The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special too.
― Ernest Hemingway, Men Without Women
If someone says it is easy to get over a breakup — they are trying to sell you something. It is anything but easy.
The pain of losing someone you love cuts deep. The worst is the initial phase. Every morning you wake up, the realization of what happened rushes in. It hits you hard, knocks you down, and keeps you there until you doze off.
That’s why many try to wipe their pain clean. How do they do that? By drinking too much.
However, there is a problem with this approach. When it wears off, it drops back in reality so hard. The impact is devastating. Thus, the method of regulating your pain through alcohol will leave you for worse than where you had started.
What if I tell you suffering isn’t the worst thing that comes from the pain? What if there is a more severe consequence larking around?
Pain is very similar to fire. It sparks soft, spreads fast, and burns whatever it touches if left unattended. That there lies the actual danger of heartbreak.
The pain often blinds us, leading into a self-destructive loop. You can be there years later the actual event had taken place.
It is crucial to address the situation within the initial days of the actual breakup. Why? For as long as we spend in our self justifiable victimhood, the harder it gets to break out of it.
And these are the five steps I regret not taking — right after my breakup.
1. Cutting It Off: Letting Go of What Once Was
Before the incident, we had been dating for about eight months. And it took me about two years to recover. By the time; my ex-girlfriend was happily married. Putting aside the horrible things she had put me through, she did something right. She didn’t carry any baggage (not that I know of) to her new relationship. I, on the other hand, lingered over it for far too long.
I was desperate. I couldn’t let go of the relationship that my ex-girlfriend had already abandoned. I kept calling and texting, begging her to get back. It went on for months. I was missing sleep, skipping meals, and losing weight.
In hindsight, I wish I had taken a holistic approach at the time.
Here are the things I should have done.
1.1 Following the no contact rule:
Again, we are the most vulnerable during the initial days of separation. According to Psychology Today, during this period, our emotions run all over the place. One can feel numb yet overwhelmed — guilty yet furious — hateful yet obsessive.
So what do we do? We allow ourselves enough room to process those hurt feelings. Guess what! You cannot do it and keep in touch with your ex at the same time. Why? Because they are the very source of those emotions.
That’s why most relationship experts suggest a mandatory no-contact phase right after a breakup.
1.2 Accepting the reality:
If you couldn’t guess by now, I wasn’t the breakup-er. On the contrary, I was the breakup-e. I was blissfully unaware of the fact that my girl had a fiancé. She even came to my apartment for a ‘sleepover’ the day after her engagement. (No, I didn’t see the ring. She must have taken it off.)
Naturally, when I learned the news, I refused to accept it. How could I? The suddenness of it shocked me out of my wits. Besides, none of it lined up with everything we had. To believe it would be accepting that none of it was real.
So what did I do? I clenched my fist and decided to fight for it — to fight for my love. Here’s the problem. There was love, at least in my heart. But there was no relationship. Why? She HAD left me. I WAS all alone there. Hence, there was nothing to fight for — there was nothing to be saved.
It took me months to accept this simple little fact.
1.3 Being respectful to her and especially to myself:
What am I even talking about, respect? Am I for real? How can you be respectful to someone who had ripped you apart? Well, here’s the thing. Respect & forgiveness is more about yourself rather than the ones who had wronged you.
In the process of trying and getting her back, I was disrespecting her decision to move on. Worse, I was wrecking my own dignity. Yes, she had put me through a lot. No, I have would never know what was in her mind. In the end, it was up to me how I reacted.
And what I did was neither respectful nor corrective for me. Sometimes, we must forgive people who wrong us, even if they are not asking for this. No, it is not for them. It is about us. I only wish I knew it earlier.
2. Letting It Out: Processing the Hurt Feelings
Let’s face it! When you get dumped, it hurts. No, it is not only the primary shock. All the moments you spent together, all those broken promises, all those plans for the future will come and haunt you. It is okay. Feeling pain doesn’t make you weak. It is only a mark of your humanity.
However, there is a catch! With every hindrance, every hardship, and every pain: comes a question. What now? Will you let it consume you? Or would you acknowledge and process it? When life threw the same piece of question in my way, I chose the former one.
Here’s what I should have done instead.
2.1 Being kind to myself:
This step can include little gestures like grooming, buying yourself some gifts, taking yourself out on a date. Now, why should we do it? We often get in a relationship with someone because we think the person adds some value to our lives. Therefore, on the surface, when we miss someone, deep down, we miss their services.
Here’s the thing. We don’t own people. Hence, we cannot rely on others to make us feel special. So it’s better to do it by ourselves. And it is all the more powerful when the people we love are turning their backs on us.
2.2 Being intentional with the time in hand:
“Time heals everything.” You are familiar with this statement. So was I. Sorry to break it to you, but it didn’t help me much. Why? Maybe because the saying is somewhat sketchy. Time, by itself, will not do the trick. It is but our active participation in the healing that makes the difference.
2.3 Eating well:
Okay, so there are two schools of thought here.
- According to the first opinion, it is best to eat your favorite foods after a breakup. Why? Well, it tasting those delicious dishes prompts our brain to release pleasure chemicals — in the same way as drugs and alcohol. As a result, it keeps you in a good mood.
- The other view is quite contradictory. According to these, one should opt for a vegetarian diet while dealing with overwhelming emotions. Why so? Studies suggest meat consumption can ignite your latent passions. While processing your hurt feelings, being impulsive is the last thing you want to be.
Guess what! I followed neither of those. And it made me feel even worse.
2.4 Feeding my mind well:
I did not start this one about a year after the catastrophe. A breakup, whether intentional or not, creates a gap. Add an act of infidelity, and it fills it up with a pool of resentment and self-sabotaging sentiments. That’s where I stayed the entire time until I visited a therapist. Of course, it did not do any good.
Now, to drain out all those toxicity inside me, I needed to replace it with something else — something that would serve me in the long run. So I channeled all my energy into learning new things. For me, it was working on my craft and reading more books. The more I read, the more I studied; it opened my eyes to newer aspects.
3. Introspect: Being Honest and Looking at Things From Multiple Perspectives
While evaluating a breakup, most people tend to show two types of biases:
- Either they blame everything on their partner.
- Or they get busy self-blaming.
The first derives from a fit of self-righteous anger and frustration. The latter, on the other hand, is a product of unreasonable guilt.
There is, however, a third phase to the equation. In this, one aggressively swings the sword of blame from the partner to him/herself. I was stuck right there.
What I needed was honest introspection. I had to have a clear picture of where I was a victim and where I was the culprit. It was the only way to get the closure I needed.
But I did not do that. Why? Because I did not know any better. So what did I do? All I did, was to let my blind rage consume me. That led me to suffer, alone! That too, when the person who put me there was busy living a life.
Yet, as I sought out help, I learned that I was asking all the wrong questions. Here’s what I was asking, even months after the breakup:
- How could she leave me?
- Why would she leave me?
- Don’t I deserve to be loved?
- Will anyone ever love me again?
What I really should have been asking is these:
- Did I overlook any red flags?
- What were my expectations from this relationship? Were they reasonable?
- The things she was complaining about, are those real?
- Other than love and intimacy, were we compatible? Would it work out in the long run?
When we are hurt physically, we seek quick medical assistance. Yes, the healing takes time. And the scars may take even longer to fade. But we act quickly and seek treatment nonetheless. It not only helps with the pain but also saves us from devastating consequences.
Yet, when we are hurt emotionally, we tend to skip the action and leave everything on time.Sometimes, it works. But more often, it leads us in a self-destructive loop. Once there, it becomes strikingly more complicated to get out.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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