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Why I Thanked My Ex and Now Appreciate the Heartbreak

“How thankful I am today, to know that all my past struggles were necessary for me to be where I am now.” ~Unknown

I met my ex-boyfriend, let’s call him Derek, through work. We were introduced through mutual co-workers, and then we hit it off and began dating.

We had a connection right away, partly based on physical attraction, but also we laughed a lot together, and I felt cared for by him.

We lived in different cities at the time, but would see each other every other weekend. We dated this way for a year and then talked about moving in together.

We decided that I would uproot myself and move to his city because he had a steady, stable career and could not leave it. I had extreme anxiety about moving away from my friends and my life, but for several reasons, the fear of being alone being the major one, I decided to move.

Living together was tough at first. We had different ways of doing things, but we figured it out—or so I thought.

A few months in, I became severely depressed and my past anxiety came back in full force. I’d gained twenty pounds in four months due to extreme emotional eating. I used food in a desperate attempt to feel better, trying to fill the void any way I could.

Six months after moving in together, Derek broke up with me one day when I got home from work. I was emotionally and mentally unstable and completely blindsided. I felt totally alone and given up on, and I had no idea what to do. I packed a suitcase, put my cat in her carrier, and left.

There wasn’t one person I knew who didn’t support me during this time. I moved back to the city I had left six months earlier and lived with my sister for a month while borrowing money from my mom.

I talked to my friends and family every day to try to feel better, and they offered their help as best they could.

Support from most people though meant bashing Derek, the breaker-upper, and letting me know why I shouldn’t have been with him or why we weren’t meant for one another. For some reason, though, I knew in my heart that focusing on his negatives was not the way I needed get over him.

Derek was not a bad person; after all, I had fallen in love with him not that long beforehand. He was not evil, nor selfish, nor a coward. He was necessary. He was in my life for a very specific purpose, which I now know was to crack my wounded, scared, anxious heart wide open for healing.

The depression wasn’t enough to get my attention, and neither was the anxiety, nor the extreme weight gain I had experienced. I needed him to guide me toward an opening that I was completely blind to.

Had I not felt my heart break a thousand times over at the end of that relationship, I don’t know what torture I would have put myself through or how long it would have taken for me to begin the healing journey I have been on since then.

In putting myself back together, I knew I needed help. I knew I could not do what I needed to do by myself, nor did I want to. I wanted support, I wanted tools other than medication, and I wanted a different life than the one I had been living.

I began seeing a spiritual counselor who helped me heal and learn to listen to my heart. We worked extensively on my wounds from childhood and my fear of abandonment, which came from losing my father to suicide at a very early age.

I needed to come face to face with my inner self and recognize she was crying out for attention and love.

In the past five years since getting help I’ve also changed my diet, the way I exercise, my view on my body, my friends, my relationships with my family, and view on romantic relationships.

I now believe that every single person we come in contact with shows up in our lives for a reason. Had I not dated Derek, I would not have woken up to my life. I would have stayed asleep and continued to live in a way that did not nourish my soul.

I never would have healed enough to allow another beautiful soul into my life—a man who is now my partner, who supports me in a way I would haven’t thought possible five years ago.

Two years after my relationship with Derek ended, I was back working for the same company where he and I met and we had our annual meeting coming up. I would see him for the first time since I moved out two years before.

I was nervous but knew the healing I had done around our relationship would help me. I had also practiced, in meditation, what I wanted our meeting to feel like when I saw him again.

As I sat down in the restaurant and got settled at our annual meeting, I felt someone behind me come around for a big hug. It was Derek, and nervously smiling at me.

I opened my arms and hugged him warmly, my heart beating out of my chest. I was scared I was going to get emotional, and that all of our co-workers would see me break down and get upset. Instead, I hugged him, smiled at him, and asked him how his family was.

We chatted pleasantly for a few minutes and then I paused. I looked him in the eyes, feeling a fondness and said, “I need to thank you.”

He looked at me with shock and asked what for. I told him about the journey I had been on since our breakup, the healing I had done, and the forgiveness I was able to feel. I owned up to my part in our relationship being unhealthy and told him if it hadn’t been for him, I may not be alive today, happy, and connected to myself.

He had no words for a moment. Then he said he was afraid that I was going to be upset, and that he felt extreme guilt for how things ended, but he didn’t know what else to do at the time. He also shared that he’d learned since then that he needs to communicate better with people and work on understanding.

I know some people hear my story and think there’s no way they could ever forgive their ex or be friendly or open to them again. And please understand that forgiveness does not mean condoning. I chose to forgive Derek for me. I needed to forgive him in order to properly learn and grow from our experience together, but that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize there were things he could have done differently.

If you were treated badly, cheated on, talked down to, or lied to, I understand the pain, but I also invite you to open up to the idea that we are in charge of our lives and what we get from our experiences.

We each have the opportunity to look under the surface of our pain and see the end of one thing as an opportunity for another. We can take our heartbreak and turn it into heart growth. It’s begging for us to do so, in fact.

If we can infuse gratitude into our pain, we will experience miraculous shifts in our lives. My hope for you is this: that you can move through your pain, heal your heart, and one day, when you run into that person you once dreaded seeing, you can look at them, recognize yourself, and say “thank you.”

About Laura Smilski

Laura Smilski is a Holistic Love Coach and the owner of Luminous Living. She is passionate about helping single, professional women create clear, simple goals that will guide them towards loving themselves and being excited about dating and relationships. Sign up to receive her free blog updates and special Access Love Video and follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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  • I can completely relate to this. I learned myself how forgiving your can be liberating. My ex left me while I was pregnant. It took me a while, but forgiving him set me free. I didn’t condone his actions but I let it go.

  • Laura Smilski

    That is so inspiring to hear Lena! Thank you so much for sharing. Sending you Love.
    Laura

  • Dana

    Dearest Laura, you hit upon how even the most painful of experiences can empower us. You are one of those earth angels who pave our pathways with gold, helping to recognise no one is alone in their pain or struggles.. thank you for sharing as it’s universal gold… treasure. Our journeys mean something, not to give up, to be resilient, because we’ll all come to our true selves and happiness when we’re ready.

  • TheAllShark

    It’s been a year since my girlfriend broke up. We both had faults but breakup was an immature move. Our mutual friends tried talking to both of us and patch up. But she was adamant and things did not go ahead. A year has passed but still I’m stuck on her. When I start to miss her too much, the helpless feeling turns into rage and anger as in why she did this.
    How useful was the spiritual talk? How did it help? I tried meditation, but somehow it works only for that much of time. Forgiving my ex is something I can’t at all imagine. But if I have to, then I firstly I’ll need to be calm and then I’ll be able to think ahead. Is that right?

  • Absolutely love this article! Very well written, inspirational and you have a great attitude towards life! Lots of love to you!<3

  • Sara

    Your relationship describes the one that I just came out of, except we broke up before moving because he knew he wouldn’t happy moving. I can’t get mad at him for all the reasons you listed. He was a great person, we loved deeply, we just couldn’t work. He’s a rooted-hometown boy and I’m a free-spirited city girl. I always imagine us meeting in a few years and me being thankful but all I feel now is loss. I haven’t figured out the meaning of it all yet. I’m very frustrated with the cycles of moving on. I’m hurt because he found solace rebounding with an ex who couldn’t wait for the day when he came back. I want so badly to be back in love but I can’t get there without putting in the work to become whole again. Your story resonated with me and I thank you for writing it.

  • Laura Smilski

    Sara,
    Thank you for sharing your story, I know the hurt well and also how it feels to not know what it all means. The process is beautiful yes, but no less hard. I send you light while you navigate through it, you are doing a great job!

  • Laura Smilski

    Thank you so much Maria! I am very grateful you enjoyed it.
    Laura

  • Laura Smilski

    If it helps it took me two years to be able to consider forgiveness. I was angry a lot because I had been working on things when we were together, and yet it still ended. The spiritual counselling and reading and writing were the most powerful tools to help me move to a better place. I was able to see my part in the whole thing which was vital in moving towards forgiveness. It didn’t excuse his faults, but I was able to have compassion for him which helped the forgiveness process a lot. Being calm definitely helps and say stay focused on yourself as much as possible. That will keep things clear and hopefully help 🙂

  • Laura Smilski

    Thank you Dana, sister, for your words! I am among earth angels here and I send you love!
    Laura

  • lv2terp

    Beautiful!!!! 🙂

  • Justme

    I fell head over heels in love for the first time last year. The relationship did not work out and I am crushed beyond words. I wish I could see something positive in my pain, but I can’t. I just hurt – ALL the time, night and day. I have no desire to date or even make friends. I can barely get through the day as it is. I go to counseling. I hired a life coach. I read as many books and articles as I can, but I still only feel pain. I am just a shell of the person I was before my heart was broken. My joy and hope and happiness are gone. The physical and emotional pain are constant reminders that I am not the same person as I was before. I do not like the person I am now. I don’t like how I think and feel. I don’t laugh anymore. I cry – a lot! I hurt more than words can express. I wish that I had hope that this all happened for a reason and everything will be ok. I can’t even hope or imagine something positive, much less feel it. I don’t see how this has done anything but destroy my spirit, my soul, and the person I once was. I want to be positive, but I don’t FEEL positive at all – I only feel pain. I don’t know what else to do.

  • Laura Smilski

    Hi Justme, I feel your pain as if it was mine. There was a time during the rebuilding of my spirit where I did not know who or what I was as well. I didn’t know what to laugh at, I doubted every single emotional reaction I had, I felt miserable and suicidal and was scared of my pain every day. The fact that you are so in touch with your pain is a very good sign and I was told to hang on and see it through. I would sit and cry every day, I did this on and off for at least the first two years after my break up. I had so much pain that I had ignored and not been aware of my whole life that it took that long to process it, and I still process it now, it just doesn’t scare me like it used to. You are a very brave soul to have signed up for this experience, and you would not have chosen this path if you didn’t possess the strength to get through it. Keep going, do healthy things that feel nurturing and don’t worry about how long its taking. I am so happy to hear you have a counselor and a coach! It will get better, you will find a way and you will feel whole again, it just might be different than before, but you will still be you.
    With all my love,
    Laura

  • Justme

    Thank you, Laura. Our stories are similar not only by getting our hearts broken, but also by having a lifetime of pain and abandonment that was brought up by this heartache. My mother committed suicide. I know I have trust and abandonment issues as a result. The person who broke my heart was the only person I have ever believed in and felt safe with in my life. That made the loss all the more painful. I know it has brought up unresolved feelings of loss of my mom. My therapist has tried to help me tap into my childhood, but it’s buried too deep. Right now I am just trying to survive the present. I can’t believe this is happening again – the loss of someone I love so dearly. But this one is worse in a way because I am being outright rejected by a living person. The worst part of it all is the loss of my true self, the loss of joy and hope. I miss myself more than I miss my former love. Now I am more afraid of living like my mother did – in constant pain – than I am dying like she did. Right now I am alive, but I’m not living or thriving. I miss my former love, I miss my mom, but mostly I miss myself – and the hope I used to have in this life.

  • maria

    how do i get over being abandoned by my husband of 32 years so he can be with a bar girl from Phuket 35 years younger than him? I tried for a year to save our marriage but in the end, He left me to be with her. It’s only been 4 months since he left me and I know what I have to do, as everyone tells me, let go and move on. will i ever say “thank you” to someone who dumped me?

  • sienna bale

    wow

  • sienna bale

    wow

  • Laura Smilski

    Hi Maria,
    I know seeing a lesson in something so fresh can seem crazy and you have every right to take as long as you need to to process what has happened. You will move on in your own time, not everyone else’s. This is a very hurtful situation you are in and I will not tell you that one day you will say thank you to your ex husband. It may not ever feel right for you to do that, but I can say one day it will be possible for you to shift the way you view what has happened and to feel differently about it. Nurture yourself as much as you can right now and take care of you. You will do a better job of that than anyone else and you have enormous strength to get through this.

  • TheAllShark

    The exact thing has happened. After breakup, I’ve started procrastinating a lot. My concentration levels are waaay too down. My attention keeps varying. Then if the planned things don’t work out, it gets depressing. The continues loneliness and zero productivity hampers my mood. I the end, a lot of time is wasted and seeing that it gets more depressing leading to anger against my ex. This leads me to get emotional and miss her.
    I’m tired of this….

  • Laura Smilski

    I have found that when I get tired of something, that is when I am able to see it for something different. Each time I am so done with something, things seem to change because I am ready to let go and make a change. Frustration leads me to take different actions and then I see different results. Honour your place of feeling low but also recognize how ready you are for something different.

  • You know I read that and it all resignated with me and I thought, wow, thank you ! That is such great advice! And then I realized it was meant for another maria! Lol, oh well still very inspiring and fits in with my situation too. So thank you for your encouraging words! Love to you both!!♥️

  • DannySCR

    Hello Laura, I really enjoyed reading this article. Its been 2 weeks since my girlfriend of 4 years broke up to me and it’s been an incredibly rough ride. I do believe that there is still hope for us to get back together and to an extent feel like this period of intense suffering would propel myself to become someone who loves himself and shows self-affection and care. Ultimately, I sincerely hope I can look back months from now ( hopefully back together with that person) and thank them for the growth that this has given me.

    Your post really resonated with me and I’m glad you showed that strength. A week after my breakup, I met with my ex and I promised myself I wouldn’t break down as I had done previously. I didn’t and we ended up chatting for quite a while in a positive way. Heres to hoping the future is even brighter!

