A friend (we’ll call her “Leslie”) recalls the simplest, but most poignant, words anyone ever spoke to her about the pain of a relationship breaking up.
She and an old friend (“Greg”) had been good friends in high school and recently reconnected over the Internet. Though they lived in different parts of the country, they managed to see each other several times over the better part of a year, and before long she felt very much in love. But between their respective careers and children from prior marriages, uprooting their lives to be together did not feel like the right choice for either of them, and they decided to end the relationship. She knew it the best decision. But that didn’t make it hurt any less.
She remembers the last morning she spent with Greg. He had an early flight and she was barely awake as he gathered his bags and got ready to go, and she felt her eyes beginning to well up as he came to sit beside her and say goodbye for the last time.
“It’s so hard,” she said, fighting back tears.
He looked at her and replied, quietly, “It’s supposed to be hard.”
It could have come across as callous, but for Leslie, it felt like an affirmation that the breakup was hard for him, too. More than that, it reminded her what we all need to hear in the midst of heartbreak—that the pain is one hundred percent normal.
Just as no two relationships are exactly alike, all breakups are painful in different ways. No matter who initiates it, a whole range of emotions may come along for the ride—anger, sadness, loneliness, regret, or even fear that you’ll never get over it or find another person to love. You’re experiencing a significant life change—you identified yourself as a couple, with everything that comes along with that, and now you aren’t. You need time to feel sad about that.
It’s so important in the face of heartbreak to be gentle with yourself and respect the normalcy of your feelings. Amid whatever swirling of emotions you’re experiencing, now is not the time to make any major life decisions or changes (or even small ones; no matter how tempting it is to hold a ceremonial burning of the gorgeous dress you wore the day he broke it off, chances are it won’t make you feel any better…and believe it or not, one day you’re going to want that dress back
That’s not to say you should just lock yourself in a closet and wait to feel better, either. The relationship may be over, but your life is still very much there—your family and friends who support you, and your job or other responsibilities that require your attention (and can offer much-welcome distractions). Sooner rather than later, you’ll notice that all the things you used to enjoy, whether it’s mountain biking, a great day on the golf course, a well-made meal or just a beautiful spring day, are still there too. It is possible to grieve the loss and enjoy life’s small pleasures at the same time.
However, if you do find that your heartbreak is impacting your day-to-day living—not being able to sleep, for instance, or a loss of appetite—consider talking to a therapist to help you organize your thoughts and feel more in control. Needing a little extra help from an impartial professional is perfectly normal, too. It’s just another part of taking time to take care of yourself. And we all deserve that, whether we’re suffering from heartbreak or not.
You deserve to have a great love life. Let’s see if we can make yours better.Our Orange County relationship counseling services looks forward to connecting with you.