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February 18, 2022

Raging Gracefully: Navigating a Breakup

Nina Collins hosts a "session" with Dr. Debbie Magids.

Some people could be with someone for two months and not get over them for years.

Nina Collins hosts a "session" with Dr. Debbie Magids. This week we're discussing: Navigating a Break-Up.




This transcript has been auto-generated and lightly edited. Please excuse any grammatical errors.

NC: Hi everyone, I'm Nina Collins, we're here with Dr. Debbie Maggids. This is the um. We do this event on the third Wednesday of every month. As part of the revel raging gracefully series, it's an open webinar, where we encourage attendees to write in the chat with questions and comments which we'll incorporate into the conversation, and then this gets released as part of our raging. Gracefully podcast, um Debbie is an amazing therapist. In new york city um, I always say I used to be her patient for many years. She kind of saved my life. I love Debbie clients, not patients, client, sorry, not patient, and uh, and we talk about different things every month and we welcome your suggestions about things to talk about today. We'Re talking about breakups, which is a really good subject. Um and yeah. So welcome. Welcome Debbie welcome attendees, please post in the chat. If you have questions or ideas, we'd love to hear from you um as I was preparing for this, I was kind of thinking. Well. First of all, I should say: I've been watching sex in the city like an obsessive, crazy person. So I watched and just like that you know the reboot, I'm sure your clients must be talking to you about sex in the city Debbie this month, because it's made me go back and watch sees from Barrett from the very beginning season. One and it's brought up so many emotions for me about like getting older and um. I'm surprised how open sexually they are. Those episodes have kind of been brought just like whoa they're, really talking about a lot in very great detail, and this was 25 years ago. It kind of surprised me and they're just so young. It makes me ache for, like our younger selves barbie in the audiences she's, watching it again too, and the clothes are so great, but anyway it's full of breakups and it's full of people behaving badly and I'm also noticing um. I read an article in the vulture which is part of new york magazine um, saying that Carrie is actually the villain of sex in the city. I don't know if you've seen this article and I don't know that I agree that Carrie is a villain. I love Carrie, but it did make me think. Like is Carrie a good friend? Would I want Carrie to be my friend and she does this one thing in - I don't know like the episode seven, season, one um where she's just starting to date, big and they've only been dating for like a few months right and she clearly feels like she's in love with him and he's the one. But she sees him one day genuinely accidentally. She's walking down the street and she sees him coming out of church on a Sunday morning, but then she gets it with his mother, but then she gets this idea that she wants to meet his mother and she says to him. I want to meet your mother and he says not yet and she says well, I want to go to church with you and he says not yet, and then she goes to church with a friend anyway that week it's so rude. I was like wow, that's really not cool, so I'm having like a different experience of her relationship with Big and the way she handles it. Sorry, a little bit of an anyway are your clients talking about sex in the city. 

DM: Well, you know. Interestingly, I mean I watch just like that too, because we're in the same age decade, but I have a lot of younger clients, so they're not having the same experience as my clients in their 30s and 40s. It's a little different than the people that are now in their 50s um or in their 20s. So it's different um, my friends are talking about it more than my clients, yeah. 

NC: Well, that makes sense for the generational. I know I feel like I keep posting about it in the community and I think people are probably like shut up already Nina, but I'm kind of obsessed I mean before we get to the main topic. Did you enjoy the new series? I did. I didn't like it in the beginning. I thought that first episode was really cringe-worthy the way they were tackling kind of race and sex and that scene, where she masturbates big or wants to see big masturbate. I was like I mean that's a perfectly normal thing to do, but I thought the way they handled it was super awkward, but I came around to totally loving it and I don't know if it's like I've really just missed the characters so being back with them. Feels like being in a warm bath, it just makes me so happy, and I also came to appreciate at the end of it that, like they are tackling these, like the discomfort, the racial stuff, the white fragility, the I mean the wealth is a little is Just kind of gross like the obscene wealth, like there's totally stuff you can criticize, but I kind of felt like you know, charlotte with her transgender daughter or whatever her gay daughter um. However, that will evolve um Miranda's drinking. These are all like real things that we're all dealing with. So why did you hate it? What did you think um? 

