A few weeks ago I wrote about the importance of not making someone the sole source of your happiness, your reason for being or your purpose, and explained that on a number of occasions I had believed I wouldn’t love again, that I wouldn’t recover and that I couldn’t be happy without them, only to discover that this was completely exaggerated and untrue.
I’m here, I’m still standing, and with the wonderful 20:20 vision that hindsight gives me, I realise that it was the pain of letting go more so than the person. It was all of the feelings about myself tied to those experiences rather than the actual people themselves, who to be fair, for some of them, I should have been relieved.
Whether your relationship was healthy or unhealthy, it is hard to breakup but I must admit that the overwhelming majority of people that I hear from who are struggling to get over someone have been in an unhealthy partnering.
Why is getting over someone so hard?
It’s the loss of hope and plans. It’s the white space that appears where you thought that you’d be doing stuff with them. It’s how you feel about you as a result of the fact that they’re no longer there. It’s the unanswered questions, it’s listening to the tape of your relationship playing back and wondering what you missed, latching on to something that was said and wondering if that was the start of it all, blaming yourself, sometimes feeling ashamed that you were with them or ashamed that you still want them, remembering the ‘good times’ and then feeling the longing, or feeling indignant that things that they said or professed themselves to be were not what it was. It’s wondering what could have been different and thinking about the coulda, woulda, shouldas. It’s also a lot easier to focus on them as we feel uncomfortable looking too closely at ourselves.
The hardest part: letting go. That’s not just letting go of them in the physical sense but letting go of them emotionally and mentally. It’s letting go of what you thought might be and what you thought they were and accepting the reality of who they are. Letting go of illusions is difficult. Holding on to anger, indignation, and sorrow is quite easy.
As I said to someone yesterday, “You’re grieving a huge loss and part of that is accepting the man he is and letting go of the illusion of the man he isn’t.”
A breakup or even feeling dejected after initially dating someone and it not progressing is a loss.
It is important to work your way through the loss and process what has happened and grieve the loss of them otherwise you will get trapped in your feelings of rejection which aside from stalling the grieving process, may cause you to react to those feelings and do stuff that at best is embarrassing and at its worst, humiliating, only for you to still have to feel the loss and end up feeling rejected all over again.
This is grieving the absence of them from your life, the things that you thought would happen, the promises that were made, and basically any fantasy’s that had built up as a result of your relationship or connection to them, however brief it was.
The difficulty in accepting someone for who and what they are is that it does force us to have to look a little closer to home at ourselves.
I ranted, I raved, I bitched, I cried, I complained, I bargained with myself, I replayed every damn conversation and when I chose to accept him for what he is, it made me ask ‘But why on earth would I want to be with someone like that in a relationship like this?’. At times it made me see my own choices too clearly and I would try to refocus my energy on being annoyed with him. It was exhausting.
People keep saying to me ‘When am I going to get over them?’
In all honesty, it’s different strokes for different folks but the people I know that do get over their relationships don’t continue to hold onto their ex in any way, shape or form. Bit by bit by bit they let go.
If you’ve been broken up longer than you were together with the person, it is clear that more holding on than letting go is taking place.
If it takes you weeks or even months to get over someone who you knew for days or a few weeks, this is a very disproportionate reaction to your involvement and is indicative that you were too invested in a very brief connection and are struggling to let go of the fantasy.
If it takes you months to get over someone who you were involved with for a few months, it may be about evens until the amount of time together is outpaced by the amount of time you’ve been broken up.
If it was a lengthy relationship, you’re probably looking at a year, maybe more.
A major factor that can affect the aftermath of the breakup is what actually happened in the relationship. Very traumatic relationships can take more work to get over as it can really affect your trust issues. Abusive relationships are very devastating to your sense of self and it can take quite a while to unravel yourself from the abusive messages and control that you’ve been subjected to. Relationships where there’s been a lot of future faking going down and red flags missed will also take longer especially if you become suspended in disbelief about the truths that you’ve discovered.
You also have to factor in that particularly with unhealthy pairings, they don’t make it easy to move on from them because they often like to pop up in your life and keep a foothold.
But this is why you have to go back to the fact that you and only you are in charge of your experience and that you have to steer yourself out of the breakup waters into the calmer sea of acceptance. No-one else is going to do that for you and being over them generally doesn’t tend to just ‘happen’; you have to actively seek to distance yourself from the source of the pain, grieve the loss, and start rebuilding your life without them in it.
You’re not going to read or do something today and then tomorrow go ‘I’m over it’ but if you think of yourself like a piggy bank, everything that you do to help yourself through this loss after the breakup, adds to your self-esteem pot and helps to restore your faith and confidence. Stuff that undermines your efforts will have you depleting whatever reserves you have left and if you persist in holding on making yourself emotionally bankrupt – something has to give, and that something is you.
Much like relationships, getting over a breakup doesn’t just ‘happen’ – they take work.
While it is understandable to initially bunk off work, be anti-social, sob into your tea and biccies or whatever at home, get miserably drunk, and essentially hold yourself a pity party for a month or so, doing it on an extended basis is basically wallowing and removing your own accountability to take care of yourself and work your way through the breakup.
It’s good to talk about the relationship and of course you’re going to think about it, but after a while, it’s good to limit yourself to force you into processing your thoughts, limit the anger holding, and more importantly fill up your mind with other stuff. A number of readers actually put a time in their diary that they are allowed to think about their ex and for the rest of the day, there is no room in the inn! If they didn’t do this, they’d be thinking about him all the time just because they could and it was habit.
