The Smart Woman’s Guide to Healing from a Breakup or Divorce


Rachel A. Sussman

Three Rivers Press | New York

Copyright © 2011 by Rachel Sussman All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Three Rivers Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York. three rivers press and the Tugboat design are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc. “Phenomenal Woman” from AND STILL I RISE by Maya Angelou, copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou. Used by permission of Random House, Inc. Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available from the Library of Congress ISBN 978-0-307-88509-8 eISBN 978-0-307-88510-4 printed in the united states of america Book design by Donna Sinisgalli Illustrations by randomway/Veer Cover design by Alison Forner 1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2 First Edition





1. A Room of One’s Own: Finding Comfort in the 2. Creating a Support System 3. Nourishing Your Body and Soul 4. Navigating the Emotional Roller Coaster 5. The Rules of Engagement 6. Breakups or Divorces Without Children 7. Breakups or Divorces with Children

Early Stages of Grief

3 15 32 43 69 87 100

8. Grasping the Root Causes of Your Breakup 9. The Most Common Causes of Breakups or 10. Why We Love Who We Love: Understanding
Your Personal Love Map

or Divorce Divorces



11. My Story 12. Letting Go

200 222

13. Creating the Best Life Ever 14. Rebuilding 15. Dating Again
Acknowledgments 329 247 260 289 326



f you have experienced the ending of a romantic relationship, you are not alone. Every day women all over the world suffer from debilitating breakups or divorces. In a split second the life you know evaporates. The pain can feel agonizing, all-encompassing, and eternal. Many describe that the actual breakup and ensuing weeks feel like an out-of-body experience. I often hear women exclaim, “This can’t be happening to me!” Along with the suffering comes a roller coaster of complex feelings: embedded grief, abandonment and fear, guilt, monstrous rage. I’ve witnessed completely healthy people behave insanely when they have been rejected. Right now you may be thinking that your life will never get better and that you can’t live without your ex. I’m here to tell you that life does get better, and not only can you live without him, but in time you’ll see that it is even possible to thrive. Thriving can entail creating an entirely new and healthier life for yourself, including regaining trust, self-confidence, and love. This book gives you the evidence to believe that and the tools to make it happen. So please keep an open mind and allow me to lead you out of your sorrow and into a much improved state. Through the process of loving and losing we have the capacity to learn tremendous life lessons. When viewed wisely and with insight we learn who we are as individuals and as partners. We gain knowledge about what we did correctly, and when we’re astute, we learn where we erred. We come away from the experience fuller and wiser. Although breakups can feel unbearable, we don’t die from them. The old adage “If it doesn’t kill you it will make you stronger” is definitely true in this circumstance. The most interesting humans


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are multifaceted, having experienced pleasure and pain. They have survived, and so can you. Many factors inspired me to write this book. Breakups and divorces are one of the biggest reasons that people come to me for therapy. Over the past several years I have witnessed the demise of lengthy relationships affecting close friends, relatives, and clients. I was moved by their suffering, and incredibly inspired by their strength as they slowly regained their lives and eventually recovered. I too am quite familiar with the unbearable sadness that comes when a relationship ends. Regrettably, I spent too many years nursing a continually broken heart after several failed long-term relationships. I made decisions that weren’t always in my best interest, that chipped away at my self-esteem, and that kept me in a state of suspended melancholy. Never once did I stop to evaluate my behavior or see that there were other ways to live my life. One day a close male friend sat me down and said, “Rachel, you are such a great girl and have so much to offer. I scratch my head wondering why you are constantly dating toxic men when so many nice guys ask you out. I really hope you can figure this out, because I am worried about you.” I trusted this friend—he was kind and mature (the type of guy I never would have dated back then) and we really understood each other. After our talk, I suspected that I had some issues that needed tending when it came to romance. That conversation was the catalyst for what eventually would become my change and growth. I strongly believe that anyone can alter undesirable feelings and behaviors and completely turn his or her life around. You simply need two components: the wish for change and the motivation to do something about it. Sometimes it takes a crisis to get us to contemplate the opportunity for resurrection, and that’s how it happened for me. I committed to figuring out what was interfering with my ability to have a successful love connection. I immediately stopped dating and spent a solid year in counseling, meticulously examining my entire life to search for answers. As difficult as this work was (and believe me, it was tough), I trusted that it was a huge chance for me to come to a place of great understanding, strength, and growth. My

