In December 2015, I went through a traumatic breakup experience.
It was one of those situations where I “lacked courage” and failed to have the really hard conversation and speak my brutal truth.
I didn’t have the courage because I was afraid of hurting her—and the longer I went without telling her the truth the more the anxiety I felt, and the harder it became to have that conversation. And she stayed with me, knowing she was not getting what she needed from a partner but was too afraid to address it or ask for more.
So, because neither of us could show enough courage to talk about the shit that was going on between us, the relationship basically self-imploded from the inside and it got really messy.
Recently, I wrote an article about the importance of emotional courage and how it’s the one unanimous trait you find in every GREAT relationship. As I said in that article, this relationship is where I learned the hard lessons first-hand about the importance of emotional courage in a relationship and what happens when you and/or your partner fail to show courage.
The aftermath of the breakup was a difficult one for me, both emotionally and psychologically. So much so, that I spent the first six months of the breakup going through intensive therapy and counselling. I wanted to really decode the events of the relationship. I wanted to pick apart my inherent relationship patterns that had brought me to a place where I’d allowed myself to create and be a part of a relationship that was so toxic and dysfunctional.
I knew that particular breakup was going to require me to put in some hefty internal and emotional work. The type of experience where you know you’re going to have to dig deep into uncomfortable parts of yourself, but you know once you push through the clutter, what you will find are great emotional breakthroughs and so much personal clarity.
While that experience was a difficult one to go through, I was extremely proud of the way I carried myself. I primed my mindset, emotionally, in order to effectively chart the aftermath, so that I could use that relationship and its demise as a great learning experience, to improve myself and my future relationships as a result.
So what is the healthiest way to work through your breakup?
For starters, I think it’s important that you try to limit the ex shit-talk. It doesn’t do you any favours and help you move forward with your life. It doesn’t actively bring bad karma to your ex or force them to pay for how you feel they wronged you and how you think they should be penalized for their actions.
It doesn’t destroy them. In fact, it actually destroys you. And the first thing you need to do after a relationship ends is begin taking whatever steps you can to put yourself first and take care of you.
Besides, it’s unbecoming when other people can feel you trying to sell them a ticket to board the hate train on your ex. It just makes you look bitter, hurt, and immature.
So first things first…
Forget your ex.
The breakup is about you. Not them.
Yes, relationships fall apart because of two people. That means your ex played a part. But you can not control how your ex chooses to process the breakup. All you can control is what you do and how you choose to learn and move forward from the events of that relationship.
One of the common things that can plague people in a breakup is fear of damage to their reputation or character. Particularly when a relationship goes sour and ends badly.
You worry what your ex will say about you. What she will tell her friends. What she will tell mutual acquaintances. You worry that she’ll be angry and spread rumours or hate about you on social media. Or what she’ll be like or how she’ll act towards you if you ever run into her or any of her friends.
I know. I’ve been there.
But what I learned through working intensively with my therapist at the time was that the best way to combat this fear was by diving deeper into yourself. By doing your work. By digging deeper into yourself and getting to know you in all your glory and all your mess, you learn to reclaim self-love and fall in true love with yourself.
By not running from your demons, but actually shaking hands with them, sitting across from them and staring them square in the eye, you learn from them. And only once you acknowledge their presence and accept the hard lessons they bestow on you, can you work through and overcome them.
When you put in this type of personal work after a breakup and get to know yourself, your heart, and your character on that deep of a level, any hate or animosity that may be thrown in your direction doesn’t lay you out quite as much. That’s because you know you and love all parts of you, even the dark parts.
You hear it. You listen. You accept it. You own it. And you move forward with your head held high, knowing that you did your work and turned a sad and unfortunate situation into an opportunity to step into a stronger, wiser, better version of you.
Our emotional success in a breakup, and our ability to grow and move past the breakup in the healthiest way possible, stems from our ability to own our side of the street and take responsibility for our contribution to the breakup and demise of that relationship.
An important mindset to carry through your breakup—one that I learned through working with a therapist—is to never talk ill of your ex-partner. To never, ever put the weight of blame about the relationship and breakup on their shoulders. That’s because when you do that, you’re making yourself exempt from the problem, which is just you avoiding having to do any hard work. It’s conflict and pain avoidant because many of us are afraid of what we may learn about ourselves when we point the microscope in our direction.
The healthiest way to grow and evolve emotionally from a breakup is to strictly own your side and take complete responsibility within yourself for how you helped contribute to that unhealthy relationship and its eventual demise.
If you actively shifting blame to someone else, you avoid any sort of self-examination in a breakup. No matter the situation that happened—even if someone cheats, and betrays you—you still have a part in what destroyed that relationship.
When you play victim, you live in anger. When you live in anger, you avoid dealing with the pain of the situation. Anger is a stage 1 emotion that stunts your growth and keeps you stuck in the past.
The day you choose to begin being angry is the day you stop evolving and growing. So if you choose to be angry at 25 years of age, emotionally, you remain a 25-year-old for the rest of your life.
