Breakups are the perfect opportunity for growth, because it’s almost as if the universe is screaming at you to change your actions. Here are the lessons I learned about love and relationships from my most recent breakup that I am still in the process of healing from. (But am pretty far along now!)
1. FORGIVENESS AND TRUST ARE TWO SEPERATE THINGS
The end of my breakup got a little messy. My exes (partner at the time) friends were starting to overstep boundaries and they began to say inappropriate things that made me uncomfortable. I felt my ex did not prioritize our relationship over his friendship with them, and instead of trying to work it out, he decided to end the relationship. This left me confused, angry, frustrated, and sad. I felt a sense of betrayal from what had occurred. A little later, my ex came to terms with the wrong he had done that contributed to our breakup. He apologized. So, in my mind, I thought we were going to get back together. He apologized after all, he understands what he did was wrong now, and he wants to grow and change into a better person… so what is the problem? And further still, even after he apologized, I was having a difficult time forgiving him. Which frustrated me even more. I would think to myself, “the faster you can forgive him, the faster you two can get back together,” so I put pressure on myself to speed up the healing process so we can work things out and start fresh…
Here was the problem. Forgiving someone and trusting someone are two different things. You can forgive someone for the wrong things they did to you, NO ONE is perfect, myself included… but trusting someone is different. You can forgive someone without them wanting to put in the effort to rebuild your trust. This was the shitty part about the situation. My ex, while he felt remorseful and cared, did not want to rebuild my trust and put in the effort I deserve to restart a healthy long-term relationship. And this made me angry.
I didn’t understand why he would not just fix the situation now that he acknowledged fault, and I started getting angry at him for not WANTING to rebuild my trust. But the truth is, just as I couldn’t make him apologize, I also couldn’t force him to care enough about our relationship to rebuild my trust. He just didn’t want to, and I deserve someone who does.
I came up with an analogy to figure this out.
Let’s say, you have this best friend and you trust them very much. They have done a lot to earn your trust, therefore when you have to use the restroom, you hand them your purse to hold. While you’re in the restroom, your friend goes into your wallet and takes out $20.00 and steals it for themselves. They betrayed you. But when you get back, they feel remorseful. They tell you they took the money. So what can you do in this situation? Legally, you can force them to give back the money. That is within your rights. But you cannot force them to apologize. But let’s say they do, your friend gives you back the money without resistance and apologizes for betraying you. Well then great! You can be friends again right? No, not exactly, because after your friend apologizes, they tell you they don’t think this friendship is going to work anymore and explains how you always insulted their shirt. This is confusing. They did something wrong to you, you forgave them, but now they are the ones who do not want to be friends? What can you do in this situation? You can apologize for insulting their shirt and promise to stop and put in the effort to regain their trust again if they choose to be your friend again, but that is all you can do. You cannot force them to be your friend anymore, because as unfair as it may seem to you, it is their choose if they want to put in the effort to rebuild your trust and reestablish a friendship. And they don’t want to right now.
NOW IF the ex-friend starts to lash out at their ex-bestfriend and starts to insult them, guilt shame them, and hurt them… now both friends are in the wrong. This is a mistake I made. I wish I just took the time to heal on my own before I approached a situation that required extra love and understanding to fix. This is the mistake the second friend made, and this is the mistake that needs to be understood.
In this analogy, I felt like I was the second friend. So I tried to force my ex to regain my trust. But that wasn’t within my rights. You cannot force someone to apologize, you cannot force someone to be your partner, friend, family member, etc. All you can do, is make your boundaries clear, and walk away if they are not being met. IF that person someday tries to re-establish trust with you, then it is your decision if you would want to work with them to rebuild a connection, before that day comes, it is their decision. All you can do is walk away with dignity. And if you don’t walk away with dignity, the best you can do is apologize for the wrong you also did and hope they will forgive you for your half of things too.
2. DON’T SPEAK UNTIL YOU’RE HEALED
By this I mean, of course you should speak. Talk things through with a counsellor, to yourself, to a close friend or family member BUT do not speak with your ex until you are healed. If you try to talk to someone while you are healing, you run the risk of insulting them, lashing out at them, being rude, crying, making conflicting statements. The process to healing is messy, and it takes time to figure out how you actually feel. If you keep in communication with someone who hurt you while you are still healing, things can get messy. You will say MANY things you do not mean and it will be spiteful, and pathetic, and you’ll be sending mixed messages… that isn’t fair to your ex OR to you. I know it’s hard, and I am also giving advice I myself didn’t even take until it was too late, but keep your mouth shut about the incident as best you can WITH your ex, until you are healed. You ex might have broken your heart but it is your job to fix it. Just like if a person breaks your bone, it is YOUR responsibility to go to the doctor, get a cast, and start healing on your own.
