Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bad Love Can Actually be Good for You!


Dr. Gilda Carle

Courtesy of’s Happen Magazine

Have you been burned by an ex? Who hasn’t? Discover the BENEFITS of a bad breakup.

Jeff met Kate online, and they exchanged email messages for the few weeks before they conversed on the phone. There was definitely a connection. When they finally met, the pair felt physical electricity. But suddenly, just 20 minutes into their meeting, Jeff left — just as quickly as he arrived. What happened?

Kate had emerged from a sour marriage two years earlier. Jeff assumed her mourning was over. However, now all Kate did was launch verbal brickbats at her ex. This was Kate and Jeff’s first face-to-face meeting. Within a mere 20 minutes, he decided he wanted OUT. See ya!

Kate’s behavior is typical of someone who never did the necessary healing work after a bad romance. Without even realizing it, many singles contaminate promising futures by bemoaning earlier woes. What healthy hopeful would sign on for a three-party arrangement that includes you and your ex?

Hey, singles, exit your pity party! If bad love happens TO you, make sure it really happens FOR you. There are distinct lessons that emerge from each and every person you’re with. As my Gilda-Gram says, “Whoever touches us, teaches us.” Appreciate the positives that spawn from every sorry story. Suze Orman wisely agrees: “You have to see every potential roadblock as an opportunity and a benefit.” My own dear mother, rest her soul, taught me, “Every knock is a boost.” So selfishly usher in your own brand of sunshine that especially shines for you.

Marilyn was with her boyfriend for years when her guy asked her to check a number on his cell phone. She was horrified to spot messages from assorted women. In my counseling office, Boyfriend later revealed that the burden of hiding his female flirtations became too heavy, and he wanted to be caught. So he had deliberately invited his girlfriend’s surveillance.

This sudden shock forced Marilyn to question why she had put up with this man who was so emotionally distant. Yes, this episode happened TO her, but something better occurred FOR her as she awakened to an overdue lesson she needed to learn! During therapy, she recalled how emotionally absent her father had been while she was growing up. Now she realized she had chosen someone similar and familiar for her love!

After this wretched episode, Marilyn decided she wanted the whole enchilada, not some scrappy crumbs. Today, as they plan their wedding, this couple agrees their relationship would not be as strong as it is had it not been for their crisis.

Adam was another client whose traumatic love turned out to be a good thing. After 15 years of marriage, Adam’s wife was filing for divorce because she said she was bored. Adam did not know what hit him. I asked about the state of his marriage before his wife’s exit. He described a life revolving around their two children. I asked about the bond they had shared. Adam went silent, and finally acknowledged that his marriage had died many years earlier.

For the first time ever, Adam admitted he had not been happy for years. I dared to ask, “Why is your divorce a good thing now?” At first, he thought I was mad. But he concluded, “If not for this blow, I would have continued a lifeless life. You know,” he confided, “my career has also suffered from my lack of spark. It’s scary to think I might have wound up dying from stress.” Ahhh, the cleansing epiphany! Now we could begin our REAL work!

When male cicadas sing to attract females, their chorus is louder in decibels than the sound of city traffic. That’s the kind of “music” new partners enjoy. Couples think this music will continue forever. But they forget that great musicians need to practice. Adam and his wife might have practiced some better communication between them. Instead, they copped to dropping out, misconstruing that salvation later could be found in someone else’s arms. Those who know better, know better!

After months of therapy, Adam emerged a much more confidant man. He joked about his new “Deserve Better” gene. Suddenly, his career surged with a huge promotion. He couldn’t believe what was happening to him, or really, as I pointed out, FOR him. He had not felt this emotionally strong in years!

Part of my healing secret is to require clients to write a letter to their ex — which they would never send — but in which they THANK that ex for the person THEY have become. I am accustomed to the usual recoiling at the very thought of doing this exercise. One woman complained, “Write a letter to that jerk? Oh, sure, Dr. Gilda. And you probably also believe in the tooth fairy!” I had to remind her that she could either hang onto her anger and make herself a permanent victim, or she could forgive her ex and at last be free. This client was actually only a two-day convince. Many others take longer. After this woman wrote that fateful letter, she said she felt the burden of hostility and regret disappear. I didn’t intend to gloat with an, “I-told-you-so,” but this is such a powerful exercise, I couldn’t keep it in!

The same thing happened FOR Adam. He showed me his letter that enumerated his great new strengths, and thanked his bored ex who pushed him to find them. As many of my empowered clients have found, Adam’s ex-wife was begging him to take her back. But he firmly asserted that he was moving on. He’s a much stronger partner to the woman to whom he is now married. And his current wife thanks his ex FOR pushing him so far, and especially FOR releasing him to her!

Happiness occurs by choice, not chance. When you decide you have suffered enough, it’s time to leave what you think is your comfort zone. That involves taking the chance to be uncomfortable in new surroundings for a while, so you can explore new goals. There’s a pot of gold at the end of the beautiful love rainbow. Say this mantra often, “If bad love happens TO me, it is really happening FOR me.” Then savor the discovery of what that magic “FOR” actually is! I love happy endings, so please let me hear about yours!


DR. GILDA CARLE (Ph.D.) at is an internationally known psychotherapist, relationship educator, and management consultant. She is’s “Ask Dr. Gilda” advice columnist published on Also, she is a motivational speaker, professor of psychology & communications, and the author of "Don't Bet on the Prince!" (a test question on "Jeopardy!"), "How to WIN When Your Mate Cheats," (London Book Festival Literary Award Winner) "99 Prescriptions for Fidelity," and more. She was the therapist in HBO's Emmy Award winner, "Telling Nicholas," featured on Oprah, where she guided a family to tell their 7-year-old that his mom died in the World Trade Center bombing. She is currently developing her own TV show.


lee said...

Love it Doc, posted it my Facebook wall...I have heard the whinning from women I have dated about their Ex husbands or boyfriends, nothing worse then hearing about crap like that when your trying to make a connection!! Cudos to you!!
Tiki Lee


THANK YOU, TIKI! If singles only knew what a turn-off all that whining is to their dates!! Personally, I am grateful to all my exes for having gotten me to the place I am at now. I can love deeper and better than ever in my life--all because of the misery I experienced earlier!! Bless you, Tiki, for your great insight.