Heartbreak. Is there anything worse? I believe love lost is one of the most painful experiences that a person can have in a lifetime. Luckily, there are ways to move through this hurt and loss. Here are some tips on how to navigate with a broken heart.
(1) Know that you are not alone
I know that you’ve heard this before. I know that you know that you aren’t the first or last person to experience heartbreak. And I know in the midst of a broken heart, you don’t really care. But it’s not that kind-of alone that I’m talking about here. What I am talking about is: your ex-partner is hurting too.
How can I be so sure? Because pain is exchanged; it is not a one way street. If you are feeling pain within your relationship or during the split, then it is safe to assume that your partner is too. In fact, he is probably feeling pain to the same degree that you are. How do I know? Because our partners mirror us. We don’t always realize how closely linked our emotional experiences are with the people we are closest to. Your pain is very similar. How he manages that pain, well that is up to him. But regardless of what he does with it, know that the pain is there.
It is helpful to know that your ex is also experiencing a loss not because you want him to suffer, but because it eases the root cause of all pain: separation. Separations induce a sense a being alone, disconnected, and incomplete. These feelings can be intolerable at times. We can take feeling separated to really dark places: I’m unlovable, I’m unwanted, I’m not worthy. Why is it so painful? Because separations trigger your first wounds; the ones that happened to you (to all of us) when you were really, really young. This is the why the pain felt during a breakup can be so primal–it is your first wound, essentially, that is getting reactivated.
We often can get caught in thinking that we are the only ones experiencing the pain of a separation. It is the mere experience of separation that causes us to believe this; we project the disconnection we feel within ourselves onto our exs. “He doesn’t even care. He isn’t even hurting. He doesn’t feel alone.” Know this: on some level, he is. It may not be obvious to you, and it may not even be obvious to him, but we don’t go through major separations without feeling torn apart. You are not alone.
(2) Don’t bypass feelings
Feelings can be tricky. There are three specific ways to handle them–repressing, overindulging, and just plain feeling them–and you are most likely doing some version of all three. Navigate them the best you can (and reach out for help if you need too–a good therapist can be of great service when it comes to getting through feelings).
Repressing feelings means you block them out or pretend they aren’t there. When you don’t feel your authentic feelings, they go into your unconscious to be played back at another time. For the sake of your future relationship, try not to do this. In order to heal and move on (meaning, move into a more evolved way of being in a relationship), then you have to feel you feelings. Sadness, anger, despair, loneliness, hurt…they are all part of the breakup process. Don’t be afraid of them; if you let yourself feel them, they will move through you so you can move on.
On the other hand, overindulging your feelings during a breakup can be tempting as well, but it just leaves you in a state of more pain. When you overindulge your feelings (meaning you feel consumed by your feelings) you remain in a holding pattern of despair and separation. This keeps you stuck. You can’t actually move on until you internally move on, and this means moving away from the uncomfortable feelings.
If you find yourself overindulging, set boundaries to keep your mind and heart in check (and on another subject). You have to pull yourself out of this space–meet with friends, do things you enjoy, remember the good times. It is easier said than done, but then again, you actually have more control over your internal world than you think. Putting yourself in a position to feel good is the only way for you to actually feel good again.
(3) Remember the good
The pain of love lost comes from the loss of something good. Yes, you had good times with your ex, a lot of them probably. And it is ok for you to think about the good times. In fact, when you think about the good times you shared from a sense of fullness rather than lack, then it will speed up the process of bringing love to you again.
Let yourself muse and remember the sweet times you had in your relationship. The times you listened to music and cooked dinner together, memories of travel or adventures, the way it felt to touch each other. You may be thinking “Is she crazy?! Why would I want to think about that stuff when I don’t have it anymore?” You want to remember what you loved so you have it again, in the next relationship.
This also can be delicate territory to navigate. If you find that when you are doing this you just end up longing for your ex, then stop, it’s not helping. But if you can remember what you had from a place of genuine happiness and love, then it is a good thing–it keeps your heart light, happy, and loving. This is what you want. The more you can get back to feeling a sense of love within, the more quickly you will heal.
When you feel like a victim, heartbreak is incredibly painful. Why? Because being a victim means feeling powerless. No control, no choices, no options. There is so much fear that comes from feeling like you have been wronged and victimized–it is really scary. And you don’t have to stay there.
The way to rise out of victimhood is by forgiving. You have to remember that your relationship was a two-way street. Just as our partners mirror our feelings back to us, they also mirror our experiences. When we go back and take an inventory of what happened in the relationship, it can be surprising to see how often we were actually doing the things we blamed our partners for. Did you feel betrayed in your relationship? Well how did you also betray him? Did you feel that he was dishonest? What were the ways that you were dishonest too?
When we begin to get really honest about what happened within our relationships, we can usually see that we have done what was done to us. And this, hopefully, can induce a sense of compassion for your ex. Again, if you feel hurt, then he is hurting too. What happened between the two of you was created by the two of you–no one person is the victim. Taking personal responsibility for your part empowers you so you can move on.
Breakups aren’t easy. There is no way around it. Gather your support, feel your feelings, reconnect with your heart, and know that you are going to be ok. You will make it through this. You are here to love; it is what life is all about. Do everything you can to take care of yourself and know that you will find love again.