When you break up with someone, there’s the ‘dreaded’ pain that follows along with white space opening up where you thought you had a shared future. There’s likely a delayed reaction and it may take a day or few, or even a week before it hits you full force that it’s over. In the days, weeks, and possibly months that follow, you have to face the loss and your feelings about it so that you can pave the way to a different and hopefully better relationship. From Day Zero of your breakup, in the seconds, minutes, hours, and then days and weeks that pass, you, by way of your actions and mentality, have an opportunity to limit the amount of pain that you experience.
The limitation doesn’t happen due to you avoiding your feelings or trying to have your ex on some terms rather than no terms; it’s directly influenced by:
1) Whether you accept that the relationship is over and validate the reasons for it..even if you don’t like them.
2) How much you let your life spiral. The more it derails, the more things you have to deal with.
3) How soon you start to nurture you and allow the present to infiltrate your life – The happier you are with other areas of your life has a huge impact. If there’s problems with work, family, or even a current separation, you’re likely to attempt to avoid another problem or loss to deal with, to give yourself an illusion of control.
5) How much access you provide to your ex, including type of contact you have and the frequency, sleeping together, ego stroking, lending money or trying to get it back, trying to get back even the most piffling of possessions etc. Less access, less pain.
6) Whether you internalise the breakup and make a judgement about you, which in turn negatively affects your self-esteem. Overcoming a breakup is hugely dependent on your self-esteem – you either need to have it, or you need to use the breakup as an opportunity to start developing it. Chasing someone down will not give you self-esteem – it will break it.
7) Whether you become trapped in and blinded by your feelings. If you do things that you later view as at best embarrassing and at their worst humiliating, you may feel compelled to return to the relationship to justify your actions, which will actually only make things worse.
8) How much time and energy is spent trying to have an illusion of control by tracking them on Facebook, Twitter, dating sites, or tapping up colleagues and mutual friends for info. Cut this stuff off – it’s like torture.
9) How much you occupy your life and how you cope with boredom, off days, conflict with other people – coming to a standstill, not having productive uses for your mind and time to reduce rumination, being unable to deal with the inevitable bad days and weeks that everyone has, and not being able to handle criticism and conflict, are often enough to trigger a fall off the wagon. Learn how to deal with these and you won’t try to self-soothe on your pain source.
10) Whether you’re still dealing with old losses and hurts that you’ve been avoiding by bouncing from relationship to relationship. If you have, you’ll find that breakups reopen old wounds and because they appear to be similar (they’re not – each experience is unique), you’ll react to the old hurts and what you feel is more messaging, instead of dealing with the current situation.
What all of these factors tell you, is that while you can’t control or change the fact that the relationship has ended or that you’re going to experience some pain, discomfort, and change, what you can control is how much more pain you experience as a result of what you choose to heap onto the experience.
Breakups are a bit like having a bonfire.
If you date, live, and love with your self-esteem in tow, while you’ll still be hurt after a breakup and it’ll take a while to get over it, all that is on the fire is that relationship. You have your memories, maybe some possessions that you keep back, but that part of your life is over – you don’t allow them to have an inflated amount of space in your mind or in your life by letting them or you keep a foothold.
You watch the fire burn for a while, weep, wail, eat your weight in brie, chocolate, and ice-cream or lose your appetite, spend a bit too much time in bed, pull a few sickies with work or take a well needed break, spend more time with your family/friends, try not to think about the relationship too much but then sometimes have conversations with yourself, and sometimes you have a damn good cry in the toilet cubicle at work and then have to leave when someone comes up in and does a #2 and you’re forced to leave or choke. Maybe you meet your ex for a last chat or for a catch up or to give back keys and life gradually starts to move on. The fire isn’t roaring and it’s beginning to burn down to its embers. In time, it will go out. Sometimes you don’t realise that it’s gone out until you look up from enjoying your life.
That is of course, unless you just won’t let the fire die because you keep throwing stuff on there to reignite it and fan the flames.
When your breakup bonfire starts, it’s actually catching on to the embers that you’ve been stoking from previous breakups and experiences – you’re already in pain and now you have even more pain. You keep thinking that the way to stop the pain is to get the validation you want – unfortunately, it just ends up creating further experiences to add on to the fire. Sometimes, it’s like you’re throwing fat or petrol on there.
Just as the embers are going out, you panic that the embers are going out and how it means that you’ll need to have a new purpose and focus on you, so you throw some stuff on it like a text, email, drunken phone call or showing up at the bar where they hang, and you feel better temporarily. You may feel so angry with yourself and may even be carrying anger towards others, that you throw open your proverbial storage shed and bring out blame and shame that you rescued from previous fires and throw that on there as well, which just adds even more pain.
Eventually you have to realise that if you want it to stop, that you’ve got to stop trying to keep the fire alive, stop trying to change the nature of the fire, and let it burn out so that you can face you, your present and your future.
You need to be helping you, not setting yourself back. It’s one thing if you give someone a second chance especially when it’s grounded in sound judgement, but it’s another thing when you keep returning to the same painful situation again and again and again, because you won’t let it burn and give your ego the opportunity to cope with and come out the other side. The more you keep going back, is the more it will feel like Day 5 or 10 or 30 even though months or even years have gone by.
Let it burn – I now have that Usher song stuck in my head.
Grieve the loss of your relationships and let them go. It doesn’t mean that you erase all memories both good and bad, but what it does mean, is that you say goodbye to that chapter of your life so you can say hello to the next one.
Check out my book and ebook Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl.