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Handling heartbreak 'Rejection does not make you a reject, it just means they weren't for you'

Mark Fennell shares insights from his new book and some top tips for navigating break ups.

HEALING A BROKEN heart has no definitive timescale. It takes as long as it takes, but the key is to not dwell in misery.

There is a time to process, but try to prevent that time becoming so long that years begin to stack up. I say this because a broken heart can define us if we allow it. We can take on the mentality that we are rejected goods for whatever reason, and live our lives in that mindset.

Rejection by someone does not make you a reject, it just means you weren’t for them. The reason a heartbreak hurts so much is because the rejection is coming from someone we love.

But it is also the disappointment that the dream and plans that we had with that person are all gone into oblivion. It hurts to be hurt. I have here nine keys to help you heal from a broken heart when you feel the time is right and you are ready.

1. Let them go

Make the decision that it is time to let them go. If you are still connected to them due to co-parenting, or you see them at work, or they live near you, it is still time to let them go. We are the ones that hold onto them mentally and emotionally, and it doesn’t just stop. It is not easy considering this person was your partner, lover and friend who knew everything about you.

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But you need to decide to remove them from this position in your life. They may have a part of your life still, but they are not defining of your future life. Let them go because that is best for you and them. As long as you are holding them in an important place in your life, they may influence it and prevent you from moving on.

2. Remove the visuals

Remove any photos of you together that might be hanging in your room or house. These can act like subconscious triggers. If there are kids involved, you can possibly put the photos in their rooms, but take them out of prominent positions of eye contact for you and visitors to the house. These images don’t help you move on.

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They stay as a potential reminder of pain and old memories can subconsciously keep you repeating the story that this happiness is gone. Images of you together online should be hidden so that you don’t see them without choosing to. I once had a client who felt he was over his break up but kept feeling sad when he sat in his living room. It turned out there was a photo of his ex on the wall that he had forgotten about. When he removed the photo, the negative feelings in that room went away over time. Don’t underestimate your subconscious.

3. Time to unfriend

The social media connections have to be cut. It might be hard to see what the harm is if you are friends online, but the problem is that you are now in each other’s business. When he or she adds a new friend, shares a photo or video, next thing you know you’ve
spent hours wondering who that person in the photo is. You need to cut ties, otherwise you will get caught on the occasional stalking mission.

Break Through- hi res front cover Mark Fennell Mark Fennell

Trust me, I know it sounds hard, it is hard, you will move on faster when you see their face less. If you have kids together and must be online friends for practical reasons, then mute their posts. But make sure they don’t have a way to watch your life online. They are your child’s parent and not your partner.

4. Boundaries

If you cross paths with them often or have friends in common, you may not want boundaries. But in order to heal, you have to put them in place. Boundaries have proven to be the universal tip for co-parenting couples or former couples who still come into contact, for whatever reason.

Boundaries include decisions to exert self-control when you see them – for example, keeping things civil but not engaging in full-on conversations about how they are and what they’ve been up to.

If you work together, don’t be having lunch together, and if conversations arise, keep them short but not inquisitive. I know you want to know what they are up to but trust me, this is only torturing yourself. If you are in a co-parenting situation, there has to be an agreement to talk only about the kids and if texts or calls are made, they are purely about the children. If boundaries aren’t in place, problems arise when one of the parents wants to ask questions about the other’s personal life, like ‘Who was that parked outside the other day?’ or ‘Are you seeing someone?’

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It’s easiest to put boundaries in place from the start in order to prevent such awkward conversations. It also stops you asking about their lives, which would in fact prevent you from moving on. Sometimes moving job or house is necessary if you cross paths a lot. A change in location can help you heal and move on.

5. The blame game

Self-blame is sometimes a real struggle for some. We pick our personal poison, which we consume by the bucket. We default to ‘it’s me, not them’. If you have been rejected or abused in your younger years, you can now feel that this is the same old story repeating itself, rejected again.

You may wonder what is wrong with you. You weren’t the one for them and that is sometimes how cruel life can be. But it doesn’t mean that you are damaged goods.

They didn’t see the amazing human being you are, and that’s okay. It doesn’t change anything about your future, except the fact they are the one you won’t be spending it with. Remind yourself that no relationship is perfect, so stop remembering it like it was. You are painting an untrue picture of what you had, giving it a meaning that might not be accurate.

6. Distract when triggered

When you are triggered, you need to have a ‘go-to’ plan ready and loaded. Have an intentional thing you will do in the event of being triggered so you are prepared. For example, a woman I coached would always think of her ex at lunchtime, because they always had lunch together as their offices were beside each other. This was actually how they met.

So when it was close to one o’clock she would always be triggered by a thought of him. We created a ‘go to’ by setting an alarm for 12:55 p.m. so that she could call a colleague or friend for a chat. Or she would invite one of her colleagues for lunch.

This new habit broke the cycle and after a long period of time it became her new habit. She didn’t even realise she had forgotten about her ex at lunch till I asked her months later.

7. Draw friends close

Social support has proven to be vital in recovering from heartbreak. Having someone we can simply vent to is crucial. It may be a friend, family member, life coach or therapist.

But having someone you can confide in is so important and proven to help
you heal. Talking is therapy.

8. Routine

Keeping a simple routine is paramount. Go easy on yourself and don’t overwhelm yourself with distractions. But keep getting up and going about your day even when you don’t feel like it.

Cultivate a routine that helps you to take the space and time out for yourself when you just need to have a good cry.

This doesn’t mean allowing yourself to stay in bed all day – when we stay in bed, our pain gets worse as heartbreak becomes all we can think about; it consumes us. Keep a simple routine of getting up and getting out. Go walking, to the gym, or for coffee with friends. Try to avoid the temptation to just stop everything.

9. Forgiveness

This is sometimes needed in two directions: forgiving yourself and forgiving them. Sometimes this is thought of as letting the person off the hook. There is some truth to that, but the greater truth about forgiveness is that it doesn’t mean that the other person has been let away with what they did; it just means that you aren’t holding onto what they did to you anymore. This allows you to move on. You need to forgive yourself for the times you put yourself down, blamed yourself and you told yourself you are no good.

Forgive yourself for treating yourself like that. Forgive yourself for being in a relationship that didn’t work out and for any feelings of letting your family or kids down. Forgiveness is very tough to do, especially when you are on the receiving end of the pain and feel you did nothing wrong. But there also comes a time when we blame ourselves, and to move on from that we must forgive ourselves. I’ll elaborate on forgiveness in chapter 13 and explain why forgiveness is massive in healing.

Why do you want to love again?

Like all forms of stuck, we must ask ourselves what is on the other side of being relationally stuck. When it comes to a new relationship, start visualising the life you want. Pretend if you must that you are a blank canvas, with no baggage, past pain or heartbreak.

With that mindset, figure out what you want and why. This is what you get to work on visualising for yourself. Acknowledge that you may have come through a storm and you don’t feel like loving again, but that the long-term view of your life tells a different story.

It says that although you feel stuck and hurt now, how would you feel in five or even ten years’ time if you did nothing? It is with that state of mind you get to work – for the sake of your future self.

Mark Fennell is a high-performance life coach and mentor with a 20-year track record, renowned for his deep understanding of the human mind, psychology and performance. He has worked with many global corporations, individuals and teams. He appears regularly on the BBC, RTÉ, Virgin Media, Newstalk and other major TV and radio networks. His new book, Break Through is out now. More at

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