While often the end of a relationships is a time marked by grief, sadness, and regret, it can also be a time of discovery, learning, and maybe even a sense of liberation.
In my work as a relationship therapist, I see individual therapy clients who struggle with breakups and heartache regularly, and refocusing their energy on the lessons and potential growth during this time of grieving can be a particularly effective way to grow and learn from the experience. If you too are struggling with healing, here are some key learnings in any relationship to focus on in the time following a break up.
Consider what you learned and gained
It’s easy to engage in negative self-dialogue and tell yourself stories that a relationship was a “waste of time” or get wrapped up in a battle of blame. Instead of focusing on the negative, put a positive spin on your heartache and take inventory of what you learned and gained. Whether you made strides in creating better boundaries or finally took that trip to Europe with your former partner, take time to focus on what was gained, experienced, and learned.
Each relationship in your life provides a stepping stone and prepares you for the ultimate long-term relationship in your life. Each partner will help you learn more about love, grow as a person, and therefore be instrumental in your path to becoming a better future companion. Focus on what was gained, the joys and memories of the experience, and the ways in which you became a better person because of it.
Identify the problems
Using this time to get honest about why the relationship wasn’t good for you can be an effective way to improve your choices about a future partner. While your feelings are fresh and memories vivid, write down an unfiltered list of all the things that weren’t right, fulfilling, or aligned in your former relationship. It could be little things like maybe your partner enjoyed sleeping in on the weekend and you liked to get up with the sun to enjoy your full day off. While it may seem small, the potential friction of this difference in lifestyle could wear on you overtime. Or perhaps it was bigger issues likes misaligned financial perspectives or social preferences, or even more challenging, a partner who refused to communicate about the hard stuff or invalidated your needs for safety, security, or respect.
In any relationship, there are things you want to change. Whatever bothered you even once in the partnership should go on this list for evaluation. Doing so can help you better understand more about what you need in a relationship can help you choose a better partner the next time around, after what is hopefully a significant break before dating again.
Practice an ending
Without sounding morbid, life is ultimately about endings and saying goodbye. Some goodbyes will be significantly more difficult in life than others. You have an abundance of opportunities to practice non-attachment and closure throughout life, including the end of romantic relationships.
Learning to say goodbye with grace and humility is a lifelong practice and is the culmination of the choices you make when you end a relationship. With each goodbye, perhaps it's a bit easier to leave without drama or classic back-and-forth scenarios. In small ways, you will slowly learn to say goodbye in more productive and mature ways.
Breakups are an enormous opportunity for growth. While they are messy and hard sometimes, they can also be inspiring. Relationships teach you about your own resilience and remind you that the most important relationship – the one with yourself – can never be compromised while loving another.
It’s in heartache and pain that you are reminded of the capacity of your inner strength and willingness to learn and grow. It’s only from the mud that the lotus can grow, and breakups are much the same. If you are willing to grow and thrive in that mud and heartache, there is beauty and life on the other side of healing.
To learn more about how the team at Center for Shared Insight can help you overcome a breakup and prepare for a better relationship ahead, and even help you understand when you are ready, contact us for a free consultation.