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The Break-Up Guide: We Promise To Get You Through This Stage By Stage

The Break-Up Guide: We Promise To Get You Through This Stage By Stage

I’ve been through some rough breakups, and one in particular left me reeling, the pain overtaking me. I remember driving in the California sun, a brilliant day in the middle of spring, and I couldn’t see the blue sky. To me, everything looked gray. I could barely coax myself out of bed in the morning, let alone see how things could possibly get better.

It didn’t help that I lost my job around the same time as my boyfriend broke up with me. I felt useless, tired, and unwanted. My friends were supportive and invited me out, hoping that I would find some distraction in hooking up with a hot guy. But honestly, the last thing I felt like doing was trying to meet someone new.

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But in time, I did find myself in a much better place, not only over my heartbreak (and with a new job), but stronger and more confident than ever. It took some effort on my part, but step by step, I moved forward.

To get a better handle on what to expect if you’re going through a break-up, here’s a breakdown of the emotional stages, and what to do:

Phase 1: Go Through The Pain and Devastation

You might feel blindsided by a breakup, or you might have felt it coming for months. Regardless, the pain is the same, and it’s okay to grieve for the loss of your relationship. Take some time, gather friends and family around you, listen to music – whatever brings you comfort. Don’t ignore your feelings, accept them so you can process the pain. As I say in my new book The Breakup Guide, Don’t get stuck in your pain by trying to avoid it. Confronting and accepting it is the only way to move forward with your life.

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Phase 2: Wondering What You Did Wrong

There’s no doubt that in the early stages of a breakup we look for ways that we might have alienated our partners. You might think: maybe I wasn’t pretty/smart/successful/talented/ fill-in-the-blank enough. It’s time to stop the self-blame; it not only is faulty thinking, it gets you nowhere fast and it takes your confidence along with it. You are enough, period. The two of you together might not be right for each other, but that doesn’t mean that you are somehow lacking. Let go of self-judgment. Remind yourself of who you are and the wonderful things that you do – and if you need help, ask a friend to remind you!

Phase 3: Denial/ Wanting to Get Back Together

This goes along with self-blame. When you think things like: If only I had done…, then we’d be back together, you are setting unrealistic expectations for yourself. You are also looking back on a skewed version of the relationship with rose-colored goggles. Relationships have amazing moments, but they also have challenges, so don’t reconstruct history. Instead of trying to win him back with some elusive tactic, thinking that things will be perfect this time around, it’s time to seriously ask yourself: What do I really want? What did I not get from this relationship? Chances are, there are reasons to let the relationship go.

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Phase 4: Anger and Play the Blame Game

Not long after you’ve shed your last tear, you might feel anger. Maybe you are keeping a running list of all of the ways you’ve been wronged by your ex. Unfortunately, this blame game isn’t helpful. You might fantasize about calling him and explaining why he’s such a jerk, but you’re really only hurting yourself. The blame game keeps us caught in a vicious cycle of holding onto our pain, exacerbating our wounds, and prevents us from moving on. Instead of looking for justice or even some type of closure you may never get, make a decision to accept who your ex is and what he is and isn’t capable of. His actions don’t have to set the course for your life. By the same token, be realistic about your part in the relationship’s end. Were you holding back emotionally? What could you improve upon in your next relationship? We all have room to grow.

Phase 5: Letting go

Far too often, we become attached to the relationship, so when it ends, we are left with a void. We wander past that bar we used to frequent, or take the dog for a walk in the park as we’d done countless Sundays before. Instead of giving in to nostalgia, try doing something new. Establish your own routine. Get coffee on Fridays with a friend at your local cafe, or join a yoga class on Wednesday nights. It doesn’t matter what the new habit is, or even how long you maintain it. The important thing to note is by establishing your own routine, you are letting go of the reminders of your ex, and it will be much easier to let him/ her go.

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Breakups are painful, but they also shape us. When we take time to process the pain, we emerge stronger and more open to future love. It’s important to take a good, hard look at our own behavior and what we could do differently, but also to let go of expectations of what we could have done differently. When we accept the old relationship for what it is, we can move on to a healthier, happier relationship.

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Kelly Seal

Author, Dating Expert

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Last Updated on January 6, 2019

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

No one wants to suffer. As a general rule, people like to avoid hurt and pain as much as possible. As a species, humans want a painless existence so much that scientists make a living trying to create it.

People can now choose “pain-free” labor for babies, and remedies to cure back pain, headaches, body-pains and even mental pains are a dime a dozen. Beyond medicine, we also work hard to experience little pain even when it comes to loss; often times we believe a breakup won’t hurt as much if we are the ones to call it off.

But would a world without pain truly be painless? It’s unlikely. In fact, it would probably be painful exactly for that reason.