DM: I watched it because they're, my friends and I well. I still watch all the repeats I've always watched them. I need to go back to them, but yeah I mean I don't want to spend more time, but I'm critical of a lot of it. 

NC: Um yeah, no there's a lot. There'S a lot to be critical of we're actually going to get one of the writers is a friend of mine and we're going to get her to come. Do a rebel event which i thought would be really cool where we can just like ask questions um, all right so back to us, wake up everyone we're going to talk about breakups, so I was thinking as I was preparing for this about how like do. We get better at breakups as we get older and this week, because I'm watching sex in the city every time. I ask a question I feel like Carrie like: do we get better breakups as we get older and she's like typing in her window um and of course I think the answer to that is only if you'll tell me, but only if we're super emotionally healthy. Otherwise, no.

DM:  Right we do whatever we do. Yes, I don't think um, you know, listen overall, we chronologically get older, but our insides stay super young unless we work the heck out of ourselves to grow our insides up to match our outside. So so, let's talk breakups and, and obviously you know you can give us examples and all of that, but you know i wanted to start off by saying that in the same way that we're all different in terms of who we are who we date, what we're drawn to our patternings, we can be very different in what we do in breakups. You know there are some people who they break up and they find someone new right away and they go for for a very short morning period and they're. Like you know, they could be angry, you could be upset, but they date right away and they start going out right away and they just fill the void. And then there are some people who break up and they can never get over it and they stay in mourning for years and then there's everyone else in between and so in having this discussion when I do these things, it's hard because they're, the generalizations of what do you do for a breakup and then there's the reality of people and it's not cookie cutter and we don't all manage this, the same things in the same way so yeah, and that becomes the hard part that people think and a lot of my clients think that they're mourning for too long or they're not doing things quick enough. It's like no, everybody has their own ways of doing things. It's not a right way, there's a right way for each individual. So I wanted to say that yeah and each relationship is so different.

NC: I mean I remember my last marriage. It took me a long time to stop miss - I didn't want to be with him um, but it took me a long time. I mean you know. There's that rule, I guess, what's the rule of thumb, it takes half as long as you've been together to get over the person?

DM: Well, but then based on patterning, some people could be with someone for two months and not get over them for years. It's just not cookie cutter and like with you, since we use you a lot and you don't mind, and I know you're so well, it took you a long time to emotionally get over it, but you dated quite quickly right. 

NC: Well, I always do that. 

DM: You always go to someone to fill the void, even if you're not fully over the last one, where someone listening or me, I'm not that way at all. I take a good long time to mourn and then there's people in between so wait back up. 

NC: I want to hear more: how long do you take to mourn so, like you have a breakup and then do you just not see anyone for like two years? 

DM: Maybe I mean most different yeah like like, even so, I like in breakups to deaths so I'll even go like when my father died. I wasn't right for more than a year. I functioned and you know it's not like I'm curled up in my bed, I'm out in the world I'm functioning but and everyone thought that I should be better sooner, I'm like no, because I'm not. I don't distract myself. I don't. I stay in my pain until the pain is no longer there and then I'm actually through the morning period, where other people will distract themselves. So when it comes to a breakup - and I don't - I don't date easily either so if I have fallen in love the breakup I take hard because it was real love, it wasn't just a filler for me, and so I don't move on to the next. At all, until I'm just not sad anymore, I'm not saying it's the right way. I'm saying it's my way.

NC: Oh no yeah yeah, I'm not saying it's right or wrong either. I think it's really interesting, but I also think it does sound very healthy because of course, but what my mind goes to literally when you describe that, as I think life is too short, you're missing opportunities, you need to get back out there as I get. I get a kind of panicky feeling because it would be hard for me to sit alone with my pain and let like the next year of my life, go by and feel like. I somehow wasn't living enough or you know like it's for me. It really does sound hard what you're describing.