Int ro duction


work eventually paid off and I was finally able to connect the dots and see what had transpired in my earlier life that was driving my less-than-stellar dating track record. From that moment on, I fully committed to an entirely new way of dating—and living. I would not be here today as a happily married woman—and an expert on breakups and divorces—if I didn’t put in my time to take a revealing look at myself and pledge to learning new and healthier behaviors. I am now going to take you on a journey to teach you everything that I learned plus so much more. I can’t wait to watch your sorrow turn into spectacular growth, as did mine. Once I began my initial research for this book, I discovered a few common themes shared by the women I spoke to: • They were ready to begin a journey of personal recovery, and requested the advice, tools, and support needed to make it happen. • They wanted an intelligent and realistic resource—such as a book—for women that deals with both the emotional havoc caused by the ending of a relationship and how to recover and move on. • All were eager to hear tales about other women who had been through similar situations and recovered. I seriously pondered these valuable comments. Women were telling me exactly what they were lacking and what resources they needed to recover. I started meeting with women who had been through difficult breakups or divorces and had survived their ordeals in impressive ways. I then started sharing their stories with others in earlier stages of recovery. Upon hearing these narratives, women reported feeling comforted, validated, and vindicated. One declared, “This is the first day I’ve felt better in months” after I read her a tale with similarities to her own. I had identified the power of shared experience. Just as with addiction, sexual abuse, or physical illness, when a person who is suffering hears from someone who has gone through what she’s


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going through and has come out the other side, she feels understood and encouraged. She feels compassion and validation from a healing community. Additionally, I discovered that the healing went full circle— women were healed by both listening to stories and telling their stories. This is what you are about to experience with The Breakup Bible. Using the ancient art of storytelling, I created a community for you to listen to others who have gone through experiences similar to your own. This will allow you to feel validated, which will expedite your healing. Please allow yourself time to grieve, be comforted, and be educated. You’re welcome to become part of this kinship for as long as you require it.

Our Community
It was of great importance to me to introduce you to a cast of exemplary women who have made their share of mistakes, done their work, learned their lessons, and fully recovered. All of their stories are genuine, yet some of their identities and personal facts have been changed at their request. Although all special in their own ways, just like you, every woman who appears in this book has something profound to offer. I have learned so much from their stories, their hardships, and their bravery—and I hope you will too. They will tell you their tales and leave you with anecdotes. I think that you’ll see a bit of yourself in each one, which will help to validate your own personal experience. Each woman is at a different stage in the recovery process—but all of their suffering has ended and they have moved on. Many proclaim to be leading their best life ever. And one day, so will you. Please understand that these women are your sisters—they are neither more nor less extraordinary than you. Some may be a bit further along in their recovery, but please use that knowledge to motivate and try not to get frustrated. Remember that every woman’s recovery runs along a spectrum, and your healing is unique to you. I have tried to make my community as inclusive as possible. I spoke with women from varied age groups, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, and sexual preferences. Some have children,

Int ro duction


and others are childless. I have discussed breakups with women who were left by their significant others, and those who did the breaking up themselves. There is a myth floating around that those who are left experience more pain than those who leave. This is a complete untruth. Please keep in mind that endings affect us all in profoundly different ways. Some of you have lived through the catastrophe of infidelity, while others have gone outside of your relationship as a remedy for the alienation you have endured from being with the wrong partner. If you discovered your partner’s infidelity, that reality is agonizing. If you desperately wanted to save your relationship and your ex had no interest in that plan, that rejection is awful. But it is equally horrid to live day by day in a relationship where you feel misunderstood, controlled, abused, or lonely, and you are petrified of letting go out of fear or the thought of causing irrevocable harm to your ex or your innocent children. Whether you have been abandoned by your lover or were the one who ended your relationship—we are all in this together. No woman’s suffering is worse than the next one’s, it is just different. It is not for any one of us to judge who has it harder or easier, because it is all messy and difficult. We are a sisterhood here—everyone is invited to read, learn, share, and participate. All that matters is that you are doing the work and giving yourself hugs and accolades along that way. Just the fact that you are reading this book proves so much. If you are determined to recover, rest assured, you will.

How to Read This Book
The Breakup Bible is divided into three sections: healing, understanding, and transformation—my unique and proven method for recovery. In the healing phase I will explain that proper healing is a marathon, not a sprint. I’ll encourage you to be patient with yourself, to care for your body and soul, to build a cohesive support system, and to navigate your emotions. Understanding is a crucial phase that is typically omitted or minimized in books on this topic. In this phase we will explore and eventually uncover the psychological

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ramifications of your relationship choices, patterns, and ultimately, your breakup. Doing this work and “owning” the implications of what you discover is the only closure you will ever need! Understanding also introduces you to many new concepts including the creation of a “Personal Love Map.” Your Personal Love Map was formed the moment you were born. Deciphering your map reveals why you chose your lover, how you behaved in the relationship, and how you mourned your loss. With your emotions in check, and a full understanding of your breakup under your belt, you are ready to be launched into your new life. This is the premise behind the transformation phase. In each chapter, I will give you important information and useful tools that will allow you to experience your breakup and the more challenging aspects of your recovery in healthy and productive ways. Each chapter builds upon the preceding one. At the end of each chapter, I offer a review list that can easily be called upon whenever you need a refresher course. Feel free to read each chapter or favorite sections over and over again. It may also be helpful for you to read with some sticky notes, markers, or a notebook/journal next to you. This book is designed to be a focused and interactive solution—I want you to dig deep, question yourself, and take notes. If you take your time, keep an open mind, do the reading and exercises, and follow the plan, you will recover. You will also emerge armed with new insight and confidence, which will enable you to make better and healthier choices in the future. This book is about hope. You will heal. You will survive. You will thrive and move on to live your best life yet.

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