Break-ups can be painful. That’s why there are so darn many songs written about them.
Are you going through one right now? I bet you are feeling one (or more) of these feelings:
- Angry at your ex- for letting you down.
- Guilty for hurting your ex-.
- Worried that you are making a mistake.
- Sad that you failed.
- Jealous that your ex- might be with someone else
- Afraid that you will never find love that lasts.
- Disgusted that you ever wasted your time on their sorry self.
When I left my ex-fiance, I felt most of these at various stages. Maybe one week would be a worried week, the next a sad week. Which one are you feeling right now?
With all of these negative feelings swirling around, it’s tempting to rue the day that you ever got into the relationship in the first place.
But that would be a mistake. Because the truth is that each relationship is a key part of you “growing up” to become an adult in the world of love. They’re like classes toward your master’s degree in love, and then one day, when you have mastered the material, you get to graduate and have “the one.” Just like school, some classes are more fun than others, and no one likes finals. But the end result is worth it.
So save yourself some break-up angst and get busy figuring out what exactly is being taught in the curriculum of this ex-relationship. Here are some possibilities.
1. You sand down your rough edges.
Let’s face it, each one of us has aspects of our personalities that make us difficult to date. For me, I can be hyper-critical of my partner when he doesn’t do things my way. And, in case you were wondering, nit-picking does NOT lend itself well to a happy relationship. My criticalness contributed to several failed relationships until I finally learned how to get it in check and instead accept my partner as an equal. While learning this lesson certainly took a lot of time and heartache, it was well worth it to have my current relationship as great as it is.
What part of you needs to be tamed in order for you to be a good partner?
2. You learn how to “do” relationships right.
After a few beers at a scientific conference, a professor in my Ph.D. program once told me that I should only date men who had been married once before. The first marriage, he claimed, was to figure out how to “do” marriage, so that you could get ready for your “real” marriage to your second spouse. While I disagree with much of his philosophy, I do agree that relationships take practice. Like making pancakes for the first time, you are likely to botch a few attempts before you figure out how it’s done. A failed relationship is the best way to learn what doesn’t work, and how to build a better one the next time around.
3. You learn what you are looking for.
Think back on the first person you had a crush on. Do you think you would have a crush on that person if you met them today? The answer is likely “no” and that is a very good thing. With each failed relationship, you learn something about who you are and what is important to you in a partner.
What did you learn from your last relationship?
4. You figure out your failure rituals.
As much as we may hate it, being alive means failing at a bunch of things. You wanted the cool kid to ask you to prom and he didn’t. You applied for a great job and didn’t get it. You wanted to fit into your size 4 jeans by memorial day and didn’t make it. There is a skill to picking yourself up from these failures and trying again. I recommend designing a “failure ritual” that is your go-to whenever you fail at something. It can involve things like listening to your favorite mourning songs, calling a trusted friend, writing a eulogy for the “death” of whatever you failed at, or taking a period of “down time” to fully process what happened.
What will you design your failure ritual to be?
5. You learn how to tell the difference between fact and fantasy.
My friend recently suffered from a break-up in which she put her man on a pedestal. She found him to be so well-educated, successful, interesting and funny, that she reasoned he really was the perfect man. She chose to ignore the things he did that were less-than-stellar, like refusing to meet her family and never really giving her his full attention. But after the break-up, she could see him for what he really was: a decent man who was simply not that into her. Use break-ups as a wake-up call to help you learn where you tend to dupe yourself so that you can enter the next relationship fully aware.
Where do you tend to live in fantasy land?
6. You see that life can be impermanent, and that is OK.
Maybe you thought that this relationship was forever, and it turned out that it wasn’t. That’s OK. That’s life. Deaths and break-ups are good reminders to cherish the people you have in your life right now, because you never know what tomorrow will bring.
Who are you taking for granted right now in your life?
Break-ups can be painful, but if you compare the pain to all that you can gain from them, you will see that they are worth it. As soon as you feel comfortable, start to do an autopsy on the relationship. What were you supposed to learn from that relationship? What gems make it all worth it?
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Featured photo credit: Un-married/Paul Moody via flickr.com