DM: Well two things. It's a perspective like I think living life is not just about dating, but number two. I don't really. I don't know that it's a choice I do think morning. You shouldn't distract and feel especially. I think that you need to do a morning period, but I think my morning period is longer than the average person and I don't know that that's healthy or unhealthy. I think that's my emotional makeup, you know like so, let's take Nina and me because we know each other. I know you so well and I think you know me well enough. Our two patterns, the healthiest way, would be somewhere in between. I probably take a little too long and you probably don't take long enough right if we're to really put a picture of perfect mental health. Perfect mental health would be a little longer for you and a little less long for me 

NC: Right and I definitely don't take long, my and my current boyfriend. He has this whole. You know he always said you're not really over. You haven't resolved your last and I was like oh, it was fine, I'm done yeah. Of course, I knew, but I was still anyway it's complicated, but it's complicated exactly so anyone listening to it is complicated and you know so. 

DM: My next thing is the blame thing and that's why I caveat with everyone's different but oftentimes when someone comes to me because they've gone through a breakup, and I think that this is the way to go. I will always be focused on the person in my room mirror up. Let's understand your part in the relationship. Let's understand your patterning. Let's understand why you were drawn to this person. Let's understand where you contributed to it not working and then inevitably people will start to learn about themselves and then you go into blame and regret of ugh. If I only knew this sooner, maybe this would have worked out better. Maybe I could have done it differently and I really cautioned for people to try to go back to an old relationship that didn't work out because now you've grown and now you've changed in one month of figuring out your part. It'S not true, but people do tend to with time start to look at themselves and blame themselves and think that if they could have just done things differently, it could have been different, and that may be true or may not be true. But it's not necessarily for the old relationship. The learning is for the new relationship right going backwards to old relationships. It could work every once in a blue moon, but it's not the end goal. The end goal is to learn about yourself in a breakup so that you grow and change and get the lessons and for the next relationship and again I use Nina. She went through so many iterations and her and you are in their healthiest relationship because you learned and you learned and you learned and you learned. 

NC: I think that's one of the reasons I always really encourage people to do online dating after a divorce or because I do feel at least in my case, like practice like you, unfortunately, and I've been saying this, two of my daughters have just gone through big breakups And I they're in such they've been in such pain, but I keep kind of saying like the upside of this, is like you'll get better at it like you keep learning from yourself. If you really do the work, you'll learn more about what you need and what your role was and everything you just talked about makes so much sense to me: 

DM: Um, yes, and with every um thing that hurts us. There is a lesson to be learned. If you want to learn it, and you know people always say that's crap when bad things happen, that's just a way to make yourself feel better. I don't agree with that. I do think that there's always a lesson and there's always the next thing coming. You know, and that's part of also a breakup of being able to look ahead, that it is momentary, pain and you're supposed to feel pain. When you broke up with someone, you love someone. You gave yourself to someone it's supposed to be painful. There is supposed to be a mourning period and a grief period and there's also going to be the next part of your life. There'S also going to be the next thing, so you have to be able to then shift to. There is something else coming and let me learn all that I can learn about myself and about this connection, so I can do it better, the next time and not stay stuck in the rat on the wheel, patterning that we all have if it didn't work for us we want to learn from it, so it can work a little bit better right. 

NC: So one of the flaws with someone like me just jumping back out and kind of dating again quickly. Is that you're again just distracting yourself and not not thinking about what you did wrong? So in my case, I was lucky because I was in therapy with you, and so I did lots of work um. Even though when, when I had my last breakup, I broke up with a sec, a short-lived second husband and Debbie. I came into her office and you know there had been a dramatic thing and it was over and she said please, please don't go online, please don't date for at least a year and I was like sobbing. I don't know if I said a full year. You were like i'll take three months, just don't date, and this is like five years ago and of course, literally, we broke up on like September 18th, I think - and by November 1st I had met some guy and was like making plans to go to California for Six months it was really insane um, but the whole thing was totally insane, but i've survived um and i i do wonder like i'm in a lovely relationship now, but if it were to end. I hope that now and now I'm in this place, where I've gotten so happy being alone, I hope I'd be able to be alone, but I can see Debbie's skepticism. 

