Interview with Rachel Sussman, Author of The Breakup Bible

Rachel Sussman, LCSW, is author of The Breakup Bible and a licensed psychotherapist. Below is my interview with her.

-Cuisine

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What do you think are the main reasons couples breakup?

There are many reasons why couples breakup, but the top 10 ones are:

Infidelity, financial and/or career difficulties, addictions, disagreement over commitment, sexual problems, life crisis, emotional or physical abuse, parenting stress, incompatibility/ growing apart, and what I call “dirty fighting” (repeated nagging, criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, and anger). It’s important to have awareness of these reasons to ensure that your relationship doesn’t fall into any of these common pitfalls.

  • What are some warning signs that you are heading towards a breakup (or divorce)?

There has been a shift or a change in a pattern in your relationship. I.e., less sex, more arguing, less communication, less intimacy, spending less time together.

  • What are some ways people can give relationships a better chance for success from the beginning?

One way is to know if someone is the right fit for you within the first three months of dating, and to walk away before you get in too deep if the relationship isn’t good. You can do this by developing better assessment tools (or what I call “radar”) when you are newly dating someone. Be aware of “red flags”. I always say, “People will reveal pretty much everything you need to know about them in 5 dates.” You just have to pay attention, be careful to not drink too much, get into bed too soon, and don’t gloss over something if it doesn’t add up. Also, the more you have in common the better the chance for success. Opposites may attract, but the odds aren’t great that those relationships can last. On the other hand, if you are with the right person, get off on the right foot by discussing life goals, treating each other with kindness and respect, cherishing each other, nurturing the relationship, having fun, and being aware of the reasons why couple breakup.

  • How can people improve their relationship communications skills?

I regularly see couples that are good together in many ways, yet their relationships ends because they are poor communicators.  Anyone can learn how to be a better communicator if they follow a few simple rules:

If something is bothering you that you’d like to discuss with your partner, here are a few suggestions to turn you into a master communicator:

  • Pick your battle – Think before speaking. Are you sure it’s worth bringing this topic up? And if so, what result are you looking for?
  • Choose your moment – Good timing is really important. Ask yourself when might be an effective time to begin this discussion? Don’t start in if your partner is exhausted or in a bad mood, or if you are rushing to get somewhere.
  • Use “I” statements instead of blaming ones – Speak about how you feel. For example, “It hurts my feelings when you say you don’t like to spend time with my friends” as opposed to “You are so antisocial and don’t like anyone, what’s wrong with you?”
  • After you’ve said your piece, sit back quietly and listen.
  • Don’t interrupt – It is rude and will frustrate your partner.
  • Be mindful not to be defensive – Take a deep breath and relax. Behaving in a defensive manner accomplishes nothing positive, and worse, it will aggravate the situation and can cause an escalation.
  • Validate what your partner has said even if you don’t agree. This is a great skill to acquire and it really works well. You can do this by simply repeating back what he or she has said. For example, “I hear that you are saying you do like my friends, but you don’t like to stay out late during the week because it tires you. Is that correct?” This will keep the dialogue going in the right direction.
  • What are some suggestions to help breakup or divorce amicably?

Unfortunately the definition of the word “breakup” doesn’t necessarily connote peace, love and understanding. Still, I always instruct my audience to take the high road (especially if kids are involved). You can be kind and respectful to your partner, even at the end of a committed relationship.  Be mature and tell your partner why you are ending the relationship.  Talk in “I” statements (as opposed to blaming statements). And don’t make poor choices such as getting involved with another partner before your current romance is officially over. You will feel so much better about yourself and your circumstances if you breakup honorably and gracefully.

  • Why is your book geared towards women? Do men not need the support?

Of course men need support, but you can’t be all things to all people. Men and women deal very differently with their emotions. They also heal in diverse ways.  My research uncovered that women prefer to be in a healing circle with women after a breakup, and that’s exactly what I strived to create with “The Breakup Bible.” But stay tuned, there could be a book for men down the pike.

  • How can your friends/family support your after a bad breakup?

Building a support system is crucial after a breakup and I give lots of suggestions on how to do so in “The Breakup Bible”. Family and friends can provide support by validating your experience, offering a shoulder to lean on and an ear to listen to your narrative (talking is important!). They can also help combat loneliness by including you in activities and socializing. And, they can offer humor and hope.

Tell us a bit about your three-phase process of Healing, Understanding, and Transformation.

Recovering from a breakup is like running a marathon as opposed to a sprint. You can recover, but it takes time and hard work. My three phases of Healing, Understanding, and Transformation shape the book in a building-block style that lets the reader move through the process at her own pace.

The main concept behind Healing is that recovery takes time and it can’t be rushed. You must settle into your breakup and start taking excellent care of yourself. You have to build a support system, learn how to navigate your emotions, and if kids are involved, learn how to communicate effectively with your ex.

