Quite a few things in life are difficult to accept – growing old, death, taxes, you name it. Breaking up from a serious relationship is a pretty traumatic experience, and it, too, can be very hard to accept, particularly in the short term. Especially if you’ve been blindsided.
Think about it. There you were, cruising along with your beloved in a nice, loving, long-term relationship (or so you thought), and then suddenly it was over. Reality collided with your happy expectations and ran them over.
That word “expectations” is key here. Before we talk about how to reach a level of acceptance in a breakup, let’s back up a few steps and talk about how to reach a level of acceptance in a relationship. If you have realistic, appropriate expectations in your relationship, you will be better prepared for any breakup that occurs.
All of us have been programmed and even brainwashed by Hollywood and the romance industry to have certain expectations about love and relationships. Generally, our lives are dull and colourless and dreary and unhappy until we suddenly meet some wonderful person who changes everything! Presto! All our problems are solved by this new lover we’ve found! Life is wonderful, perfect, fantastic. We’re going to live happily ever after!
To start with, that’s an awful lot of pressure to put on another person, or on your relationship, or on the concept of love itself. If you’re coming into a relationship with the expectation that this new person is going to fix all the problems in your life and make every rainy day turn sunny with rainbows, you are setting yourself, and them, up for disappointment. Your life, your troubles, your day-to-day and week-to-week problems, your psychological and emotional issues, whatever they may be, are yours. They are your responsibility to take care of, not some other person’s.
Secondly, people change and relationships change. If they didn’t, the world wouldn’t work very well. So if you are in any relationship, no matter how wonderful it is, no matter how fulfilling, you must accept the possibility that it will change over time. It may not get worse. In fact, it may get better. It may go through good times and bad times. There are no guarantees. You yourself will change as you grow older and as you grow into your marriage or other long term relationship, whether due to the arrival of children or just the normal, natural ageing process.
A very advanced, but difficult to achieve, level of acceptance in a relationship is to accept that today is what you should focus on and enjoy, because there are no guarantees for tomorrow. People do change. They grow out of love with each other sometimes. It is possible, though not likely, but it is possible that your partner could some day look you in the eye and say, “I don’t love you anymore.”
Once you have accepted that, you can relax and enjoy every day, every hour, of your relationship more fully. You focus more on happy right now, happy today, and less on happily ever after.
Now, back to accepting a breakup.
Even if you’ve accepted the unpleasant fact that you and your partner could breakup, it’s still no fun when it happens. Your whole world gets turned upside down. Powerful, terrifying emotions crash through you – fear, anguish, fury, depression, jealousy, white hot rage, disgust, loneliness, despair. At times, you simply may not be able to see any path ahead, any way out of the mess you are trapped in.
But you don’t have to see the path to accept that there is a path, there is a way forward, and you will eventually find it.
One important thing to do after a breakup is to focus on yourself for a while. In the earliest days, don’t try to suppress or stifle or change your emotions. When you feel furious, let yourself feel furious. Tell yourself, “It’s OK. I should feel angry after this breakup.” If you need a healthy way to express that anger, consider working out hard at the gym, or even hitting something like a pillow that doesn’t break and that won’t hurt to hit.
As a little time passes, your emotions will steady down. Naming them helps you control them, so learn the names for all your crazy feelings after that break up.
During the quiet period after a breakup, don’t contact your ex at all, by any method whatsoever, neither text nor passenger pigeon, neither telephone nor telegram. Instead, after giving yourself appropriate space to feel what you’re feeling, start building in some healthy, stimulating, social activities into your schedule. Consider taking some kind of class where you use your mind and meet other people who use their minds, too. Or join a bowling league or sailing club where you get outdoors and enjoy fresh air and hard work with other people who enjoy the same sort of thing. Learn to cook or to speak a new language.
These activities aren’t just meant to distract you from your breakup, though they certainly can help do that. It’s difficult to feel sorry for yourself while trying to keep your sailboat from capsizing in a stiff breeze, or while stumbling over some Italian tongue twister. But the real purpose of these sorts of activities is to help you accept something very important – you have broken up with your ex, but you are still OK.
Don’t expect instant results, as that is just as unrealistic as expecting your love relationship to solve all your troubles. But keep going out and doing things with other people and you may be surprised to learn that even as a single person, even after a devastating breakup, you can still go out and enjoy your life some of the time. Maybe not all the time, but some of the time. There are friends to be made and adventures to be had.
That is the first step to a broader acceptance of your situation after a breakup. You may never be happy about breaking up, but you will, in time, come to accept it. The breakup may still be a painful memory, but it won’t control and dominate and define your whole life. You will have moved on.