  • Laura Smilski

    Haha! I’m glad it resonated with you as well! Love Laura

  • Laura Smilski

    Hey Danny! I’m glad to hear you were able to talk in a positive way and I send you love and know your future will be even brighter!
    Laura

  • Justme

    Thank you, Laura. Our stories are similar not only by getting our hearts broken, but also by having a lifetime of pain and abandonment that was brought up by this heartbreak. Like your father, my mother committed suicide. I know I have trust and abandonment issues as a result. The person who broke my heart was the only person I have ever believed in and felt safe with in my life. That made the loss all the more painful. I know it has brought up unresolved feelings of loss of my mom. My therapist has tried to help me tap into my childhood, but it’s buried too deep. Right now I am just trying to survive the present. I can’t believe this is happening again – the loss of someone I love so dearly. But this one is worse in a way because I am being outright rejected by a living person. The worst part of it all is the loss of my true self, the loss of being joyful and hopeful. I miss myself more than I miss my former love. Now I am more afraid of living like my mother did – in constant pain – than I am dying like she did. Right now I am alive, but I’m not living or thriving. I miss my former love, I miss my mom, but mostly I miss myself – and the hope I used to have in this life. BTW, I did not chose this path or experience…..I just happened to get caught in a devastating landslide that I didn’t see coming.

  • Bhavik Solanki

    It’s wonderful information. Good explanation in detail that helps people. It’s wonderful information. I like this post. It’s great post.

  • Brav3

    Thank you for a nice, informative article. I am not sure thanking exs would be a good idea in other people’s lives. In my life, its been more than a year post breakup, I still feel sometimes really strong heat broken pain triggering through past memories or some events.

    And even though, I feel this anger and strong hatred at times, I never said anything or acted on them. I don’t know why I never did, maybe its forgiveness. But it is best to acknowledge your unpleasant feelings when you see or hear your ex with someone and not respond at all. Its good to just stay quiet, to have unpleasant feeling and not act, to leave things as they are. We are driven in a culture, to know things, to fix things, how about once we try not to do anything about it. It can be a great source of peace and strength.

    We all can certainly thank our exs for waking up from the dream world, where there’s no such thing as ‘Happily ever after’ or ‘ Soul mate’ or The one’, you know all those fallacies that we tend to believe because of movies or culture. But we do not have to verbalize it. Some things are better left unsaid.

  • Termogenesis

    This helped me a lot! Thank you for sharing this life lesson, you are a really great person 🙂

  • Hey, Laura!
    You are a strong woman for choosing to be on the “source” mode rather than “survival”mode. Instead of thinking of yourself as a victim and helpless, you turned on a healthy perspective where you saw it as a learning experience and made peace with the past instead of holding a grudge.
    As someone who can relate, I, too, have learned from my past experiences and now extremely happy with life.
    All our relationships, whether they last or not, play a part in building who we’re meant to become.

  • Isaac

    If we can infuse gratitude into our pain, we will experience miraculous shifts in our lives. My hope for you is this: that you can move through your pain, heal your heart, and one day, when you run into that person you once dreaded seeing, you can look at them, recognize yourself, and say “thank you.”

    This Really Touched By Heart , Really Wished I Could Get Past My Depression , I know I’ll Be Totally Free.

  • NiM

    Laura, it’s been 3 years since being left by someone I loved​ very intensely for nearly 5 years. Another person was involved. I’ve been apologized to, and I’ve worked on personal healing and moving past it, but the fact that this person has continued a relationship with the aforementioned 3rd person still leaves me feeling resentful and raw;like the apology is somehow invalidated. Any insight into how I can move past this once and for all?

  • Laura Smilski

    Hello Isaac! I understand depression very , very well. I believe it is linked to our past but for me it was one of my gifts showing me where I needed to focus my own love and attention. It is the same for my anxiety. I use those two as signals from my body that I need to pay attention to myself and figure out what I need. I am still not Free all the time, but becoming aware of when I need to nurture myself has helped me feel freedom.

  • Laura Smilski

    Hello NiM! My first relationship ended and my first Ex ended up marrying the girl he had met and started seeing just as our relationship was ending. It was very painful for me to see him ‘moving on’ and happy with someone else. I came to realize as I healed my own pain though that he had just put off his healing process by jumping right into something else. Many years later his relationship with her ended and I realized that he was not happier being in a relationship with someone else, he had just re-created his cycle of pain with someone else. I felt compassion for him because I knew his pain even though he dealt with it differently. Continue your work of healing your past wounds and shift your focus to your own heart. You will never go wrong 🙂

  • Laura Smilski

    I couldn’t agree more Nicah!!! Thank you for your words.
    Laura

  • Laura Smilski

    Thank you for reading!

  • Laura Smilski

    Hello Brav3! Thank you for your wonderful perspective! I agree that some things do not need to be said, and if I had not worked at the same company as my Ex and did not have to see him face to face, I likely would not have reached out to him to personally thank him. I had felt gratitude in my heart before our meeting which would have given me the same peace. I also agree that we do not have to fix things because we are not broken to begin with, but for me, in order to have a healthy relationship moving forward, I needed to acknowledge what I learned in the past and have gratitude for it. That allowed me to be confident and more open moving forward with a future partner, but there are many people who could do that a different way. Thank you for providing them with your insight!