One of the best lessons I’ve ever learned from somebody else’s therapy session (he was very chatty about his personal business) was to give yourself a time limit on your anger or grief. In this particular case, one spouse had cheated on the other and was flat-out caught in the act. (No lying your way out of that one…) But even though they decided to keep the marriage together, the scorned spouse decided to make the other one pay for it. Every. Single. Day. So off to counseling they finally went. Their very wise therapist said — paraphrasing here because I wasn’t in the room — “Look. You made the decision to stay in this marriage, but if you don’t stop punishing your spouse, it’s not going to work.” He said what you have to do is give yourself a time limit. How long do you need to be angry? To feel sorry for yourself? To wallow in grief? Is it a month? Two months? Six? Whatever that time is, set your time limit. Then go on and flop around in all your dark feelings! Enjoy every miserable minute of it! But when the time limit is up, you’re done!
I can’t tell you how many times I have used that advice. And I’ve found that the older I get, the time I allow myself to wallow in misery have gotten briefer in length. Life is too short! I literally don’t have time for that! In fact, after my most recent breakup, I allowed myself to enjoy the heartbreak. Sure, I played a little too much Candy Crush Soda. I drank a cocktail at home. Alone. And it was a double. And I may have skipped one shampoo too many. But! I experienced my sadness — every dreary, delicious bite of it! And after celebrating my one week dumpiversary, I’m done! Like I said, my time limits have gotten waaaaay shorter.
By the way, back to my friend who offered me his therapist’s advice on setting time limits….The scorned spouse who decided to stay but made the other pay for it every day? So after continuing to punish her husband for the next couple of years, he finally said, “Enough.” Their marriage is now over, which is exactly what she said she didn’t want. So what the hell is this chick’s time limit? Infinity??