shared “was meant to be,” and also made it so hard to get over him, as he was not only her now but her forever…And after two years they had a whole life together, they even had classes together and actually planned on getting married.
So it was a terrible shock when Laurel’s fiancé left, with out so much of a word of explanation on the day of graduation.
But the most terrible thing that Laurel could not get over….the very next day was to be their wedding day.
The future that had just so recently shined so bright, was now dull, frightening and not worth it without him. Or so she thought.
In fact, the more she thought about what had happened and why, the more she became obsessed and depressed. After two weeks she couldn’t bring herself to apply for grants or for a job. She felt isolated and felt it must be her fault. She was so depressed she seldom left her room.
Laurel was highly skeptical of therapy, but she was also becoming increasingly worried about what was happening to her life. So, at the urging of a friend, she agreed to see me. I designed a plan of action for her. The first step was thought-stopping to reduce the excessive amount of time she spent thinking about him.
What does making a list that does NOT include him or her do? It helps your mind to learn something new. You weren’t born loving him or her, you learned to love him or her. You can unlearn it and one of the best ways to do that is using the powerful Thought Stopping technique I developed in therapy.
Many people find it difficult though, if not impossible to think of something happy and pleasurable that does NOT involve the ex-him or the ex-her in some way. That is why, in therapy, I often help patients write their list. If you are finding it very difficult or impossible to come up with your own list, you can e-mail me for a therapist referral in your local area if you like. One way to see if your broken heart requires some professional TLC is to take my Broken Heart Assessment. Often, behavior therapy programs take considerably less time to “complete” than traditional therapy. Behavior therapists should be held to the same level of accountability as medical doctors; if you come in feeling horrible, the goal is to get you to feel better ASAP!
Later this week I intend to reveal some specific case histories from my book “How to Fall Out of Love” (available in December) that outlines the falling out of love program. The scenarios of the patients and how they came to be broken hearted and the lists they came up with to help them stop thinking about him or her may be helpful for you in creating your own list of scenes.
One person I treated liked to think of having lunch at a special restaurant in Greve, a charming little village south of Florence, Italy. Another woman liked to think of making lots of money in the stock market and buying a yacht where she would impress an equally successful day trader and the two of them would lead insatiably adventurous lives together. Another man liked to think of vanilla ice cream.
SOOOO!!!!! What’s on YOUR list? Please share as not everyone gets the hang of this right away.