Susan Elliott has gone through her fair share of love and loss. As an author and certified grief counselor based in New York, Elliott has survived a “devastating” divorce, overcome abuse and lost the love of her life to brain cancer. Now she’s helping others find love after a breakup through her counseling, seminars and a new book, “Getting Back Out There: Secrets to Successful Dating and Finding Real Love After the Big Breakup” (Da Capo Lifelong Books). The following is an edited conversation.
Q: What advice do you have for someone who is grieving over a recent breakup?
A: It’s OK to retreat into your bedroom and pull the covers over your head for a couple of days. But limit the time you sulk and then get back out there. You have to know that there is someone for you and someone who will value you and want to be with you. You just haven’t found them yet. But you’re not going to find them under the covers in your sweatpants, eating ice cream and watching “The Real Housewives of New Jersey.”
Q: What’s the first thing people need to do after a breakup?
A: You have to heal your past. If you’re going back out there, and you haven’t looked at the past relationships and behaviors in those relationships, you’re just going to find the same person again. If you do what you’ve always done, then you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. And one of the things you have to do is look at your patterns.
It’s really hard to put yourself out there in a whole different way, because people want to be in their comfort zone, even if it’s a really bad place to be.
Q: Are some people too rigid with their requirements of who they want to date?
A: Yes. Some things on your list may be negotiable for the right person. I talk about this with my husband; he’s the messiest person I’ve ever known, and I’m a complete neat freak. He was so good in every other way that I had to compromise. We hired a housekeeper. If I hadn’t given in on someone (having to be) neat and clean, I would have missed out. So know what’s negotiable and non-negotiable.
Q: What can people do to get their head in the game?
A: You have to stay positive and see yourself as a person of worth and value, so that other people will see you the same way. You tell the world who you are. When you say, “I’m constantly settling,” then healthy people aren’t going to want to be with you.
Q: Is it OK to go on dates even if you’re not ready for something serious?
A: You don’t have to be ready for marriage to get back in the dating scene. You have to be honest with yourself and others about where you are in the process.
Q: Is there a common misconception people have when someone doesn’t call them back?
A: Sometimes the person sitting across from you on the date has no idea what (he or she wants). When someone (doesn’t) hear back after the date, they think, “What’s wrong with me? Why didn’t they like me?” And it has nothing to do with them. We can’t take other people’s behavior personally.
Q: The work doesn’t stop when a person starts dating again, does it?
A: We have to keep the self-care going once we’re in a relationship. I see people dropping their standards, their affirmations, their boundaries, everything. You have to be strong enough to keep how valuable you are front and center, and that you do things for yourself, front and center. You visit family, you don’t give up things that are important to you, and you don’t give up your hobbies. We can’t give up everything for a relationship.
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