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Tips for handling a failed relationship on Valentine’s Day

  • Chicago Tribune
  • Published Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, at 12 a.m.

If you are worried about being dateless on Valentine’s Day, take comfort.

“Over 50 percent of adult Americans are single,” said Margaret Overton, author of “Good in a Crisis,” a memoir about the ups and downs of ending her 20-year marriage. “To get through Valentine’s Day right after my divorce, I’d squeeze my eyes shut, cover my ears, and hum really loud to myself – and in a couple of days, it would be over.”

Overton, 55, whose book was released in paperback in January, writes honestly about the challenges of divorcing her cheating spouse, overcoming a brain aneurysm and raising her two daughters. And despite her busy schedule working long hours as an anesthesiologist, she even tried Match.com.

“I think there’s this sense where there are so many people actually on it, that people can’t actually make a commitment,” she said. “Somebody better is always just around the corner. It’s actually counter-productive.”

Here are Overton’s tips for those who are grieving a divorce or the end of a relationship this Valentine’s Day:

• Don’t rush the grieving process. “When I first got divorced, someone told me that for every year that you’re married, expect six months of recovery, and I thought ‘I was married 20 years, it’s not going to take me 10 years to get over this! That’s ridiculous!’ But it was. We split up 12 years ago, but it was really 10 years before I felt good and felt like myself again.”

• Don’t use a space filler. “Many people are looking for space fillers to fill up the holes in their lives and that’s really unfair to the people they’ve chosen for that role. I fell into that trap myself. That’s why I don’t want to date anybody who is recently divorced or recently widowed. You have to be really careful in that situation.”

• Get a therapist. “I think it’s really good to have a therapist if you can afford it. If you can’t, then line up your sane friends and be sure not tell your story to anyone and everybody who will listen. When people’s eyes cross when you’re talking to them, you know you’re going too far.”

• Embrace healthy habits. “I think that you have to take stock of what’s healthy and good in your life and do those things repeatedly. For example, you have to exercise. You have to take care of yourself. Having good life habits will help you get through those difficult times and help you not come out the other side a complete wreck. And while lots of people might want to reach for that glass of wine when they’re going a lonely period, as crazy as that sounds, it really does help to not drink a lot when you’re going through this.”

• Forgive at a pace that works for you. “You don’t want to be a prisoner of your own anger. The process is different for everybody and some people are just more forgiving than others. Some people, by nature, can let go of things and move on and some people hold on to a grudge because that’s their personality and they have a harder time. I was pretty angry for a long time but I’m not anymore and it feels great.”

• Know that things will get better. “I was in a store one day and this woman came up to me and said, ‘Do you know why divorce is so expensive?’ and I said, ‘No, why?’ and she said, ‘Because it’s worth it!’ And I didn’t even know her. I know now that getting divorced was the right choice. When your marriage is wrong and you’re unhappy then divorce is the right thing to do and you will get through it and you will wind up in a better place in the long run. I’m in a much better place now than I ever was before and I’m grateful for that.”

• Keep believing. “I do still believe in love. I even set my older daughter up with someone. … From the moment they set eyes on each other, it was ‘boom!’ It’s so much fun to see, and now they’re getting married in October. So yes, love is out there and I’m a believer.”

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