On the other side of anger is pain. People remain angry because they’re afraid to feel pain. It’s a protective compulsion.
To move past anger requires a deeper kind of self-analysis, which can be a more intensive process that many people aren’t prepared to take on. It’s introspective and requires you to stop blaming other people and take responsibility for your own actions and patterns that are putting you in these situations that bring about such painful outcomes.
It’s okay to be angry. Get it out. But then be done with it. The problem is not feeling angry and upset. The problem is actively allowing yourself to live in that anger. So the longer you stay angry in a breakup and the longer you continue to express anger and hatred toward ex-partners, the longer you live unhappily in a past situation that you’re still trying to control.
The reason why people hold onto hate towards ex-partners is because it gives them leverage and control over a situation that they haven’t fully processed or fully come to terms with yet.
By being angry, it means they don’t have to come to grips with what actually happened. It’s easier to point blame at the other person and just write the situation off as a bad memory. It’s easier to put a wall up and lock something away than it is to actually try and understand what created the situation in the first place.
Sometimes the best form of closure is closure you find on your own.
You don’t always get the direct face-to-face closure where you and your ex get to hash out all the details of your entire relationship and breakup. That type of closure can be considered a blessing in a lot of breakups. Sometimes the breakup was too traumatic or one of you or both of you aren’t interested in revisiting it.
And for some people, if they don’t get that closure, the reaction is to write that relationship off and store it away as a horrible nightmare. But by doing so, by letting that memory live in a pool of hate and anger, you rob yourself of the platform necessary for you to learn and grow from it.
If you don’t have the chance to seek closure with your ex-partner, the way you find it by yourself is by digging deep into the parts of yourself and your patterns that contributed to that relationship being dysfunctional, toxic, or unhealthy. When you do that, and really begin to understand and be cool with it, you can better identify warning signs in future partners, their behaviour, and your own patterns and behaviours that will begin leading you down a path that you know ends in pain and heartache.
I truly believe that our true character is revealed in how we react to pain.
Now, this is actually something I think about when I’m hanging out with someone new. Once I get to know them a little bit, I imagine what it would be like breaking their heart. Honestly, I picture that in my head sometimes. Because I feel that how people react in the wake of pain is so telling to their emotional maturity and a real testament to their true character.
It’s not crazy to ask yourself, “Would this person make a good ex?” Deep down, are they an angry person? Or are they a happy and loving person?
Some people react to pain with anger and hatred. Others choose to work through the pain, evolve, grow, and continue leading with love. Some react to pain by looking around to every external factor to blame so they can allow themselves to live a victim story—which allows them to avoid having to do the hard, internal work. Still others look inward, choosing to focus on what they can learn and how this situation can help them grow into a better, more evolved person.
It’s unfortunate, but some people harbour pain deep below the surface. Sometimes that pain—whether it’s something from a family dynamic or previous relationship—has broken them down emotionally so much so that they carry a chip on their shoulder. Rather than using their difficult situations to step into greater understanding and greater love, they have chosen to fall back into anger, hate, and emotional hostility.
Often it means they haven’t done the work. There are these deep scars and wounds that they have chosen to ignore or are afraid to face. And when you ignore these types of things, they can manifest themselves in your life in deep anger and bitterness.
Often, my decision to continue dating and getting to know someone will be based around me thinking about how they would react in the wake of pain and sadness inflicted by me.
Are they the kind of person who would just put a wall up and hate me? Or would they take the harder and more mature route and choose to try and understand it and still continue to lead with love, because they know that by hating me they don’t destroy my life, they actually just destroy their own?
It may be a weird way of thinking, but ultimately, for me, it’s a way of really trying to get down to the type of character and emotional depth of the person I’m thinking about starting a relationship with.
Like I told myself when I was going through this traumatic breakup experience, a breakup is your best opportunity for self-growth, self-discovery, and self-love. It’s a time that you need to dedicate to digging deep into yourself and getting to know yourself, in a deeper way than you ever have before.
When you commit yourself to that emotional process, you allow yourself to process the breakup in an emotionally healthy way. That then enables you to grow, evolve, learn, and move past the pain and heartache towards a stronger, wiser, and more informed version of you that will be better prepared for the next person who comes around.
Whatever you do, try to not hate your ex. Try to not speak ill of them. Stop selling tickets to your ex’s hate train. Try to send love in their direction. Wish them well. Be kind to their memory. Understand that you both had parts in creating and destroying that relationship. But it’s your job to own your part and what you did to contribute to the equation.
What they choose to do—how they act or how they feel or process the breakup—is out of your control and not something you need to worry about.
The moment you shift your focus towards your ex is the moment that you rob yourself of the opportunity to grow and be better. And if you don’t allow yourself that space to grow and be better, you will keep recycling the same types of partners, the same type of unhealthy love, and the same type of pain and heartache through your life that you’re experiencing right now.
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