How to heal from past relationships

Noemi J. Mullins

This is a very common question that I see both in my practice and with people who attend the Gottman Singles workshop. Single people who want to heal from previous relationships should reflect on it so they can learn and grow.

Four Horsemen

Which role did the Four Horseman have in your relationship? It is important to consider which of these four behaviors led to your relationship’s demise. To learn more about the concept, click.

In my most important relationship, I was too defensive. In my most significant relationship, I was too defensive. If I was asked by my partner to do something different, I would find a reason to defend myself. I don’t think I ever said “Ok, that makes sense” but I know it would have made the relationship much better if I had been more open to taking responsibility.

If you are in the process of healing from an abusive past relationship, I wouldn’t ask you to think about your role, but to be able see how the contempt of the other person was harmful and degrading. You may then be able see that the antidote for contempt (having an appreciation culture) is what you need in a healthy future relationship.

Phases in Relationships

Tthere are three distinct phases in a life of love. Dr. John Gottman explains that love can either develop to a deeper level or decline over the course of a relationship.


Limerence, also known as the honeymoon stage, is a feeling of intense infatuation when you first begin dating someone you feel a connection with. This is often called “having chemistry” and it makes sense because your body has tons of love chemicals.

This is a wonderful phase. This is a phase where you can overlook red flags. You are more trusting of others and more likely to be focused on their positive qualities, while avoiding red flags or negative traits.


The trust phase follows limerence. This is when your partner acts and thinks in your best interests, instead of their own. Trust is knowing that your partner will always be there for you.

Trust is built by being there for each other and fixing any communication problems. This phase is where couples try to find out “Does this person have mine back?” Are they important to me?

This is the phase where most fighting takes place, as people try to figure out if their partner can be trusted to keep their back.


Commitment is believing and acting on the belief that this relationship will be a lifelong journey. If things get hard, both of you will work together to make it better.

This phase is not the time to compare your partner with others. This phase involves recognizing your partner’s positive qualities, and showing gratitude.

These phases can be viewed by asking the following questions: When did your most recent, or most important relationship end? Why did it end at this stage? What red flags were missed during the limerence stage of this relationship?


Another important thing to do is to determine if any problems were experienced in past romantic relationships.

Flooding refers to feeling overwhelmed psychologically and physically. Flooding occurs when your partner’s words and actions make you feel so overwhelmed that you are unable to defend yourself against any further attack. Our bodies are well-tuned to be prepared to defend against an attack. However, they aren’t very good at distinguishing subtleties. If your heart rate rises above 100 BPM and you aren’t exercising, your body may be releasing stress hormones. It’s almost impossible to think creatively and access your sense of humor when this happens. This is when you become physiologically overwhelmed and are either in flight, freeze, or fight mode. Flooding can cause people to reject any information that comes in.

First, take a break to temporarily end the conversation and deal with flooding. You should take a break for at least 20 minutes to help you calm down. People find that deep breathing and meditative techniques are the best ways to soothe their bodies.

To reflect on this topic, please consider the following questions. What causes you to feel overwhelmed? What body signs are you looking for when you feel flooded and why? (Examples: vision narrowing and chest tightening. Fists clenching.) How has flooding impacted your intimate relationships in the past? What are your options for addressing this problem in the future?

Perpetual Issues

Here’s one last thought. Every couple has ongoing problems that cause them to fight. The Masters of Relationships all have persistent problems. What sets them apart from the Disasters of Relationships? They can find ways to talk about their problems rather than allowing them to become ingrained and painful.

Perpetual problems are caused by fundamental differences in your personality or lifestyle. However, perpetual gridlocked issues that have gone unman aged and calcified can lead to tension and quarrels. These issues arise from differences in your views on money, discipline, cleanliness, and other matters.

These are the issues that a couple will keep coming back to again and again. Each person has a core need and a dream. These issues can be discussed and honored by Masters of Relationships. Learn more about these issues . Consider: What were your constant problems? Did any of them get stuck? Consider what you might need to address that issue in your future relationships.

You can think about more things to help you heal from past relationships, but this is a good starting point. If you’re in need of more healing and want to have a better future, “What Makes Love Last” is another helpful resource. This book is highly recommended. Please contact me if you have any questions or to find additional resources. All the best for healing.

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