As an external processor, I've been rallying the support troops after my own breakup. I'm thankful to have had many conversations on love and loss as a result. It's incredible to see the universality of the human condition-- so many of us can empathize with what a lost connection feels like. When I tell people, "I got broken up with"- the immediate facial expressions people give me signal, "I feel your pain". And yet, each relationship is so different.
These are the nuggets of wisdom from people's particular situations I've picked up along the way that can have universal application. They've helped me fill the void of heartbreak, which has helped transform what feels like a hole in my heart feeling to a bruise that I know will fade over time.
1) Welcome to the "I've been broken up with" club. It feels absolutely terrible. Take comfort in knowing that you're joining a club of billions of people across time. People join this club on a daily basis! Club membership entails feelings of rejection and inadequacy. It can also mean reliving the past wondering "If I did _____, would this not have happened?"
Stop. It's understandable and natural to do so. However, at the end of the day you can only move forward with the present information you were given. The present information = you were broken up with. You did the best you could during the relationship. Your best is good enough. You are more than enough. Be with someone who sees that.
2) Somebody's rejection of you based on a (insert time period here) interaction with you does not invalidate the totality of your person. You'll realize that it's silly to define yourself by one person's rejection of you. This person was not right for you. Be a full person on your own.
3) Realize that relationships are built on mutuality. Someone has elected to remove themselves from the picture. Tautologically, this person was not the person for you. They were not ready for you. Upon further reflection, realize that as much you could not provide that person with what they needed...more importantly, they could not provide you with what you needed. There may be times when you feel lonely and pine for that person. Yet remember... a dog does not even go back to its own vomit. This person didn't want to be with you. This person broke up with you. You deserve better than that.
4) Oftentimes we look to get closure from those who hurt us. When you really think about it, the best way to look for closure is finding it within yourself. In others words, don't seek validation from somebody else (much easier said than done, but strive for this!)
5) When someone breaks up with you, they have made themselves their #1 priority. Take the time now to make yourself your #1 priority. Pursue relationships and experiences that make you happy, alive, and full. Celebrate the joys of others around you and comfort those who are also going through hard times. Take time to date yourself.
On a practical level "dating myself" involves running, spending time with friends, and doing things that make me happy (photography, exploring, etc.). Through a breakup, your brain and body is going through some intense neurochemical rewiring. Help your brain and body in this process by exercising regularly and sleeping well. Reframe romantic memories. That "first date" spot, that breakfast place you loved going to together-- go and make new memories at these places with friends so that you change your brain's heuristics associated with those places.
If you're having trouble letting go of the relationship, assess the reasons why you're holding on and find different ways fulfill those reasons. For me, this meant spiritual and religious growth, love and affection, and feelings of being wanted and accepted. Through engaging with people of the same faith community and friends, I realized that there were other ways to fulfill these supposed voids. This process is part of building a foundation for you to be healthy and happy in the long-term.
On the bright side, with great pain can come great growth. These are the lessons that I've learned for the future:
1) As a partner, you support someone if they want to improve an area of growth, but you can't fix it yourself. As an optimist, I tend to be very hopeful about situations or people and sometimes my perception of their potential can eclipse the reality. This can be a good thing. That being said, you are not their savior. They must be willing to make the changes themselves. You can assess the true intentions of someone who says they want to change by their actions, not their words. Go by what they show, not what they tell.
2) Stop comparing! I tend to be a maximizer; I'm wired to constantly compare and contrast to find the optimal situation. I learned that it only makes things worse by comparing my romantic situations to those of other couples or past relationships. Once again, this can be a natural thing to do, but try not to do it. Maximizing can be beneficial in setting high expectations for yourself. That being said, loving someone else means to truly understand and accept someone's virtues and follies and support them in areas of growth, but not trying to change them.
3) Love is a commitment. You must be whole yourself before you can truly give, serve, and commit to another human being. This means being patient and discerning who can be a partner who adds to your life without taking away from it. Don't rush into things. In retrospect, I would not have rushed into a relationship after moving to a new city (aka starting a relationship within a couple weeks of moving to the Bay Area). Take time to lay roots, build community, be in a stable place, and become whole. On a level of personal insight, this means not bringing a past romantic relationship into current or future ones!
4) Even in situations where you feel powerless, you have agency in how you frame and choose your next steps. That is powerful. I have the tendency to "past-justify" and "future-trip". Past-justifying means assessing a present situation with past information. For example, thinking this person told me "_____" or did "_____" so why are they doing/saying _____ now. You must go off the present information. You gotta roll with the punches! In terms of "future-tripping" this means having expectations about the future, and perhaps getting hurt when your expectations don't live up to the reality. Happiness= expectations- reality. So stop projecting yourself into the future, defining yourself by whether or not you meet goals, both romantic and professional. Instead live according to your values day-by-day. Then, success will come as a life reflective of your fundamental values and beliefs vs. arbitrary indicators of success. Learning and living fully in the present will shape the best future for you...so stop trying to short-circuit the future!
5) You have a great capacity to love, give, and care for another human being. What a beautiful, beautiful thing. Imagine how that beauty will manifest when two people are in the position to love, give, and care for each other unconditionally. Amazing.
Remember, the great adventure is what was and the greatest adventure is living day-to-day towards what lies ahead.