I have met a lot of people recently who have gone through a break up or a divorce. In one conversation I was asked: How do you remain so optimistic after going through your break up? At first I just laughed because I feel like a duck on water; calm and graceful on the surface, but beneath the water my feet are paddling nonstop trying to stay afloat. Once I gave it some thought I realized that I had been handling it quite well, respectively, and thought I might share a few ideas for anyone out there who may be going through a similar situation.
Acceptance: The hardest part for me was accepting it was over. I kept playing this scene in my mind where I would get a text or phone call saying ‘I made a mistake. I want us to be together again’, but deep down I knew that wasn’t going to happen. The sooner you accept the fact it is over, the sooner you can start the healing.
Have any of you dealt with construction? Have you ever seen where, for example, the lane that was once a “straight lane” has now become a “right turn only” lane? Or vice versa? What would happen if they didn’t specify, by painting a new arrow, that the change had been made? Would you know the lane was a right turn only? You can’t make adjustments to your course of travel if you don’t acknowledge that the lanes have changed. The road is closed. You are now in a “right turn only” lane. If you try to go straight forward, you’re simply going to crash.
Another analogy has to do with an anatomical part being broken: bones. You cannot have a bone heal properly if you’re unwilling to admit that the bone, in actuality, is broken! It requires you to make a trip to the doctor, receive an X-ray, and have the bone set. If you think that telling yourself, ‘Perhaps it is just a bad sprain’ will ease the pain–you’re very wrong my friend. Again, accept that it is over.
Being Friends: This is a, ‘do as I say, not as I do’ section. I am still friends with about 99% of my exes. It is hard sometimes though. I would be lying if I didn’t say that some times I allow myself to think about the what-ifs when I talk to some of them. That is the point though. When you break up, break up. Sometimes ‘just friends’ is just not possible. Cut the phone line. Delete their number, Facebook, twitter, blog. Whatever connection you have with them: sever it. You need to heal. If the wound is cut open again and again, you risk not only more pain, but infection (i.e. bitterness, hatred).
Allowance: “How are you doing?”, will be one of the most common questions you will be asked. Allow yourself to be honest. If you are sad, say that you’re sad. There is strength in honesty. Allow yourself to grieve; you are human after all. No one expects you to be an emotionless robot that is only capable of smiles. Give yourself time. Don’t feel as if you need to rebound or even be social for awhile. It is okay to sit in your room and play the same album (or song) 181 times. I encourage you to find some new music. Look for music that is upbeat, possibly sappy romantic music. I recommend bands like: Frou Frou, J.Wride, John Mayer, Maroon 5, Matchbox Twenty. Find a band, an album, a song that hits home to you and play it over and over. Music can help the healing process.
The List: Often times we sulk into the depths of despair when it comes to break ups. “He/she was the one. How could this have happened? We were perfect together!”, we tell ourselves over and over. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you weren’t perfect for each other. If you were, then you would still be together. If you don’t believe me, make ‘the list’. Write down a list of ten things that you don’t like about your ex. Perhaps it is something as trivial as the fact they didn’t put the lid on the toothpaste. Maybe it is as something as extreme as they were unfaithful to the relationship. Now, write down 10 things you know, or believe, your ex did not like about you. This by no means is an exercise to make you think ill of your ex or to be bitter; but to show that, despite your beliefs, there could be someone else out there better suited for you.
You also should make a list of what you are looking for in a partner. Be detailed. Be specific. What do they look like? How do they act? What are their passions, goals, hobbies, interests and characteristics? If you need some ideas, I found this source to be helpful. Now that you have a list of what you do and do not want, that leads us to the next point…
Go fish: “There are plenty of fish in the sea.” If I had a dollar for every time I have heard that I could retire by Tuesday. You don’t want to hear this do you? It stings. You want to lash back and say ‘He/She was everything I wanted!’, but you need to realize that your level of ‘want’ at this point is a little tainted. You see, we automatically want what we can’t have. Currently you cannot have your ex. Perhaps in this state you have even added, or at least exaggerated, a few characteristics about your ex to justify your need to feel a wanting for them. Anyways, back to fishing. You need to get back out there. Put away your pictures of her/him and start talking to other people. If you don’t think you’re ready to go out and socialize and meet new folks, try easing into it through an online dating service. You get to meet new people, talk to them, get to know them and also realize that it is O.K. to move on.
Side note: There is a reason I say “go fish”. Dating is a skill. You have been off the river, so to speak, for awhile now and if you come running in you are going to scare all the fish away. Do not, for whatever reason, come across as desperate. Also, while there are exceptions to this rule, I recommend not talking about your ex or the fact that you just got out of a relationship with those you’re starting to get to know/date. At least not right away.
Forgive: The sooner you can let go of what happened, and truly want the best for your ex, the better off you will be. This is an easy concept in word, but in deed it is completely different.
Please allow me to get a little personal. I could easily say with my lips that I wished the best for my ex and that I wanted her to be happy, but deep down I was hoping she was miserable. I didn’t truly want her to be happy because that didn’t seem fair. How could she be happy when I was feeling so low? I realized that this was like a cancer and slowly killing me and so I started to perform an exercise. Each day I would look in the mirror, smile, look myself in the eyes and say ‘I want (my ex) to be happy’. I would do this 3-5 times until my smile was no longer fake and my eyes didn’t lie. Then throughout the day I would imagine tough scenarios that I might have to face. Example: facing the fact that some day she would be in a relationship or engaged or married and couldn’t be happier. She is happier with someone else. That is a hard thing to come to grips with. I would imagine those scenarios and smile through them and repeat, ‘I am happy for you’ out loud if possible.
Again, the sooner you can let go and truly wish the best for them, the better you will be. I am not asking you to lie to yourself about what happened. They may have treated you worse than you have ever been treated in your life, but don’t hold that against them. Allow yourself to acknowledge that you were wronged and then turn it over to God to mend. Ask Christ (or your higher power) to see them as He does. Ask for help in not feeling bitter towards your ex, or even towards the opposite sex. Forgiveness is not a journey that needs to be walked alone. Since Christ forgives all men, ask Him to walk the path of forgiveness with you.
Be Happy: In the end the best thing you can do is: be happy. Smile! Laugh! Do those things that bring you the most joy! Some days you might have to paint on a smile to get through things, but smiles are contagious and eventually it will be the real thing. I could write an entire blog post about being happy (oh wait, I already have) but let me just reiterate that happiness in the end is a choice. Why be miserable when you can choose to be happy?
I hope that these ideas have helped you. I would love to hear feedback and other ideas. Leave your comments!