This week, we are helping couples work through whether they should break up, whether they should get back together, and how to recover after a break up. Please “like” and share these posts with your friends and family so we may be able to help them too. Thank you!
Friends try so hard to help us when our hearts are broken. They mean well, but in the beginning when our hearts are raw, we don’t necessarily want to hear trash talk about the man or woman we still love (or at least care for deeply).
Those first few weeks can seem hopeless and endless, especially if your heart was really smitten with your ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend. I can remember thinking, “Well, at least I have my boyfriend” when I had rough days, but after my boyfriend was gone, I struggled to find a reason to be happy. I’m guessing many of you can relate.
Recovering from a broken heart is a lot like recovering from a sickness, surgery, or the death of a loved one. There is real pain and friends who tell you to “just get over it already” either don’t understand what you’re going through, don’t care what you’re going through, or are so tired of seeing you hurt that they don’t know what else to say.
Wanting the pain to stop is a natural reaction, but I don’t think people should rush through break up recovery any more than they should rush back to work after surgery, or rush through the grieving process after the death of a special friend.
Consider the following suggestions for recovering through a break up:
1. Don’t rush through the grieving stage.
Grieving is healthy. I’ll say it again: grieving is healthy! When something we deeply care about is taken from us, we need to cry, give ourselves time to heal, and then take steps to move on with our lives. Pushing grief down or ignoring it leads to depression among other ailments. This stage hurts like crazy, but it is important not to rush it. Spend time with your friends, give yourself a little room for indulgence (like, ice cream), and go somewhere alone and scream. Allow yourself the time to hurt and heal.
2. Do not try to medicate your grief away.
It is really easy, at this stage, to take your emotional pain and try to cover it up with something else. Eating too much ice cream… or starting large amounts of exercise… or working at the office twelve hours per day, etc. can divert you from the emotional pain you are going through. However, it is important to get through the pain and not start a bad habit which will cause further problems in your life (obesity, perfectionism, workaholism, etc.).
We can’t stress this enough… process through your pain, learn from it, and move on. Getting bitter at the opposite sex and hardening your heart toward them, though understandable in the short term, is also not a good game plan. The hardening of heart will stay with you longer than you think it would and can cause further relational problems down the road.
3. After you’ve grieved properly, look at your former relationship as objectively as possible.
Ask your friends and family for their observations as well. What didn’t work? What needed to change? What do you now see to which you were previously blind? What will you do differently in your future relationship?
This is not to say that the break up was solely your fault; however, we can always learn from our past. If we don’t do an autopsy on the broken relationship and figure out what worked well and what went wrong, we are looking to repeat the same mistakes in future relationships.
4. Take some time to work on yourself and achieve personal growth before entering a new relationship.
The most natural response in the world after a break up is to look for another relationship. Focusing on someone else helps us take our minds off the pain we’re currently going through. And, it even may help for a while, but no one wants to be your rebound; and, after you realize that you don’t really like this new person, you have to turn around and hurt him or her just as you’ve been previously hurt. It’s a no-win situation.
Instead of jumping into a new relationship, take some time to work on yourself. What are some goals you want to accomplish before getting into another relationship? What do you still need to learn about yourself? What do you still need to learn about how the opposite sex operates? What expectations do you need to revisit (some may be healthy; whereas, some may be dysfunctional)? Spend some time focusing on personal growth before moving on to someone new. Your future boyfriend or girlfriend will be glad you did! ~smile~
5. Decide what you want/need in a spouse.
What are you willing to live with and what are you not? Dating should be purposeful. Sure, dating can be fun too, but dating and constantly breaking up is gut-wrenching. Before committing yourself to someone new, you should know if he or she could be your husband or wife someday. Knowing what you want and need (and please, be realistic ~smile~) will help you resist the urge to date just anyone and everyone and will cut down on the number of break ups you have to go through during your single years!
Learning your calling (or, your effect on the world) will also help you understand yourself for your future and understand the man or woman with whom you could fit well in marriage.
6. Write yourself a letter.
If you could write a letter to yourself at the beginning of the relationship which just ended, what would you say to yourself? What advice would you give? What warnings? What would you tell yourself – knowing what you know now? This can be one of the most therapeutic times in your life. Don’t rush through this… take time and do it – and do it well. You’ll know when you’re done with the letter.
7. Talk to your family and friends about their observations of your former relationship.
Your loved ones are a wealth of information. If you’ll give them a chance to step on your toes a little, they can give you a lot of insight into the pros and cons of your former relationships. Friends and family can see past the romantic haze. When we see beautiful waterfalls, they see the crushing, pointy rocks at the bottom. When we see the warm glow of a fireplace, they see the stray sparks that will burn the house down.
Ask your parents, siblings, friends, and others who love you if they had any concerns during your former relationship. Also, try to remember the concerns they previously shared. If they did share them and you shut out their advice, apologize for your pride and ask them again for their advice humbly. Take notes on what they say and guard yourself against the same issues in your future relationship.
8. When you’re ready, begin removing reminders of your ex from your life if they are causing you to hold on indefinitely or keeping you in a state of sadness (e.g, love letters, gifts, etc.).
This isn’t easy, but it may be necessary. After one particularly difficult break up, I gave away jewelry to someone because having it was keeping me emotionally connected to this person. On the other hand, I still have a number of items from another relationship that don’t bother me to keep (and I should also add, they don’t bother Eric for me to keep them either ~smile~).
If gifts and letters from your former boyfriend or girlfriend are continually bringing up painful memories, or rekindling false hope, it’s a good idea to get rid of them. Once, I had some friends join me for a picture cutting party. It was a blast and I enjoyed the support of my friends.
If you are going through a break up, pondering whether to get back together, or recovering from a break up and you have a specific question you would like us to answer, please feel free to contact us. We may answer your question on our weekly mailbag video or answer you privately (depending on the sensitive nature of the question).
We hope the suggestions above are helpful to you. Eric and I both know the pain of breaking up in a relationship and we empathize with you as you go through this season. As Annie sings, the sun will come out again tomorrow, but don’t rush it. Spend some time with God, the Great Physician, Jehovah Rapha. Let His words minister to you today (Psalm 34:18, Psalm 147:3, John 3:16-18, John 14:1-31, Matthew 11:28-30).