I'm at the point of desperation just trying to jolt myself into moving on after my last relationship. I have to get my head into some place other than in his space. I've given myself time to get over him and I just can't. I've been giving my number to whoever asks and I'm on every dating site. I don't know what else to do. Any advice? —L.C.
Stop dating immediately. Once upon a time, some bad adviser told women, "The best way to get over one man is to get another man." It's disastrous advice that's been screwing up relationships ever since. You won't get over your ex by dating someone new. You will just distract yourself from dealing with the pain and loneliness of your current breakup. As tempting as that might sound right now, understand that you're setting yourself up for a cycle of drama and disappointment.
You've described yourself as being at the "point of desperation" and handing out your number like it's a flyer for a new club or frantically trolling the dating sites. I imagine you're looking for the type of man who shows up in Tyler Perry movies to save emotionally troubled black women from themselves — Idris Elba in Daddy's Little Girls, Rick Fox in Meet the Browns, Adam Rodriguez in I Can Do Bad All by Myself, etc. That's the kind of guy my friend Lauryn was looking for the same day she ended things with her then-boyfriend of four years. The new guy was a family friend who'd always has a crush on her, and he, by her account, was "the nicest, sweetest guy ever! He was right there when I needed him," she says. "We didn't part for three months."
But when they did? The first time she was left to her own devices with no distractions, she had a meltdown in the shower. The grieving period she'd been trying to avoid all those months caught up with her. And she had a new problem now, too: She was in a relationship with a guy she didn't really want to be with. "I got what I needed from him and it was time to go. He felt as though the rug was taken from underneath him," Lauryn recalls. "I would never do something like that again as I know it was painful for him, and I wasn't honest with him or myself about how I really hadn't gotten over my ex."
Lauryn was lucky to find a good guy who didn't do her any more damage — even if she did some of her own. More often than not, when the nice-guy type encounters a desperate or broken woman, he runs to avoid just what Lauryn's rebound guy went through. In this stage of grieving, you're most attractive to guys who are experiencing equally emotional turmoil and who will happily exploit the insecurities you wear on your clichéd sleeve.
This is what happened to another friend, Marissa, who went into a tailspin similar to yours after her breakup. In her search for someone to fill her voids — emotional and otherwise — she ended up in a "horrible" one-night stand, made all the worse because that encounter wasn't supposed to be just sex. The back-to-back disappointments pushed her over into a mild depression, from which it took an additional nine months to recover.
If you've given yourself time to get over your ex, it's imperative that you take more time since you haven't yet reached your goal. Many women who find themselves stuck in a rut are there because they've placed an extreme premium on being in a relationship and misinterpret a breakup as a sign of a personal shortcoming on their part. Instead of thinking of ways to move on, they dwell on all the things they could have done differently or daydream about how to get their ex back in the fold. Other women who just can't seem to let go often have placed their former partner on a pedestal and believe that whatever joyous experiences and feelings they had in the relationship can't be duplicated anywhere else.
Those are normal feelings just after a breakup, but if you've been feeling them for so long that even you think it's been too long, it's time to stop harping and start healing — now. Start by accepting that your relationship status does not determine your worth. It is better, in all cases, to be single than to be in a dysfunctional partnership. Once you've got that part down, analyze why your relationship went wrong and what role(s) you each played in its demise. Accept responsibility for your shortcomings and create takeaways that you can utilize to do better in your future relationships. Finally, forgive yourself for your mistakes.
None of these steps is simple and accomplishing them does not happen overnight. Just as if there were physical damage to your body, a broken heart needs time to heal. It is imperative that you allow yourself a chance to recover properly if you want to have successful relationships in the future.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.