New Year can spark fresh start in relationships
Contra Costa Times (MCT) - Your relationship survived the holidays _ barely. And, while others resolve this month to cut their sugar intake or up their cardio, you know what change the new year brings for you: calling it quits with your boyfriend or girlfriend.
While no breakup is pleasant, it's how you behave after you crush his heart _ or vice versa _ that can have a significant impact on your mood and outlook on future relationships. Sure, feel guilty. Cry your eyes out. Then, toss the tissues, turn off the bad TV, and vow to be a cool ex when and if you see him or her again. Because you know you will. You have mutual friends and swear by the barista at the same Starbucks.
"You can't control the other person, but you can try to leave with integrity," Mandel says. "I don't know too many people who enjoy going through breakups. But I think the more you can reframe it as a learning experience or growing opportunity, the better you'll feel."
And the more gracefully you'll handle dealing with your ex in 2009. We presented Mandel, a relationship expert, with five post-breakup scenarios and asked her to tell us how a cool, drama-free ex would handle it compared with a self-pitying, irrational ex. Enjoy.
A mutual friend has invited both of you to a party. It's been two months since he broke it off with you. Save for a few late-night text messages, you haven't talked or seen each other since. Suddenly, you spot him with a girl you don't recognize.
Cool ex: Hold your head high, walk over to them, introduce yourself and wish them well, Mandel says. "If you feel you've just been kicked in the gut, leave the party early," she adds.
Bad ex: You play games and try to make him jealous. "He doesn't need to be punished," Mandel says. "He's moved on and so should you." Walking over and throwing a drink on his face won't go over well, either, she adds.
It's a Saturday morning. You're chilling at the park with Baxter, the Shih Tzu you share with your ex. The park has special meaning for both of you, as you spent many a weekend there as a couple. You see your ex walking toward you, and she is alone.
Cool ex: Be polite and make small talk. "Focus on Baxter and how he's been doing," Mandel says.
Bad ex: Use Baxter as an emotional weapon, as in, "The dog enjoys my company better than yours," Mandel says. This ex may also try to create unnecessary conflict, such as trying to change the agreement over pet custody again.
As a couple, you enjoyed a close relationship with your family. Now that you've broken up, however, your mom is still in touch with your ex-girlfriend. At times, it feels as if she's even aligning herself with your ex, so you have to hear updates about her life. You are finding it difficult to move on.
Cool ex: This is a common post-breakup issue, Mandel says. She suggests you tell your family that you don't mind them having a friendship with your ex, but that you're asking that they take a temporary hiatus from it. "That way, you can process your feelings and hopefully get more support from your own family," she adds.
Bad ex: A dramatic ex would use this situation to either stir up trouble with the ex's family or alienate his own. Or worse, Mandel says: "He or she would give the family (member) an ultimatum. "Me or her."
It's time to exchange belongings. You've collected all the expensive suits, books and gadgets he left at your house. And he's got some of your best dresses and the special china your mom gave you. You agree to meet up and make the exchange.
Cool ex: Meet in a neutral place, chitchat for a bit, exchange belongings and be on your way. "If it was a rough breakup, I think it's better to leave the stuff on the doorstep," Mandel says. "Unless you guys are friends or see each other frequently."
Bad ex: Use the exchange as a fantasy to see the person one last time or to try to get back together. Also, get caught up in the petty ownership of insignificant items. "Pick battles over the things that might be sentimental or meaningful to you, but don't fight over the blender," she says.
You and your ex broke up a month ago. You had been trying to end it for months, but every time you did, he accused you of cheating. Now, he is spreading rumors about you to friends.
Cool ex: Address the issue with your ex. Says Mandel: "Go in with the best intentions and tell him or her, 'If you have something to say, I'd appreciate if you'd say it to me.'" Then, call the friends and clear the air.
Bad ex: Lower yourself to his standards by calling the friends and talking trash about him. "Revengeful fantasies are fine, but going into the world and trying to be vengeful usually kicks you in the butt," Mandel says. "Drama breeds more drama."
© 2009, Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.).
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