Finding love after heartbreak

Finding love after heartbreak (esolla, Getty photo illustration)

"That's when I knew I had to go, I had to gather up my dignity and leave," Berger said. She moved from New York to Los Angeles in June and cut off contact with her ex.

With the life she had been planning gone, "I went through the dark night of my soul," Berger said. She blamed herself — for not earning enough money, for gaining weight, for pushing too hard for children.

"The hardest lesson I had to learn was that her cheating had nothing to do with me," she said.

Getting to that realization took six months of hard work.

She did double-time therapy. She went to Al-Anon meetings, for the families of addicts, to deal with co-dependency issues. She did acupuncture. She worked out every day.

She took a vow of silence at a 10-day meditation retreat, where she was to "observe my thoughts with equanimity," and at one point fell to her knees with the yearning to hold her ex's hand. On the last day, participants were instructed to forgive anyone who had done them wrong — and forgive themselves.

"I left that place and I felt lighter," Berger said. She stopped pining. She lost 35 pounds. She felt a strong bond with her family, which had steadied her with its unconditional support.

Berger, now 36 and a script coordinator on a TV show, realized she had a pattern of seeking out women with intimacy issues so she could rescue them, but that in trying to be someone else's light, her own light had dimmed. In her next relationship, she resolved, she would take care of herself first.

Last month, she went on her first date since the breakup, with a woman she met online at OkCupid.

"It was amazing," she said. "This new single life is exciting!"

The Facebook effect

When his 11-year marriage to his college sweetheart headed toward divorce, Michael Foster moved in with his parents in Springhill, La., secluded himself from his friends and called his wife almost daily in hopes of working things out. But she seemed happier without him.

"It hurt me from the bottom of my stomach all the way up to my heart," Foster said. He was 34 at the time. "It made me feel I had failed as a dad, as a husband and as a man."

Their intimacy had unraveled slowly, as his outdoorsy extroversion clashed with her indoorsy introversion, and each felt resentful of the other for not pulling enough weight in the relationship, Foster said. Yet to split that July 2010, to imagine another man taking over where he left off, was devastating.

After two miserable months in his parents' home, Foster moved into his own apartment, focused his energies on his relationship with his daughter and started feeling better.

When he discovered his wife had begun a relationship with one of his fraternity brothers she had connected with on Facebook, he accepted there was nothing more he could do.

And Foster would soon discover that Facebook, and his fraternity, could bring good into his life as well.

Two years earlier, Foster had learned through Facebook that one of his fraternity brothers, Fernando Ruiz, had passed away (full disclosure: Fernando was this writer's cousin). Foster sent condolences to the family, and the widow, Idaliz Ruiz-Sanchez, wrote back thanking him. They became Facebook friends.

Six months after his split, Foster and Ruiz-Sanchez started a friendly banter on Facebook. He wasn't sure what to make of it; he hadn't dated since he was 20. They spoke on the phone and discovered they both worked at restaurants and liked the outdoors. A month later, Foster flew to Orlando, Fla., to meet her, not knowing what to expect, sweating through his shirt with nerves.

He was looking for her at the airport when he felt a hand on his back. He turned, and before he could say how nervous he was, she planted a kiss on his lips. The weekend was a hit.