3. TAKE SPACE FROM YOUR EX
Likely after a breakup your ex is going to ask for space, and they will likely still message and you will likely still message. Space is the hardest thing to give after a breakup. BOTH people secretly still crave communication. It’s become your routine, your habit. But you two are broken up now and you BOTH need space to cool off. If you ever want to be friends again or try again in the future, then that’s fine, but you need space on your own until you are completely healed before you reopen that door to communication. You’re going to say and do things you don’t mean, your ex is going to say and do things they don’t mean, it’s just going to be a mess. So take space to heal on your own. Even if you both broke each others hearts and you want to fix it and make it right it is YOUR EXES responsibility to fix their own broken heart, and similarly it is your responsibility to fix your own.
4. DON’T PUT YOUR PARTNER ON A PEDESTAL
While I’m in a relationship with someone I consider them to be the best thing ever. They are like an angel, just perfect. But that couldn’t be more wrong. They’re human, no one is perfect. And when you put someone on a pedestal, though it may seem sweet and good intentioned in the moment, you are doing them a disservice. You are ignoring their flaws which is what makes them human. Their flaws also deserve love and understanding, and when you think someone is the best damn thing to ever walk the face of the earth, but they say or do something to disappoint you, your mind is going to go hay-wire. It makes no sense! This angel turned into a demon. That’s why a lot of people go from loving their partners to hating their exes. They put them on a pedestal and didn’t love their flaws the way they deserved to be loved. So when their partner shows off their flaws after a breakup, and you aren’t receiving the love you used to get from them, you are going to think something is wrong with them, and you’re going to think something is wrong with you. Rejection hurts a lot more when you think the perfect person decided you weren’t worth the effort. If you take a step back and take some space, you will realize your ex was not an angel or a devil, they were just a human being. You placed more importance in them then they wanted and that is why you felt this internal struggle every time you saw a side of them that didn’t reflect their perfect image of them you had in your mind.
5. LOVE IS UNCONDITIONAL RELATIONSHIPS ARE NOT
Love is a great thing. It requires selflessness, generosity, kindness, and compassion. It is seeing the good and the bad in a person and loving both unconditionally. HOWEVER while love can be unconditional, relationships CANNOT BE. This is a common misconception. Love lasts forever in one way shape or form, you will always have love for someone BUT you CANNOT use love as the only reason to stay. You can love someone without being in a relationship with them. The relationship though, that needs to be conditional. If your partner is constantly violating your boundaries, and you tried communicating it and they are unwilling to stop, the relationship needs to end. NOW I am not saying this means abandon someone the second they disappoint you, you need to genuinely try to work things out when problems arise. But if the situation is hopeless because your partner is unwilling to change OR if it’s because they decided that they don’t want to be in the relationship anymore, you need to end it. If it’s meant to be maybe one day in the future you two will reconnect, but if it’s not then it’s not. And that’s the risk you take with love. Love yourself a little more than you love them. It will do you both a service. Your partner doesn’t want to be the glue to your existence, nor do they deserve to be, and you don’t want that either.
6. DO NOT LET PEOPLE PRESSURE YOU TO HEAL FASTER
I don’t care if it takes you a couple of months or a couple of years to heal, do not let others pressure you into healing faster. Most of the time, you will heal after several months, especially if communication is cut-off, but you need to give yourself that space to heal. Your ex, your friends, and your family might pressure you to “get over it” faster, but that’s not possible. Nor is that healthy. Heal on your own timeline. But know the first two weeks of not speaking to the person you love/ loved is the worst. After those two weeks are over, things start to get better and you finally get some better perspective. Then after those two weeks are over, you can start to get yourself back. But don’t pressure yourself to look like this hero who got over it overnight. That’s not human and that’s not possible. If your love was genuine it will take some time to heal from, so don’t pressure yourself. Be gentle with yourself and even if months pass, don’t feel like a tool for not being fully healed. You’re just being honest with yourself and your timeline for healing and growth, not many others are.