Yes – it does become a habit to think and talk about your ex. That doesn’t actually mean that you’re actually as invested in them still as you believe, it’s just it has become second nature and your purpose to think and talk about them.
Talking about your ex and rehashing what happened actually breathes life into them, especially if in talking about it, you don’t process the information and draw a conclusion and instead ‘rewind’ and start over – talking can be cathartic but make sure you’re not reliving your relationship and holding on and are instead using it to draw a conclusion and move on to looking at something else about them. If you’re still talking about the same thing, it means you’re not processing. You’re voicing your thoughts but not really listening to them.
Thinking about the fact that you’re thinking about them will only exasperate you further. Likewise, we can actually get used to being in pain and grieving and so even when it starts to feel better, when we have a good day where we don’t think about them, we follow it up with days of thinking about them to compensate. It’s as if our purpose has become to feel hurt and hold onto the pain of letting go of them.
Spend some time writing out your thoughts (download my free Unsent Letter mini workbook) or at least if you’re going to think about your ex, commit to always answering these two questions:
1) What does this mean about him and the relationship? (Draw a conclusion)
2) What can I learn from this and apply to my future experiences? (Take action)
If you’re not prepared to answer these questions and move on to the next thought process, give your mind something else to think about. Boredom is dangerous because when you are bored, you will find that you use that physical and mental energy on them. Next thing you know, you’re hijacked by nostalgia or blame, obsessing, or even dialling or texting them.
Cliche as it may be, nobody got over a breakup by not being busy and forcing themselves to get on with their life.
One of the things that will stall the process of letting go is if there is an underlying fear of ‘what happens next’. i.e. When I don’t have them to cry and complain over and to think about morning, noon and night, what am I going to do then?
We then think about starting over, having to put ourselves out there, getting out of comfort zone, interacting with new people, discovering our own accountability for what may have happened in our relationships and being a person of action and it can all seem very scary.
So we go back to the safe cocoon of feeling hurt, indignant, angry, frustrated and often in denial about our ex because it stalls the process of being 100% accountable for our own experience…even though we still are. Be careful of becoming too comfortable in the role of ‘broken hearted’ or ‘dazed and confused’.
If you hold onto them, whether it’s that you hold onto the loving feelings, the anger, the frustration, the confusion, the anything, you will lengthen the period of time it takes for you to grieve the loss of the relationship and move on because you will move back and forth between denial, anger, bargaining and depression and keep yourself at bay from achieving what you really need which is acceptance.
When on some level you’re fighting, whether it is yourself or them, you are not letting of the relationship.
When you don’t let go of the relationship, aside from veering back and forth through different stages of grief, you end up obsessing which is looking for reasons to blame yourself which will only make it harder to let go.
Resistance is a key factor in a lot of problems in relationships – resisting change, resisting the truth, resisting acceptance, resisting accountability, responsibility. Do you know that resisting is a lot harder work than acceptance? The amount of energy it takes you to fight the inevitable or the reality of things is a lot more than it is to accept it because the reality is that you denying these things doesn’t change the actuality of them.
You’re not over them yet because you’re not over them yet. On some level, you’re still fighting and you haven’t accepted that it is over. Whether it’s that you’re still questioning the who, what, where’s and why’s of what they said and did, or you’re wondering what you could have done different, or whatever it is, you still are not at acceptance.
Recovering from a breakup and getting over a relationship involves you using each and every day to take the focus off them and bring it back to you. You accept that there will be bad days or even weeks and you get back up to live another day. The more time you spend thinking about them, is time that could be spent helping you to work through the loss of the relationship and start rebuilding your life without them. When you make them the focus of your thoughts, it’s like having a running internal dialogue with them and for some of you, it’s actually like you’re continuing the relationship in some sort of alternative reality.
Breakups are supposed to hurt and many readers have emailed me and said that they can’t break up because they think it’ll hurt too much and they won’t survive it or that they have broken up and it’s too painful. Always be careful of correlating the level of pain you feel to how much you feel because they’re not tied to each other – how you process loss, deal with rejection, and how much your imagination has been working have a lot to do with how much pain you are in.
I’m not asking you to develop a heart of stone but I am asking you to take care of you and not put your life on hold because hard as it may be for you to hear, they are still getting on with their lives. Take them off the pedestal, strip out the illusions and feel the pain – it does pass. If you’re really struggling to deal with the loss or organise your thoughts, see a counsellor or therapist as this will really help you to move through the process.
One day you will wake up and realise that it doesn’t hurt as much as it used to and that in fact, it hasn’t for a while. When this happens, embrace it – don’t fight it and panic about the fact that you’re not thinking about them as much. Whatever you’re doing on the days where you don’t think about them as much – do more of it.
Right now, if you are struggling to get over them, you’re trapped in your feelings about the hope you once had for yourself and this relationship. You may feel like all of your hope went with them, that they were your last chance saloon, or that if only they’d been able to change then things could have been oh so different.
Don’t give up on love because you give up on yourself. Take all that energy you’re using in willing, waiting, and hoping and redirect it towards you so that you can believe that you will meet someone else and believe that it does get better. Let go of your past so you can start living your present and start looking forward to the future.