DM: The other thing I wanted to bring up because there are a couple of things i just wanted to make sure to get out. There is when you go through a breakup there's this thing called closure that everybody wants to do my opinion on it is when someone says I need closure. It means I really want to see this person. I want them to see that I look really good. I want them to still be in love with me: you're not done you're looking to connect you're, not looking to end um. Once a breakup happens and it's happened. We don't really need more closure. We need to do the closure with ourselves and 

NC: I'm basically, I was gonna ask you this question about the whole kind of cold turkey thing like is that what people should do? Just I remember saying to you once it seems impossible that I'm never gonna see this person again and you were like. Yes, that's the way, breakups work.

DM: You know, breakups are deaths and actually, I think harder than death, sometimes because this person's still out there only they don't want to see you anymore or you don't want to see them versus when someone dies it's so permanent, but there's Not that extra pain of - and they didn't want to be with me um there is this added pain of I'm never going to see them again. So it is a death and it's being chosen. It'S not what I wanted if you're the one who was broken up with, and so it is super hard but yeah the closure is in with self the closure is in, and people do this a lot too not idealizing the relationship. We tend to always think about all the parts that we miss and we have amnesia about the parts that did not go well um, especially as time passes and if you're, someone in my patterning, but even in in Nina's, even though she moved on she didn't fully Move on there's a yearning for something that we loved about that person a familiarity and that yearning makes us forget all the bad because that journey is so powerful right. There are always certain things you kind of romanticize or even though you can remember.

NC: I remember in in the wake of that breakup. I tried all the time to just remember how abusive he'd been like. I would just kind of try and remember how awful it was yeah, but there were good things that I missed and so then sometimes and then that's true in any breakup right in any breakup and we tend to forget the bad when we're yearning for the good And that's what propels people to go back to things, because when you go back to it and initially when you meet up with someone the good's there and then eventually the rest shows up again because it's good um, 

DM: Speaking of which I just want to Also get out um when you're thinking about one of the things I say to people when you're trying to get over someone is that you you're not allowed to think about them. You have to shift your thoughts shift your thought. We can't help what thoughts come in, but what we do is we indulge them and then we're off to a whole daydream and remembering them - and I even I mean even talk about this in terms of masturbation. A lot of people will masturbate to their exes because something sexual was such a turn-on. I'm like you're not allowed to do that anymore and I've had people say like, but then I don't feel sexually turned on at the moment I'm like. Well, then, that's what you have to do. You are not allowed to think about them because you need to start getting over them and if you allow your thoughts to go, their feelings follow thoughts and then you're back in that feeling again, you want to limit contact. Obviously, you want to -  I mean social media is a killer, especially for all my young people. 

NC: I was going to ask you about stalking, like if  - 

DM: Social media is, it could be the death of someone who's in love and got broken up with yeah, so you want to limit contact. You want to get people out of your phones and you want to get them out of your thoughts. It'S really important because that's where it all lives in the end, yeah yeah, that makes so much sense. 

NC: So, let's go back to that for a sec like the closure with yourself is the idea that you really take responsibility for what you did wrong, but your part was not what you did not what you did wrong. What my part was understanding your own blueprints and patternings and why you were drawn to this person what felt painful there? What lessons can you learn? Um and you know you move into sort of uh. I mean the goal. Is acceptance versus trying to go back and course correct? 

DM: It's really hard, you know and you've done it. I've done it we've all done. We've gone back to things right and again, there's always an anomaly. It's not that someone who's gone back. It'S never worked before right, most of the time when you've had a lot of issues in a relationship and you leave it and you go back even if you think you've changed one thing that triggers an old thing between you. All of a sudden you're, like nah nothing's, changed it just opens up all the bad stuff, all the drama, all the trauma, all the pain and it's really hard to go backwards. The whole point of closure is to accept yourself accept who you were when you entered that relationship, except that you're gonna be a better version of yourself, the next time and accept that it's over and stop wishing hoping regretting anything that happens in the past. It is a process, it is not an overnight thing. Yeah, it's really hard regret is okay for a moment. Regret means I wish I had known better then so I could have done better, but if you stay stuck in regret, your life stays the same. Regrets momentary when you're learning and we all in as you grow older, who doesn't in hindsight, be like. Ah, if I only knew better, then that might have gone differently. That's true, but you didn't know better then, and that's how it went right. So we have to take the learning and look forward and look forward and look forward. That's the only way to do it and move into an acceptance that this is over, and then you open up to new love. Take the learning.

NC:  This is a good example Debbie. If something, we really should write as an article together. This is a this. Is all such good information. Take the learning and move forward, I'm writing it down and who doesn't know that. I think anyone on this call right now, probably if you're our age and you've been divorced. You know that so well what you say like when I deal with my ex-husband, the father of my four kids, who I was married to forever. It's literally like we can go back to a place in like 1992. If we want to it's so weird, you know. Um, someone in the audience says regret is the bargaining phase of grief, different actions, equal different results? Yes, well, you know a lot. If you look this topic up, a lot of people talk about like the morning of a relationship is like going through the stages of grief and so yeah. I will never get back together with either of my husbands for sure um. What I was saying Trisha is that um when you, when you have moments of regret and you think oh maybe we could do this differently or maybe we've changed, and when you interact with them either you try to get back together momentarily, which I think most of Us have done or you just interact with them in any way. Your old pattern usually comes roaring back, even if you are really much healthier, it's very easy for it to come back like I'm always really aware. When I'm dealing with um, my ex-husband says - or you can really apply this to any old relationship where, when there's friction your reactions, your knee-jerk reaction is the old one. It is it's like going back to your family. 

DM: Um right, you sort of feel right back to where you were it's very hard to change patternings with people that you're already in that dance with when you learn new outcomes for yourself, and you start with someone new you're, creating a new dance like I've always said With Nina her relationship now, they both have underpinning underpinnings of the old stuff that Nina was used to, but they both have done so much work on themselves. That they've created a new patterning, even though at core there are some similar old themes and that's a healthier version of your patterning you're, not you're, still in the pattern. You just both learn to behave differently with each other than you did in your past relationships, yep. 

NC: Okay. What about the fear, because you've said this a couple of times that you know you just have to move forward, but what about the fear that there won't be a next person which, of course, is a real fear for lots of people. I used to always have that fear like this, and one of my daughters has had a breakup, literally she's, 23 years old. Like could you be more perfect, didn't she she thinks this is the last person who's ever going to love her as if that's remotely possible? That'S the fear of everybody and why people stay too long and why people go back even though they knew it wasn't working.

DM: You know it's a real fear for everybody, the majority of people, it's not true, for there are some people that it's possible right. It'S a possibility, but if you stay like a rat on a wheel in the same stuff, we know what the ending is. We know where you're headed. If you make some moves and make some changes and move out into the world, there are possibilities for something new to come in, and we owe it to ourselves to be as happy as we can be as open as we can, and at least do all that We can to open ourselves up to those new possibilities of something better for us. I so agree the story I always tell with my first marriage is I had a moment where I realized. If I stay, I know what this will be like more or less, and if I go, I don't know what will happen, but at least there's the possibility of wonderful things happening.

