Every breakup is a story. And a heart wrenching one at that. Filled with betrayal, let-down, pain, sorrow, and mainly, filled with loss.
At first, our love holds such promise. Life together, forever. Finally finding our soul-mate – someone who really understands us, accepts us. Gives to us the way we want, the way we need. A person who wants to be with us, as much as we want to be with them. This sense of promise for a life of bliss is intoxicating.
When things fall apart, it’s disastrous. Because not only are we losing what we have – our love, our connection, our security, our partner, our life together – but we are also losing those dreams and fantasies we had of sharing a future life together. Of building a family together. Of growing old together. In some cases, the pain is so great, we don’t know how we will ever recover.
As a therapist, this is often a time when people will reach out to me for help. Obviously, when everything is going great, what’s the point? But when relationships fall apart, people need support. And that is what I do.
So I’d like to share with you some thoughts that have, over the years, proven very helpful in easing the inevitable pain of a break up.
Perhaps the first, and most important understanding, is that losing a partner in love is similar to death. We experience a deep sense of loss, of grief, that doesn’t go away by itself. And, it’s a true grief, and must be treated as such. Hence, experiencing all your emotions – sadness, fear, anger, laughter, and more sadness is not only normal, it’s healthy. Just like at the loss of a loved one, you must cry and rest and talk about it. Because it will hit in waves, you need to make room for your feelings in your life right now. Don’t be ashamed to open up to your friends and family and/or get professional support. You need it, deserve it, and your loved ones want to offer it. So, step one – cry, and cry a lot. And understanding the whys and the how-comes and who-did-what is not the main priority. Just feeling and fully experiencing your feelings is.
Another point which is very helpful is understanding an important distinction in the types of pain and sorrow we experience. See, the pain of losing a friend, partner, lover is a real pain. It’s not fake. You cannot tell yourself “What we had wasn’t really anything” or “I never loved him that much” or “I knew this would end”.
No. Grief over something real, is real. It’s called “clean pain” because it is a legitimately painful life-experience. Trying to suppress clean pain may work in the short-run (you can convince yourself of anything for awhile), but eventually, it will come back up, and haunt your next relationship if not felt now.
As opposed to “clean-pain”, we also experience “dirty-pain”. This is the pain that is caused by all the negative messages we tell ourselves, about our relationship, our partner, and mainly, about ourselves. We blame ourselves, we point fingers, we call ourselves “stupid”, we feel as if we didn’t see something, we’ve been duped, he never loved me, my whole relationship was a farce. And then out come the classics: “I’m not good enough”, “This wasn’t real love”, “She was lying the whole time”, “I’m not worthy of love” or even – “Nobody will ever love me again”. If left unchecked, our dirty-pain can even convince us that “Life is just not worth living anymore”.
These messages are not true, and yet, the rise up inside of our minds, and in our hearts, and cause untold suffering. Because, while you made mistakes (as everyone does) your relationship was true, it wasn’t your fault, and you will love again.
Part of the recovery process is sifting through the dirty pain, and releasing it. These messages stem from unresolved childhood wounds, that make their way to the surface, whenever something “bad” happens. Your little self is crying out “Love me, see me! I’m worth it, I’m lovable.” As time moves forward, and your heart mends, so too will your childhood self, and you will be better and stronger for it.
As we move through our grief, we are not only healing our present, but also our past. We reassure our little self that yes, you are and have always been loved, heard, and accepted. That just because our relationship failed, you are not a failure, and that yes, we will love and be loved, again.
Finally, when this wave of grief and healing has subsided, which it will, it is always worth while to revisit the relationship dynamics which you believe added to the dysfunction. Why was he unhappy? Why were you? What could have been different that may have contributed to a better outcome? What would I choose to do differently next time?
It is so tempting to blame whatever happened on making a bad choice of partners. But understanding the why and what about your relationship is just as important as the who. Because when we don’t look back and learn, we end up repeating the same patterns with the next person who chooses to love us.
Heartache is an unfortunate, unpleasant part of all relationships. Learning how to get past and move beyond is important in developing your ability to be, and stay, in love.
A stitch in time is always worth nine. If you need help in your relationship, reach out and setup a Clarity Call. Together, I’m confident that we can improve your circumstances, love life, and connection.
P.S. I’d like to thank @marthabeck for coining and explaining the ideas behind “clean” & “dirty” pain. You have been so helpful to me!