Heartbreak is a hard thing, but it’s not a forever thing, and you will experience a disproportionate amount of it when you’re young.
While you’re moving from relationship to relationship, working on finding the person with whom you’ll stay long-term, you’ll have to cope with not just one but often a string of losses and heartbreaks. The repetitiveness can begin to create a learned helplessness: it just seems like your heart always gets broken, you never find the right person, or nobody is quite good enough for you. But this is just a temporary thing.
Chances are, you will spend the rest of your life with someone whom you are happily coupled. You are not meant to be stuck in this back and forth. You are not designed to forge a beautiful connection with someone and then have it severed. You are not supposed to build foundations and then have someone crack them in half. This is why it feels so wrong, so foreign, and so awful: this is not how you’re supposed to experience life, and it won’t be how you experience life for the majority of your life.
Right now, the pain is making you feel like just because someone will be out of your life forever that the hurt will last forever too. But all you can see is what you’ve lost. You have yet to see what you’re going to gain.
What is there to gain from heartbreak?
As it turns out, a lot.
Right now, life is offering you a second chance. It’s telling you that the person you’re hung up on is not the person you should be spending every day of your life with. Your life partner is someone who shapes you irrevocably. Their influence in your life will do a great deal in making you who you become. Is the person you are mourning the kind of person you want to be? Would you want to have kids just like them? If the answer is in any way no, you do not want to be with that person. In a few years, you’ll look at them and want to fall to your knees with gratitude that you were rerouted.
Not that you feel that way right now.
Right now, you are so focused on what you think you have lost that you’re not realizing the fertile ground that is in front of you. The earth shifts when our hearts break. When we are forced out of comfort, we transform. Right now, you have a choice: you can put all of your energy into throwing a hissy fit about not getting what you want, or you can take all of the energy that you were previously spending loving, caring, worrying, spending time with and thinking about this person, and you can put it into yourself.
Do you know what you can do when your energy is wholly your own? Anything. Everything. You can start a side hustle and work until it becomes your main gig, and by this time next year, you could be self-employed doing what you love every day. You can take a trip to St. Tropez and sit on the beach alone. You can spend your nights reading and retaining knowledge that will literally change the entire quality of your life for decades to come. You can spend the money you were wasting on drinks and food and accommodations and start paying off your debts so you have fewer responsibilities and more freedom.
You can become exactly who you want and are meant to be. You have the rest of your life to be in love. You have right now to change yourself.
You’re mourning the loss of an idea.
It is normal and healthy to grieve the loss of someone with whom you used to have a deep or intimate relationship.
But when it becomes obsessive to the point of being devastated and completely incapable of moving on, it is no longer the person you are mourning, it is an idea you had about your future life.
When you break up with someone and mourn the loss of their presence in your lives, it’s normal to feel lonely, for emotions to come in waves, to cry, to want to avoid them or start over or take some time for yourself. But when you break up with someone on whom you were in some way relying on to give you a sense of certainty, direction or security for the future, the reaction will be much more manic. You’ll be obsessive, convinced that it’s not the end, desperately looking for “signs,” doing anything to make them believe you are still meant to be together.
That kind of reaction is not the reaction of someone who has loved and lost a person they care about. That is the kind of reaction of someone who has lost a feeling of safety about the future and will go to any length to get it back… even just believing in their own minds that it’s “not over.” In that, you are giving yourself that feeling again.
Here’s a litmus test for you: what was going on in your life when you first got together with this person? Before you were in this relationship, did you know where your life was going? Were you confident in who you were, what you wanted, and how you were planning to proceed with the next few years of your life? Were you at all worried, stressed or anxious that you hadn’t found a relationship by the “right time,” or that you’d hit some milestone and be alone? Were you feeling lost in your career, stressed about money, or tense about your family?
The circumstances that existed when the relationship began can tell you so much about the relationship itself. This is why people preach from the gospel of “Love Yourself First” so often: when two people who are happy, well adjusted and pursuing their own individual goals get together, the relationship lasts. When two people who need self-work to do get together, they use one another as a band-aid, and then it falls apart because ultimately, they realize: another person is not a solution.
If you are anxious about the future, you need to be the one to make a plan. If you feel unsure about what you want, you need to sit down and brainstorm until you come up with some ideas. If you don’t know who you are, you need to do some soul-searching. If you feel unfulfilled, you need to work somewhere new. If you feel stressed, you need to manage your time, money or relationships better.
This is what you needed to do then, and it is what you are getting a chance to do now.
You’re not going to forget about this person. You’re going to have to get distracted.
There’s a quote about ancient stoic wisdom that goes something like this: “You are standing in the ruins instead of building the new city.”
It means that for all the time that you are spending focusing on what’s gone, lost and failed, you are offering more and more of your energy to tearing apart the ruins. The city is already collapsed. You’re standing in heaps of rubble kicking at it and wondering why it’s not magically reverting back to the mecca you once knew it to be. If you want to change your life and really get over this person, you will have to start building the new city, so to say. You will have to start offering your energy not to what’s passed, but to what’s to come.
“Forgetting” about someone is impossible. The more you try not to think about them, the more you will. Carrying on with your days like nothing has changed is not what it’s going to take to “move on” with your life. The normal that you once knew is gone. If you keep trying to live as though this person is still around, you will be orbiting around empty spaces. It will be impossible to not think of them and mourn for them constantly. You will sit in the room you used to sit in together and cry. You’ll visit the store you use to shop in together and feel defeated. You’ll see the friends you used to hang out with and sense embarrassment because in a very public way, you failed.
You need to get up, you need to start over, and you need to begin anew. You need new places, people, and routines. You need new adventures and goals and plans.
This is how you get over anything: you fill your life with so many powerful, world-altering things that slowly, over time, you begin to think about them less and less. Not because you’re trying to, but because you have so many other things to think about now. You have so many places to go, things to hope for, and passions to keep your mind consumed.
As time goes on, you’ll think about that person less and less and less. Not because you magically stopped caring about them one day, but because you started filling your life with things you cared about more.
That, right there, is the magic of heartbreak: it forces you to be a different person. Unless you want to mourn forever, you have to change. And if you do it right, you’ll work on becoming the person you always wanted to be. You’ll look back on this moment as the pinnacle, the turning point, the unanswered prayer that was the answer itself. It will be the greatest thing that ever happened to you because instead of a lukewarm relationship that wasn’t working anyway, you got the life of your dreams… and you were the one who gave it to yourself.