If you've never gone through a breakup, buckle your seat belt, because you're about to enter one of the worst (then best) times of your life. Plus, I'm here to tell you the things nobody ever tells you about surviving a breakup. Because it's not all ice cream and sad music. It's real trauma, real pain, real growth, then real joy. In fact, the joy is one of my favorite things no one talks about. Because once the pain subsides, there you are, filled with wisdom and experience and ready to take on the world.
That's not to say you won't have a brief period of misery before your new-found joy. That's what people do tell you, that it will be hard and sad. When I worked as a Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Certified Responsible Sexuality Educator, breakups were life. Especially in the domestic violence game. And while everyone knew about the sadness, nobody got specific about it. That's what I'm here to do for you. I'm here to break down what I've learned from helping countless people process countless breakups, so you'll know what to expect during your breakup, and so you don't feel so alone.
Most of us walk this path at some point, so I'm confident you won't have a hard time finding someone who can relate. Just remember, there's joy waiting for you once you heal.
1. You Have To Grieve
Your ex could be the absolute worst person in the world, who did unspeakably horrible, violent things to you, and you may still be sad about your loss. It's just natural to grieve when you lose someone. Family and friends who mean well might make you feel judged or shamed for being sad about your loss, and about missing a bad person's good qualities. No matter how bad someone was to you or for you, they had their good moments, and they had your love for a time. Don't fight the impulse to grieve, and don't beat yourself up for grieving the loss of someone who treated you badly. It's essential to the healing process.
2. You'll Be Lonely
When you spend a lot of time with someone, and then stop spending time with that person, you're going to have a gap in your life. Even if your time with that person was terrible, you'll still feel their absence. This is a hard thing to deal with, and it sheds some light on why people go back to bad relationships. Human beings are not meant to be alone. What no one tells you is how strong the pull of loneliness can be, and how essential dealing with loneliness is to getting over your ex. Without a support system, you're more likely to settle for unhealthy relationships. Bad relationships can be easier to deal with than loneliness. This is the time to lean hard on your besties and your family until you establish new habits and routines so you don't settle.
3. You'll Want Your Ex Back
You know that there will be brief moments when you miss your ex and maybe even want them back, but that's not what I'm talking about here. What nobody tells you is that after you've gotten your life back together, and things start to feel normal, you'll start entertaining strange thoughts, like "I wonder what they're doing" or "I've learned a lot, I bet we could do better this time." It's a natural thought process, but a dangerous one, because it's like poking freshly healed wounds. And poking your ex's freshly healed wounds. This is a weird transitional period and most likely your mind is still trying to make sense of things. Better to give it a little more time so you're thinking more clearly.
4. You Can't Be Friends
When you're dealing with intense feelings, you need to take some time to yourself. A breakup is not a time to be friends. It's not a time to lean on each other for support. Think of your ex like a drug. You have to detox. You have to cut the cord. If you keep spending time together, if you keep trying to reach out, if you keep going back and forth, you're never going to get clarity. You're never going to heal. If things are really over, you need to set up some boundaries, which, for at least a while, need to include no contact. You can't be friend with someone when your feelings toward them aren't entirely friend feelings.
5. You'll Make A Fool Out Of Yourself
It's bound to happen. One night, you won't be able to sleep, and you'll be feeling nostalgic, or you'll be overthinking your life, and you'll want to start texting your ex. And what you say will be your one-sided view of things, and it will be coming to your ex out of nowhere. The result isn't anything positive. Most of the time it just makes you look crazy to your ex, and confirms to them that you're still not over them. If I can offer one piece of advice that's saved many people a lot of embarrassment over the years, it's the concept of a three-day waiting period. Instead of texting, write things down, and if you still feel that burning need to text three days later, revisit those thoughts. Nine times out of ten you'll wake up thinking "OMG, thank god I didn't send those emotional middle-of-the-night texts."
6. You'll Learn So Much
Breakups are the worst, but when you look back on them, they're kind of the best. They're the kind of life events who make you who you are. You learn what you want out of life, who you are, how to deal, and a goldmine of stuff about your personality and the way you love. You can't pay for that kind of insight. Sure, it's a pain worse than death at the time, and you'll probably not be able to see everything you're learning at the time, but trust me, it's happening. These are often the defining moments of our lives. Plus, tons of good art, especially music, comes from bad breakups. That's a plus, right?
7. You'll Have A Spectacular Upswing
It's true that you can't appreciate joy without sorrow. The breakup is your sorrow, and the joy that's coming will be that much sweeter. You'll get to change your life, maybe move, try new things, meet new people. The world will become open to you in a new way. And you'll be strong, because you just survived a heartbreak, so the little things won't bother you as much. This time of growth and exploration is so delicious. Before you know it, you'll be a better you than you ever were in that relationship, and you'll be so glad you got to go through some hard times because of who they turned you into.
Now that you know, you can prepare, or prepare your friends, so you don't make any classic breakup mistakes that only end up prolonging your heartbreak. Because you deserve to be happy. And because your roommate is so tired of your sad breakup music. No, seriously. Get some headphones.
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