Understanding why you picked your ex as your lover, how you behaved during the course of your relationship, and how you mourned your breakup, is the lynch pin to a full and healthy recovery.  The explanation and examination of this crucial healing phase is eliminated from all other breakup books on the market. If you press “fast forward” and don’t take the time to fully comprehend these factors, you are endangering yourself to repeat the same patterns and make similar mistakes in all future relationships. You may also be setting yourself up for a life of continual heartache, isolation, depression and disappointment. Skipping this phase and avoiding this revealing work is the main reason why a large percentage of women don’t ever recover from a breakup or divorce. I teach my readers about this through an exercise called, “Creating Your Personal Love Map.” Also, concepts such as taking accountability, letting go, and forgiveness are explored.

In Transformation, the reader is finally out of the depths of her despair. She is now instructed that the past must be left behind, and it’s time to begin building a new life for herself. Many concepts are explored such as rebuilding self esteem, career exploration, volunteerism, expanding your mind, challenging your body, getting a makeover, and finally, dating again. Transformation is a fun section and I give excellent dating advice too.

  • How can someone get over an ex more quickly?

By Reading “the Breakup Bible” and following all of the exercises! It is also helpful if you do not spy on or inquire about your ex. Delete his phone number, de friend him on facebook, take down his photos today.

  • Do you get clients who ask you how to get their ex back, and does that bother you?

No, it doesn’t bother me at all. I have a lot of empathy for people going through a breakup – it’s a very very painful event. If you didn’t end the relationship, it is perfectly normal to want to attempt to get your ex back. Of course my job is to explore the entire relationship with my clients. Often during this process they will realize on their own, over time, that the relationship was broken and needed to end. Once that realization occurs, they will move toward acceptance. That is a powerful moment.

  • If someone is repeating a destructive pattern in their relationships, how do you get them to recognize and correct it?

This is an excellent question and it is discussed in detail in my “Understanding” phase. You can break destructive patterns by creating and interpreting your “Personal Love Map” – my unique and proven exercise which will help you understand why you picked your ex as your lover, how you behaved during the course of your relationship, and how you mourned your breakup. This is the lynch pin to a full and healthy recovery.  These patterns can be broken and once that occurs, it’s thrilling for me to witness people going forward to create much healthier relationships.

  • What advice do you have for managing separations or divorces that involve kids?
  1. After an agreement to divorce has been reached, effectively communicate the circumstances to your children along with your ex.
  • Describe the impending divorce as a unified decision made by adults.
  • Explain the difference between adult love and the love that a parent has for a child. Two very different types of love.
  • Adult love – sometimes it lasts, sometimes it doesn’t.
  • Love for a child – Unconditional. It lasts forever. “We will always love you. We will always be your parents.”
  1. Assure your children that they will be safe.
  • Commit to putting your children’s needs first and settling them in. “Your welfare comes first.”
  • “We will always talk over decisions together that will impact your life.”
  • “Our family is changing, but we are still a family.”
  • Delay dating.
  1. 3.    Agree to be excellent co-parents.
  • Your children didn’t ask for this. You are obliged to be the best parents you can be.
  • Commit to taking the high road and rising above petty concerns.
  • Just because you’re ending your marriage contract doesn’t mean you’re ending your contract to be excellent parents.
  1. 4.    Make a commitment with your ex to never say a bad word about each other to your children.
  • Your child is made up of 50% of each parent. If a parent badmouths the other, the child will experience it as a psychological blow to themselves. “If you hate my dad, you must hate me too.”
  • Badmouthing an ex is very dangerous to your child’s self-worth.
  1. 5.    Put an excellent support system in place for your children.
  • Inform your children’s school and their teachers of the situation.
  • Many schools now offer support groups for children of divorce.
  • Find out what other resources are available to help your kids through what will be a tough time.
  • Socialize with other divorced families to show your kids that they are not strange or different.

 

  • Do you have any last words of advice for our readers who want to move forward from a breakup or divorce?

 

  • Make peace with the concept that full recovery takes time and cannot be rushed.
  • Validate yourself. You are not alone. Millions of people have gone through difficult breakups and divorces and have fully recovered. In time, you will too.
  • Hold on to hope. If you want to recover, and put in the time to do so, you will.
  • Do not run from your feelings. Take the time to sit with and explore them.
  • Build and excellent support system and use it regularly.
  • Commit to fully cutting ties with your ex if you can.  It will accelerate your healing.
  • Do not spy on or inquire about your ex. Delete his phone number, de friend him on facebook, take down his photos.
  • Total recovery requires and honest inventory of your relationship and life history. Pledge to acquire a full understanding about why your relationship actually ended. It will help you build a higher “EQ” (emotional intelligence) and allow you to have enhanced relationships in the future.
  •  Take accountability. You have to understand the part you played in the breakup (even if miniscule) so you do not repeat any negative patterns in future relationships.
  • Don’t date until you are fully recovered.

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