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Can You Mend a Broken Heart?

Dr. Pepper Schwartz answers your questions about healing heartache.

Here is the transcript from the Nov. 22 online chat with AARP's sex and relationship ambassador, Dr. Pepper Schwartz.


Comment from Pete: This is the second time for me and it is like déjà vu. I just want to run but there is no escape. The things that used to make me happy don't matter anymore.

PS: Pete, I don't know what's wrong, but there's always an escape. However, if this is déjà vu, you're either very unlucky, or you've done something to help create the same situation again, which might just be picking the same person again. Or it might be that there are some things in your personality that lead you to feel trapped, angry or depressed. The first thing to do when you seem to be having the same experiences over and over again is to look to your part in this. This is exactly the circumstances to use a friend or family member or counselor to get honest feedback. If you get some insight, you might be able to make this relationship better — because you can change, too. Or maybe it will just help you know how to get of it and to do better the next time.

Question from Molly: My ex-husband is now dating someone much younger than me. We've been divorced for a while but still, this hurts. What's wrong with me? Why do I care what this jerk does? I was fine with the split but not anymore.

PS: Oh, Molly, you're just human (laughs). We all have egos and we don't like being displaced in a way that comments on our own beauty or attractiveness or worthiness. When an ex goes out and gets someone much younger, it often makes us feel much older.  

It can also make us feel unappreciated, to be replaced by someone who has the advantages of greater youth. But, it's only an ego thing, we've all got one. And ultimately you're right, you didn't want him, and he's just proving in another way that some of the things you didn't like about him then are showing now. And he's just showing a side of himself that doesn't suit your values. It may also be that, like other humans, it's not easy to wish good fortune to somebody who hurt you. It's very human, although not entirely flattering, to see your ex happy having new kids, having a lovely partner, and feeling ticked about that. The best answer to all this, of course, is go out and find someone to love for yourself and be deliriously happy. And then, you really won't care what he's doing or who he's marrying.

Question from Jamie: I was in a romantic relationship with a co-worker that ended on okay terms. It's been a year, and I still can't get over her. I know seeing her every day doesn't help ... what can I do?

PS: Well, Jamie, this is a tough one. This is why we don't like to fall in love at work, because it's like a stick in the eye when it ends. I know you don't want to hear this, but if you don't want to take a long time getting over the pain, the best thing to do is to either get a new job or find some way that you can avoid seeing her at this job. The truth is, every time you see her, it's going to reopen that heartache and that desire. Of course, you can follow the advice I just gave for a different situation and that is to work really hard at falling in love again. Because, once you do that, it won't be as hard to see your old lover.

Question from MD: Do you believe in love at first sight?

PS: I believe in lust at first sight. MD, I believe you can see someone across a crowded room and feel a huge attraction toward them and not just a sexual attraction but you're compelled by the whole package. But you can't really know what's REALLY inside that package. You just think you know. Now, you might be lucky. Your fantasy of who that person is might actually be who that person is. If it works, if your attraction is intense and the person just happens to be who you want them to be, then you can tell all these love at first sight stories to your children.

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