“No feeling is final.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke
I met him the last semester of college and was instantly attracted to him. I was definitely attracted to him physically, but it was the way he sat in class with such quiet confidence and mystery that made me long to know him.
I practically drooled all over my desk whenever he spoke, but couldn’t even bring myself to say, “Hello.” One night out, I saw him standing by the bar. I told my friend that I had a crush on him and she promptly gave me two choices: Go speak to him or, she would embarrass me. Needless to say, I chose the first option.
I don’t remember what was said when I approached him, and in the grand scheme of things I guess it’s irrelevant. We spent the entire evening together. He taught me how to tie a tie, he told me about his closeted love for Vanilla Ice, and we shared the most romantic evening I had ever experienced.
His affinity for Vanilla Ice notwithstanding, I fell in love with him that night.
We graduated only a few short months later and moved away from each other, but maintained a friendship over the years. We got together whenever time and space would allow.
Recently, I took a chance and revealed that I had romantic feelings for him. In a fairy tale-like manner, he flew across the country, and we made the decision to start dating. Everything was great—until it wasn’t, and we broke up.
Although the decision to end the relationship had been mutual, over the following months, I cycled through many feelings and emotions. One day I would tell my friends that I was “so over him,” and the next day I’d find myself flat on my back, sobbing uncontrollably, wondering where we went wrong.
Even today, I can’t say that I have fully gotten over the relationship, but there are a few things that have been helpful to me in the process.
Embrace the feelings.
Breaking up with someone can feel like a major loss. It’s crucial to give yourself time to mourn the end of the relationship; however, it’s important to remember that everyone mourns differently. Some people cry, get angry, lash out, become sad, or deny that the relationship is really over. If you’re anything like me, you’re likely to feel all of these emotions at once.
Don’t beat yourself up for feeling a certain way. My therapist calls this a tendency to “double bad.” You experience a negative emotion (sadness) and then make yourself feel even worse for experiencing it (guilt). We often think that we should be handling a break up better than we are. We tell ourselves things like “I should be over her by now,” or “I should be handling this better,” or “I shouldn’t let this get to me.”
But, in actuality there is no “right” way to get over somebody. Despite the numerous manuals and self-help books that have been written on this topic, the only real way to deal with a breakup is…to deal with the breakup.
Remind yourself that these feelings are a natural part of the healing process and allow yourself to feel whatever it is you feel whenever you feel it.
Instead of dealing with the current state of the relationship, we sometimes tend to keep replaying the past, looking for answers that can’t always be found, or mentally create future situations that allow us to (temporarily) escape the pain.
Depending on my mood, I would either analyze various scenes from our relationship, searching for any type of clue as to why things ended, or imagine a future in which we both realized the error of our ways and ended up happily married (with children).
However, focusing on the past and future forces us to stay stuck in an endless loop of pain and confusion, and prolongs the healing process. Stay present in the moment and allow the emotional wounds to heal naturally.
Learn love’s lesson.
Even though it’s difficult to accept that the relationship has ended, I have still gained invaluable information from the experience that I may not have received otherwise. I am better able to recognize what I need in a relationship and to communicate those needs to others. Also, I’ve found the courage to face some of the issues that floated to the surface in the process of opening myself up to another person.
Yes, sometimes the lessons hurt—and like hell. But learning is an important part of the healing process. No relationship, no matter how negative it may seem, can be considered a “failure” if you have grown as a result of the experience.
If you’re open to it, each relationship offers the potential for spiritual growth and evolution. Rest in the knowledge that while you’re learning love’s lessons in preparation for your future mate, he or she is being prepared for you, too.
Photo by CarbonNYC.