SOME say in order to get over someone, you have to get under somebody else.
This was the advice I was given by a well-meaning friend after I broke up with the love of my life, Aidan.
Nilufer Atik shares how she finally healed from her past relationshipCredit: Nick Obank – The Sun
Nilufer embracing her exCredit: Supplied
Vanessa Feltz has said she still isn’t over the split from her ex-partner Ben Ofoedu seven months onCredit: Getty
He had been everything to me — my best friend, confidante, partner in crime, the person I’d stay up until the early hours with chatting about life.
I’d laugh with him until I wet myself. I’d never lived with a man or really shared my life with anyone properly before him.
He was more than a boyfriend — he felt like family.
So when our relationship ended, it was as though my whole world had fallen apart.
When I read that TV presenter Vanessa Feltz has said she still isn’t over the split from her ex-partner Ben Ofoedu seven months on, I wasn’t surprised.
It took me years before I could even think about Aidan without wanting to cry.
Even now, another failed relationship and one child later, I’m not sure I will ever fully get over him.
But like 52 per cent of women, I sought out a new relationship shortly after my brutal break-up.
I didn’t realise it at the time, but it was, of course, a rebound relationship — the type that starts when you are at your most vulnerable and ultimately fails to stand the test of time.
Typically, rebound relationships last a maximum of seven months before 23 per cent of them lead to marriage or, more soberingly, 75 per cent of them abruptly end, according to research by business strategy firm Gitnux.
When I saw Vanessa was looking for love again on Celebs Go Dating, my heart sank.
Rumours have since surfaced that she is in a new romance with an eligible divorced millionaire.
It’s not clear whether she met him on the show or not, but, in my view, that’s way too soon to be looking to meet someone new. Wrong approach I was with Aidan for eight years.
Vanessa was with her man — ten years her junior — for double that time, 16 years.
Her answer to dealing with the pain of her split has been to do what thousands of other heartbroken women have done before her — glam up, go out and find somebody new.
Keep herself so busy that she hasn’t given herself a minute to even think about the man who once shared her bed.
But it’s the wrong approach. I did the same when Aidan called time on our relationship back in 2014.
I felt as though I wasn’t good enough and that perhaps someone else, someone younger, was now more his “type”.
I reacted by surrounding myself with an army of single, party-loving women, most of whom I met out and about in nightclubs and adopted like stray cats as my new “mates”.
I went out bar-hopping every weekend and on weeknights was barely ever home either, arranging trips to the cinema, gym or restaurants.
I’d do anything I could if it meant I didn’t have to be alone with my thoughts and grief.
They say fake it until you make it, so I did just that.
I pretended to be the strong, together, newly single and confident woman bursting with fun and life who wasn’t missing her ex at all — except that I was.
And the pain of that loss soon came and bit me on the bum.
Signing up to an online dating site, I told myself I could easily find another Aidan; that there were plenty more fish in the sea. But all I came across were sharks.
I would attract player after player, telling myself that I just wanted to have “fun” anyway and wasn’t interested in another relationship.
In reality, I was missing the closeness I’d had with Aidan and the more I dated, the lonelier I felt. Nobody measured up to him.
One guy stuck his tongue down my throat at the end of the night, groped my boob, then texted me on his way home to say he had actually met someone else en route — that same night. I replied telling him he was an awful kisser.
Another confessed he had a girlfriend on our third date and asked if I’d be interested in a threesome. I replied flatly that I wouldn’t, and marched out of the pub.
I adopted party-loving women like stray cats to be new mates.
The weirdest offer I had was from a musician who asked me to come to his mansion so he could bathe me.
He’d contacted me through Facebook as we had a mutual friend and began flirting on Messenger until I mentioned that I was heartbroken over my ex and he offered to bathe and “look after” me if I came round to his posh house in North London.
He said he liked to bathe women to show he cared for them — as a friend — but there was nothing sexual in it. We’d never even met.
Unsurprisingly, I said no but I will admit I was tempted, simply because I was so heartbroken I was ready to lap up any kind gesture. I slept with a couple of guys, but the sex was cold and meaningless, nothing like it had been with Aidan.
I felt no connection to them and barely even fancied them. In hindsight, I now realise that I was looking to fill the gaping emotional hole Aidan had left behind.
But it takes time to build a true connection with someone and I have learned that you have to be in a good place to attract the right person in the first place. I wasn’t and, as a result, I was rebounding so hard I almost had bruises.
In the run up to Vanessa’s appearance on Celebs Go Dating, she admitted she felt “damaged and wounded” and had joined the cast in the hope of finding someone “trustworthy”. But that’s the problem.
When you feel damaged, not only are you not in the right frame of mind to be with someone new, but you will attract people who are equally as damaged as you, or even more damaged.
All over me I learned this to my detriment when I ended up in another long-term relationship less than a year after my split from Aidan in 2014.
My new beau Michael was a charmer who wooed me doggedly until I gave in.
He would send me sweet messages, calling me “gorgeous” and telling me my ex must have been crazy to let me go. He would shower me with gifts and flowers and was all over me whenever we met.
Feeling rejected after my break-up, it gave me a massive confidence boost.
Despite friends warning me that I might be on the rebound, when Michael asked if we could be exclusive I agreed. I craved the security of a relationship again and wanted to belong to someone.
Ten months on, I was pregnant and living with him but three years later, I was desperately miserable and wanted out.
He changed once he’d won me over — he seemed cold and distant.
I was glad when that relationship ended four years ago, but the lesson I learned was that you need to fully heal and get over someone before you pair up with anyone else.
Otherwise you’re vulnerable, and predatory men seek out wounded women like vultures sniff out raw meat.
Instead of running away from the pain, I nurtured it.
It sounds like a cliche but it’s true — you first need to learn to love yourself again after a painful split before you can truly love, and be loved by, someone else.
The first step towards this is allowing yourself to grieve the loss of the relationship.
I began by looking through old photos of Aidan and allowing myself to cry.
For weeks, I found myself suddenly bursting into tears while driving in the car, watching TV and once in the frozen section of a supermarket.
Instead of fighting it, I just let it happen.
I meditated, I journaled daily, took up yoga and read soothing self-help books. I focused on nurturing my pain rather than trying to run away from it.
I went to counselling and accepted that I was at least half to blame for the end of our relationship and forgave myself for that.
I forgave myself for jumping into another relationship so soon with someone I wasn’t compatible with, even though something wonderful — my son — had come from it.
Gradually, I grew stronger and built-up healthy boundaries.
Now, I’m happy being on my own and will only get into another relationship if it’s with the right person.
Vanessa claimed she’d been out every single night for 140 nights without fail after breaking up with Ben, adding, “I’ve just kept really busy. I’ve found that’s the way I can keep going.”
But my advice to her would be to stop and stand still instead. To feel all she needs to feel to let go of the past and look towards the future.
A part of me will always love and miss Aidan and wonder what might have happened if we were still together, but I can look back at our time together with fondness now instead of sorrow, because I’ve allowed myself to heal.
- *Some names have been changed.
Nilufer said: ‘I adopted party-loving women like stray cats to be new mates’Credit: Nick Obank – The Sun
Vanessa and Celebs Go Dating starsCredit: Lime Pictures