7. STAY SINGLE FOR A BIT
After a breakup, I would recommend staying single until you’re healed, in fact, even after you’re healed you can stay single. OF COURSE if your soulmate comes along before that time, you can take it slow with them, but I wouldn’t actively go out of your way to get into a new relationship. Take some time to get comfortable by yourself. You will feel much more secure and calm. You’ll feel happier too once you are fully healed. You might even discover you don’t want a relationship right now, and that’s ok too 🙂 Being single is fun, it allows you the time to focus solely on yourself and you don’t have to prioritize someone else’s feelings. And being single doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go out and hookup and go partying, being single can just mean taking time to feel comfortable in your own skin again. Personal growth during this time is key.
8. DON’T PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR EX
Let your ex live their life too. As hard as it is, don’t try to figure out what they are up to right now. I made this mistake when I stayed in contact with my ex when we both needed space. It was a mistake that I grew from now. But don’t compare. It is not a competition, “who got over who first,” Just focus on yourself and your healing. It’s ok to have loved someone, it means you’re human. If your ex is meant to be in your life they will find a way back to you on their own. If not, then you have to get comfy being without them either way. You cannot force a person to want to stay.
9. IT’S OK IF YOU CAN’T STAND YOUR EXES FRIENDS
Let’s face it, your exes friends are going to hate you no matter what you do. They don’t care about who is right and who is wrong, they just see their friend in pain and they see your breakup is the reason. Additionally, your exes friends, new or old, are not super compatible with you. Your ex and you decided you are not compatible right? So why would the people they spend the majority of their time with that they ARE compatible with them be compatible with you? Let them do their own thing. Haters are fans in disguise.
People change, and maybe someday your ex will change again and be more compatible to you. If that day comes then great! You can give things another shot then, but right now, your ex is changing in a way that makes them incompatible to you. They might want to enjoy the club life while being single while you prefer a partner who stays in on the weekends. The changes your ex is making to their personality might be temporary or it might be permanent. Either way, right now, your ex is right. You two are not compatible right now. Maybe someday you will be again, but right now let them change while you stay true to you.
So, in conclusion to that point, if your exes friends are bothering you, give them a show, and be the best version of yourself that you can be.
Some people suggest throwing out anything that reminds you of your ex right away. I actually disagree with this. Take the time to listen to your exes favourite songs, keep the trinkets they bought you, it’s ok. You should get to a point where those things don’t bother you anymore. That’s true healing. If you cringe thinking about your exes favourite band, take some time to confront your fears and listen to them, cry it out a bit, be nostalgic for them, but then come to terms with it. Acceptance isn’t about pretending it never happened, acceptance is about acknowledging that it did happen, but it also had to end for now. You don’t have to understand why yet, you just have to accept what it is.
11. FORGIVE YOURSELF
Guilt interferes with acceptance and healing. Your ex messed up, and you probably did too. Maybe just as bad or worse than they did. At the end of the day, you will feel a little guilty regardless of how things ended. It was someone you cared about and now they are hurt and sad and now you are hurt and sad, this situation just sucks. But forgiving yourself is a good step. BECAUSE when you feel guilty for a past action, that is growth. That is you acknowledging it was wrong. Now you know! Sometimes we act in ways we didn’t realize was wrong until weeks or months after the incident. And look, if you apologize to your ex when you are calm and healed, they will likely forgive you and understand that emotions were running high from both ends. If you can understand what they said was out of anger or frustration or sadness, then they will understand too. The best way to avoid guilt is not to do it in the first place, but if you take the time to work on yourself and heal on your own and grow and learn your lessons for the future, that is the greatest apology you can offer someone.
12. LEARN WHO YOU ARE AGAIN
Relationships are only a small part of life, not the whole thing. While you are consumed in one it can sometimes feel that way, but the reality is there is much more to life than just your relationship status.
Sometimes relationships serve as a mask to your internal problems you haven’t come to terms with. If you feel like you want to travel, but you get into a relationship, you feel content without traveling for a bit because you are distracted. But now is the time to remember your ambitions. If you want to work/ study abroad, now is the time to consider that. Now you have nothing preventing you, no excuses, no distractions, nothing. This can be scary as hell, but it is necessary for growth. So a breakup might have been the smack in the face you needed to start you life up again. Be happy on your own. Don’t use a relationship as a band-aid anymore. Find friends who can fulfill your emotional needs for a bit, but you, you focus on you.
13. LOVE FROM A DISTANCE
Wish everyone well and always be welcoming of future connections, sometimes they can be rebuilt with the same people from the past, and sometimes they can’t. Both scenarios are ok. Just love everyone from a distance and wish everyone well, even your enemies. Do it not because you want good karma, but do it because it is right.
If you stay true to you, the right people will come into your life. If something is meant to be it will be. All you can do is wish everyone well, heal on your own, and grow as a person.