If people never experienced hurt, they wouldn’t know what it was. On the surface level, that seems like a blessing, but think for a moment: if we didn’t know pain, how would we know peace? If you don’t know you’ve hurt or been hurt, how would you know that you need to heal? Imagine someone only knowing they have an incurable cancer at the final stage because no obvious symptoms have appeared at early stages.

Without the feeling of pain, people won’t be aware of dangerous situations—what should or shouldn’t do for survival.

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Pain Is Our Guardian

Pain serves to protect human beings from harmful actions. It’s the same reason parents teach babies that fire equals hot, and that hot equals hurt. Should the baby still place its hand in a fire or on a stove, the intense pain remains so memorable, that the child is certain never to repeat that action.

In the same way, pain within human bodies can serve as a warning that something is not right. Because you know what it is to feel “well,” you know what it is to feel poorly.[1]

Along with serving as a teacher of what not to do, pain also teaches you what you are made of in terms of what you can handle as an individual.

While the cliche, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a tired term, it’s used excessively for a reason: it’s true. Pain helps you learn to cope with life’s inevitable difficulties and sadnesses— to develop the grit it takes to push past hardships and carry on.

Whether it’s a shattering pain, like the loss of a loved one or a debilitating accident, pain affects everyone differently. But it still affects everyone. Take a breakup as an example, anyone who has experienced it knows it can hurt to the point of feeling physical. Especially the first breakup. At a young age, it feels like the loss of the only love you’ll ever know. As you grow and learn, you realize you’re more resilient with every ended relationship.

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No Pain, No Happiness

You only know happiness when you have known pain. While the idea of constant happiness sounds nice, there is little chance it would be. Without the comparison to happiness, there’s no reason to be grateful for it. That is to say, without ever knowing sadness or pain, you would have no reason to be grateful for happiness.

In reality, there is always something missing, or something unpleasant, but it is only through those realizations that you know to be grateful when you feel you have it all. Read more about why happiness and pain have to exist together: Chasing Happiness Won’t Make You Happy

In a somewhat counter-intuitive finding, researchers found one of the things that brings about the most happiness is challenge. When people are tested, they experience a greater sense of accomplishment and happiness when they are successful. It is largely for this reason that low-income individuals can often feel happier than those who have a sense of wealth.[2]

This is a great thing to remember the next time you feel you would be happier if you just had a little more cash.

Avoiding Pain Leads to More Suffering

Pain is inevitable, embrace it positively. Anyone who strives to have a painless life is striving for perfectionism; and perfectionism guarantees sadness because nothing will ever be perfect.

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This isn’t a bleak outlook, but rather a truthful one. The messy moments in life tend to create the best memories and gratitude. Pain often serves as a reminder of lessons learned, much like physical scars on the body.

Pain will always be painful, but it’s the hurt feelings that help wiser decisions be made.

Allow Room for the Inevitable

Learning how to tolerate pain, especially the emotional kind, is a valuable lesson.

Accepting and feeling pain makes you human. There is no weakness in that. Weakness only comes when you try to blame your own pain on someone else, expecting the blame to alleviate your hurting. There’s a saying,

“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.”

Think back to the last time you were really angry with someone. Maybe you were hurt because you got laid off from a job. You felt angry and that anger caused so much pain that you could feel it in a physical way. Being angry and blaming your ex boss for that pain didn’t affect him or her in any way; you’re the only one who lost sleep over it.

The healthier thing to do in a situation like that is acknowledge your pain and the anger along with it. Accept it and explore it in an introspective way. How can you learn and grow? What is at the root of that pain? Are you truly hurting and angry about being laid off, or is the pain more a correlation to you feeling like you failed?

While uncomfortable, exploring your pain is a way to raise your self-awareness. By understanding more about yourself, you know how to deal with similar situations in the future. You can never expect to be numb to difficult situations, but you will learn to better prepare financially for the loss of a job and be grateful for an income since you now know nothing is promised (no matter how much you work or how deserving you may feel).

Pain Hurts, but Numbness Would Be Worse

Pain does not feel good, but the bad feeling of it will help you learn and grow. It makes the sweet moments in life even sweeter and the gratitude more sincere.

To have a happier and more successful life, you don’t learn from success or accomplishment, but through pain and failures. For it is in those moments that you learn how to do better in the future or at least cope a little more easily.

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You are the strong person you are today because of the hardships this life has presented to you. While you may have felt out of control when those hard times came, the one thing you will always have control over is how you choose to react to things. The next time you hurt or you’re angry or sad, acknowledge it and allow yourself to ruminate in it. Then take a deep breath and start learning from that pain. You’ve got this!

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1]University of Calgary: Why is Pain Important?
[2]Greater Good Magazine: The Importance of Pain

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