03/07/2013 12:18 EST | Updated 05/07/2013 05:12 EDT

Five Ways to Mend a Broken Heart


Romance always starts out on a hopeful and exciting note. We invest energy and devotion and allow ourselves to imagine that this could be "The One." With such high hopes, it's a long way to fall when things don't work out as you imagine. Indeed, all relationships involve coming down from those early expectations to a more grounded idea of how things will be. But when things don't work out, it's that early hope and optimism that stands in stark contrast with feelings of heartbreak and disappointment.

Sometimes, our instinct is to blame ourselves for being so wrong. We criticize our early optimism, promising to be more guarded with our heart in the future, to not allow ourselves to be hurt by others. But as long as you're putting yourself "out there" there's always going to be a chance you'll get hurt again. As with all falls in life, it's important that you acknowledge you've been hurt, but also help yourself get back up again. Here's how:

(1) Grieve

We tend to believe we should just be able to bounce back from heartbreak, especially if the relationship was not a very long-term one. It's important to allow yourself to acknowledge that you had deep feelings, that you had felt a connection with another and invested your hopes and even dreams in that connection.

Many people will take these feelings of grief out on themselves, thinking they should not have invested too much too soon. But relationships are about making little leaps of faith all the time, and being willing to give your heart away to another. When it doesn't work out, instead of beating yourself up, allow yourself to acknowledge the disappointment. This need not be about blame -- things often don't work out for many different reasons and sometimes things just aren't "meant to be." Still, even if that's the case you're allowed to feel sadness.

(2) Heal

While you're grieving the sadness of a failed relationship, it's important you heal too. By a certain age, most of us are carrying some kind of baggage from past relationships. There's a big difference between learning a lesson about yourself or about love, and holding onto emotional baggage that drags you down. We all naturally want to protect ourselves from future hurt, but it's also true that being mistrustful or suspicious of others in the future will not help you move on. So, you must allow yourself to heal your pain, and to understand that heartbreak is not some inevitable outcome that you're bound to repeat again of relationships past.

(3) Reflect

While self-blame is often exaggerated and unproductive, it's also worth reflecting on the relationship and possible reasons why it didn't work out. This exercise is not about performing a postmortem on your past relationship, but about understanding yourself better through reflecting on what happened. True healthy love only comes when you've worked to understand your past relationships and key learnings.

Things you might consider include:

- Communication styles: Did you feel you could express yourself well in this relationship? How did you communicate when you were angry or hurt, for example? Did you "listen" to your partner's needs/concerns?

- Affection: Were you speaking the same "language" of affection and, if not, did this lead to misunderstandings or feelings of dissatisfaction?

- Compatibility: Did your lifestyles mesh? For example, were there issues about work/life balance, finances or life ideals?

- Dynamic: Was your relationship based on mutual respect, friendship, and affection? Or, were you always trying to "fix" the person, or were they trying to "fix" you? (nobody and no relationship is ever going to fix you, you have do that for yourself!)

The goal here is not to dwell on the past but to enable yourself to learn from past relationships. If you find that you're always drawn to the same type of person or are prone to repeating mistakes, understanding the patterns you're repeating can help you avoid the same mistakes again.

(4) Find support

I guarantee you this: All your friends have experienced some kind of heartbreak. It's important to confide in somebody who will listen and be supportive. But, while there are friends who will listen supportively and empathetically, there are also people dying to say "I told you so" or "I never liked him anyway". While you're feeling vulnerable, avoid those kinds of interactions that might make you feel even more vulnerable.

At the same time, there's usually a time limit of even the most kind friend listening to you mull over a breakup. If you find that you need a neutral third party to help you work through heartbreak, consider seeing a therapist or counselor . They'll also be able to help you see the bigger picture.

(5) Believe

I really believe that it's better for something to fail than to be trapped in a situation that's not working. Once you've recovered from the disappointment of heartbreak, you're free to find a new and healthier relationship. And in that way heartbreak is part of the journey to finding the best relationship you can be in. When you do find that true love, you'll look back on those past relationships and understand the role they played in shaping you and also helping you along the path to finding your soul mate.

We tend to be very impatient in matters of the heart, always wanting to find "the one", and for things to progress perfectly. Instead of rushing to that finish line, slow down and patiently consider what it is you want and need to feel happy. Nine times out of ten you'll realize that the relationship you're sad about wasn't working for you either. Remind yourself that you deserve nothing but the truest love and happiness, heal your heart and, above all, keep believing.

Xo Natasha