Surviving A Breakup


Image by Charlie Foster

How can you “Feel Better Now” if you have just experienced a breakup — especially one you did not initiate? That said, any breakup can be traumatic and painful.

Breakups are all too common today. They have come up all the time in my coaching if not as a primary reason for my services, then definitely a primary contributor. The pain from a breakup can and will often permeate the rest of a person’s life very quickly. Though men seem to heal faster because they tend to compartmentalize, breakups have shown to be a challenge for all.

While I am referring primarily to those break-ups with a spouse, partner, or close companion, breakups can also include the loss of a job, being cut from a team, losing an investment, property or money. They all involve the disappointment and loss of the hope and expectations we have become attached to in our minds and our identity. While all may involve pain, the more we don’t allow that loss to leave, the greater the suffering. Here I will address those involving love human relationships.

Are you a brave heart or a broken heart? To manage your pain you might want to consider being a brave heart. The stronger you attached to those expectations in a relationship, the greater the crack in your broken heart. The bright side is that break allows for the opportunity of something better to flow into your life. I know that may sound trite or simplistic, but breakups are some of the best opportunities for growth if you allow them.

Notice I have already used the word, “attached” twice previously and that is a key concept in dealing with a breakup. The quicker and more completely you can release any attachment, the less you will suffer. Second is “desire.” If you can manage those two concepts, you are well on your way to healing and growth. Why would you desire someone who does not want you? Maybe the person wasn’t good enough for you, or at best, wasn’t the right match. Getting them back won’t make things better, would it? When you reflect on the lost relationship, it could not have been ideal or you wouldn’t be in the situation you are now in.

First, there is an immense amount of power in realizing the pain, grieving, and letting it be painful as opposed to believing that there is some quick fix or even worse, ignoring it. Realize too, that we are the ones creating all the pain, not the other person. (They may be off in a state of new happy blissful relief, particularly if they initiated the breakup.) Trying to solve the pain too quickly, we often do crazy things in a reactive rather than responsive mode. 

Secondly, check to see if the relationship was based upon you trying to secure your happiness through your ex rather than through yourself. The best relationships are borne from what we can give to rather than what we get from our partner. Build a life that no one can take away from you and your partner is just icing on the cake. Focus now on your future, in building a bigger and better life armed with more wisdom that before. If you don’t enjoy your own company, you will attach yourself to someone as your source of happiness in a way that won’t serve anyone. If you don’t fund your own happiness, process your grief, and update yourself, you will likely repeat the circumstances in your next relationship, and you are just treating the symptoms and not the causes.

Are you making the breakup mean something it doesn’t mean? Sometimes even in a beautiful partner or relationship, things can run their course and you simply have to let go. Just because you have had great and beautiful times together doesn’t mean that you should still be together. Economic and societal circumstance along with shorter life spans used to mean more life-lasting relationships, but that is no longer the case. 

The old adage is that when someone breaks up with you, “It’s more about them than it is about you” is actually true. And for the part that that doesn’t apply, what did you contribute to the breakup? Did you show insecurity, fear, possessiveness, fail to communicate, break trust, etc. Were your expectations unreasonable? Did you overlook “red flags?”

When your relationship was more of an addiction than a true love, it can be harder to leave. When you have a breakup and the love was true, there is an appreciation and more completion and peaceful. Your breakup reflects upon your relationship. If the breakups is messy, your relationship probably was as well. Remember that it is not an either or world where you must hate or love the person moving forward. 

You may encounter urges to get them back. Reading those articles about “getting your ex back” is just wrong. That represents your need for attention or validation, best saved for a parking garage and not relationships. Why would you want someone back who didn’t want you or had toxic qualities? Getting  back together usually is not healthy and will not work unless the breakup was sudden with misunderstandings. Look at what are your emotions triggering you so you can process them. You can become more of yourself, so find yourself and embrace you. Break up any toxicity and heal it. Understand your own urges. Know yourself so you can stand firm on what works for you. 

Moving forward, when you pick someone new immediately after a breakup to solve your pain, you probably won’t resolve your pain. You may end up with a person just like the one you broke up with. Also realize that the crazier or more attention-grabbing your partner is, the less you have to focus on yourself and that is not healthy or sustainable. Your self-attention and growth is essential too, so don’t let someone do that and call it love.

Acknowledging your shortcomings and character defects is an important step toward emotional maturity. Being able to admit your mistakes requires self-reflection and humility, qualities that will serve you well in your future relationships. (One important exception: people ending a relationship with a physically or emotionally abusive partner.) Don’t look at this past relationship through rose-colored glasses, but rather as a real learning and growth opportunity.

If you really do want to be friends with an ex, it’s important that both of you accept that the romantic relationship is over. And, it often requires time and space apart to transition from being romantic partners to being friends. Trying to force something different or sooner than what you are ready for can make establishing a comfortable friendship much harder in the long run.

Grieve the breakup. Validate your feelings. Avoid guilt and self-judgment, but learn.

The hurt is so deep when you truly cared. It’s breaking you open to something bigger and better. Choose to be here today and you are only going to get better. Perhaps it was good, but even better is in store. Realize how delicious it can be when the other person really wants to be with you. Regardless of who is in your life should not determine how epic your life is. If you believe that if you were in a relationship, you wouldn’t be feeling pain, then you are missing the lesson. Turn your breakup into a breakout!

Here are two exercises you might try:

First Exercise:  Write down:  What are you making this event mean about you or your future? Are you constructing powerful or self-limiting stories about the breakup? How might this breakup create new opportunities for growth? Was I seeking happiness through this person instead of creating it for myself? What qualities of my Ex did not align with my values and aspirations?

Second Exercise:  Write down:  What activities or habits can I begin to become “bigger and better?” Who can I connect with? Are there hobbies, interests or aspiration that I had put on hold that I might now pursue? How can I put my best self out there in the world? Should I be consult with a trusted professional about this? What is it that I want and deserve versus what I will “put up with?” What are the “non-negotiable” features I may have overlooked? If applicable, what is it I don’t want to feel in my relationships?

The following is an excerpt from an upcoming book by Bob Fagan entitled “Feel Better Now” – A Self-Coaching Manual Into Stepping Into The Life Of Your Dreams.

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