DM: Exactly and when you have that openness to you, wonderful things typically happen. Yeah. You know people want guarantees and someone has a guarantee, but again it's also going to be in everyone's patternings right, like your patterning, you will never be alone, my patterning, I can be alone. We have different patternings yeah, so there are some people who I don't care. If they're 80, if, if they lost a love, they will find the next love until the day they die and and and everything else in between. So when that fear comes up, also look at yourself and look at how it's always been. I promise you that if you've always been able to find the next person, you will always find the next person

NC: Interesting yeah because someone in the audience is saying she wants to. Let go but can't seem to let go um, and that is a problem I mean. I think I guess to that to the woman in the audience who's saying that Trisha, I would say also one thing my mother taught me, which i think really is true, is like you can't do anything until you're ready as much as you know, you're supposed to Do something sometimes it just it takes a long time. I mean how many of us have had friends struggle with wanting to get divorced or wanting to break up with that guy, and then we make the mistake of saying you should break up with him and then they stay together, and you know I mean that's the Classic it can be very hard to let go. 

DM: I mean, obviously it's. I will say that when someone is trying to let go of, I mean I don't know if there's a divorce but um you process and you process a new process and typically something will eventually happen where you just say to yourself: never again, I'm gonna do Whatever I need to do, but I won't let this feeling happen to me ever again: if it's, if it's not, if it's that bad yeah emotionally and yeah, no one can do it for you, you can you know you can just explore yourself and explore yourself until You'Re ready to take the lead right and definitely I think the thing to think about is you have no idea what's out there for you, if you don't take the leap like it's the whole one door closes another opens. So if you want to stay where you are in like a not-great situation, you are not going to be, there won't be other possibilities. I will also say you know: people sometimes make choices by not choosing and so they're choosing the safe route and one small shift in your life can open up so much change. It's really about action. Oriented it's one thing to know yourself really well and do the work and feel your feelings and do the morning and all of that stuff. It'S another thing to then do something with it. If you don't make a new move, your life stays the same, and so one small change isn't a breakup. I mean a breakup is a big change. I think you want to focus on all the opportunities and the idea of closure and the work that you can do on yourself and what you can learn. Yes, you have to be forward moving and positive thinking not get stuck in the morning part. But the morning part is very important and feeling bad you're supposed to feel bad for a while, and that's why I am a believer in not just running out and dating right away and drinking or I really think you should spend a little bit of time. Just in your emotions that need to be worked out and some other small tips I mean these - are you know easy tips, but when you're in the middle of a breakup, you want to start to hone other parts of your life, you want to start to hone Other connections that maybe you haven't paid as much attention to you can get a lot from friendships. You can get a lot from it. You know passion from work or passion from a hobby. You want to start filling yourself up with things other than another guy right away because you do want to take some time to learn so that it can go differently the next time. 

NC: Right, that's always been the part. I've been bad at but you're right absolutely - 

DM: But you found your way anyway, so it's good 

NC: Well! This has been great. I love this conversation. This is, I feel like I should rush off and try and write it up, um, so much helpful information. Debbie. 

About Dr. Debbie:

Dr. Debbie Magids is a counseling psychologist with a thriving private practice in New York City. In recent years, Dr. Debbie’s philosophies and focus have shifted from traditional therapy practices to meet the varied needs of her clients – entrepreneurs, finance executives, creative professionals -- in our increasingly fast-paced, highly connected society. She is also an entrepreneur, consultant, and corporate speaker.

The daughter of Holocaust survivors, Dr. Debbie’s doctoral dissertation explored the effects of the Holocaust on survivors’ children. “Personality Comparison Between Children of Hidden Holocaust Survivors and American Jewish Parents” was published in the Journal of Psychology.

She lives each day with a deep appreciation of the value of human life and a passionate desire to help others — of course her clients, but also those who can’t help themselves, especially animals. Dr. Debbie is a (mostly) vegan who loves live music and practices meditation daily in her beloved hometown of New York City.

Dr. Debbie was previously tenured at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, where she spearheaded the creation of the personal counseling center, which is now the Student Wellness Center and Counseling Services. She was also a professor at Hunter College School of Counseling MSEd program.

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