“I just feel pain. A lot of pain. I thought I could imagine how much this would hurt, but I was wrong.”
— Haruki Murakami
A breakup hurts badly.
It confronts us with unbearable pain.
But while there seems no other choice than to push through, there are things that you can do to make it easier.
There are six main problems that cause your pain.
The sooner you start resolving them, the earlier you will overcome the pain and move on.
An Outcry for Help: A Letter From a Breakup Survivor
I received a very long email from someone who is really going through a rough patch.
Her story was very moving, and I could feel her excruciating pain in every word she wrote.
What made her email stand out from the rest?
It was the fact that she could very accurately sum up what most of you are going through right now.
The six biggest pains and problems you have to solve:
- How to stop blaming yourself.
- How to get over the fear that you will never be happy without them.
- How to stop thinking about the past.
- How to get over the fear of staying alone forever.
- How to get over the fear that you’ll never find someone like them.
- How to get over the fear that they’ve moved on and are happy now.
Does that sound familiar?
I am pretty sure that most of you are struggling with some of those (if not ALL of them).
So, let's tackle them one by one.
I’ll dissect each problem to its core and give you some tips on what you can do to overcome the pain it’s causing.
Let’s start with a classic one:
1. How to Stop Blaming Yourself
You have to understand that feeling guilt is a normal part of your recovery. Everyone goes through the same thing.
According to Anne Wietzker, who researched the feelings of guilt toward a former spouse, the definition of guilt is:
Therefore, we experience guilt for various reasons:
- because we think that we haven’t invested enough in the relationship and haven’t been a “good” partner.
- because of the mistakes we’ve made in the relationship (cheating, for example).
- because we were the one who broke up.
Whatever your reasons are, let me tell you about guilt after a breakup:
Rarely is one party alone responsible for a dysfunctional relationship and the resulting breakup (all kinds of abuse being exceptions).
As I've said many times before:
A breakup is an escalated incompatibility that ruptured the relationship.
It has nothing to do with you alone.
Feeling guilty means that you are more concerned about your Ex and their perception of the past than yourself.
This unbalance has to tip the other way around (we’ll get to that later).
For now, all you can do is accept that the guilt is there and DON'T go deeper into it.
It will disappear with time.
2. How to Get Over the Fear That You Will Never Be Happy Without Them
If you believe that this statement is true, then you are doing two things:
- You are allowing this breakup to affect you on a core personal level.
- You are putting your Ex on a pedestal.
Both assumptions will only prevent your recovery from happening.
But I get it.
These self-limiting beliefs mark different stages of your recovery. You must overcome them to move forward.
Both have in common that they tie your Ex to your happiness and fulfillment.
And as my personal savior said to me many years ago:
”Your Ex is NOT responsible for your happiness!”
Accept that this belief is a normal part of this stage in your recovery.
Internalize that your Ex is not the center of your life and that both your happiness and fulfillment come from within YOU.
Also, are you sure your Ex was that perfect after all?
That’s the classic “Pedestal Effect.”
They are NOT as perfect as you think they are, and the breakup hasn't happened because you're unlovable, unworthy of their love, or inadequate.
Start to slowly rattle their pedestal.
DON'T fall into these traps I’ve mentioned.
Consequently, both beliefs will slowly make place for a new, healthier one:
You will find an even better matched partner after you’ve successfully completed your recovery.
3. How to Stop Thinking About the Past
This is a very tough one, as you already know.
I've observed over the years that this mental processing of what happened, the “vicious cycle of thoughts,” is the ONE thing that can harm you most (it will also prolong your recovery indefinitely).
The cycle must be broken.
This obsession, ruminating and brooding over what happened before and after the breakup, can seriously harm your emotional wellbeing in impactful ways:
- it can create the urge for over-thinking; everything can become truly addictive over time and hard to escape from.
- it can easily lead into depression, as we deliberately put ourselves in a continuous state of helplessness.
- it can lead to other addictions (alcohol, drug abuse, etc.) and all kinds of health problems.
- it will keep you in a place of negativity and prevent your progress through higher stages of your recovery.
(Susan Nolen-Hoeksema wrote an interesting paper about the relationship between rumination and depression. Source.)
Your job is to shift your focus by deliberate distraction, as often as you can.
Even better: apply behavioral therapy techniques to stop yourself from thinking about your Ex obsessively.
(We have a very effective methodology for that in our DETOX Course, which I have perfected over the years).
Here’s an interesting talk from psychologist Guy Winch on rumination after psychological injuries:
4. How to Get Over the Fear of Staying Alone Forever
This is a fear that tormented me throughout the bigger part of my recovery.
It can be based on one or both of the following two beliefs:
- the notion that you didn't deserve your Ex in the first place.
- the notion that it's impossible for you to attract someone like them again, so you'll just stop trying.
Both beliefs are grounded in deep insecurity about yourself.
Is there a chance that you’ve used your partner to “cover up” destructive views about yourself?
Men use “Trophy Wives,” and women use men that make them feel beautiful and appreciated.
Both cases are the same:
Using the relationships to cope with insecurities.
As dysfunctional as this has proved to be, herein also lies a great opportunity for yourself:
If you can raise your self-esteem, not only will these insecurities about yourself disappear (and with them, the belief that you won't even find another partner) —
But you will also make way for having a relationship in the future that is based on “real” values.
It's really that simple.
And by the way, it is normal that your self-esteem suffers after a breakup.
A study conducted by Lora E. Park shows that:
It's your job in your recovery to NOT take that as a given fact but to correct that.
5. How to Get Over the Fear That You’ll Never Find Someone Like Them
This might sound like #4, with the distinction that it relates directly to your Ex.
We still feel love for our Ex and think we belong together.
We think our relationship was near perfect.
Because we experience the relationship as near perfect, we don’t see a possibility that we will ever find someone else as perfect as our Ex.
As you can see, many of these reasons for our unbearable pain after the breakup are closely tied together.
The common theme is an unrealistic view of the relationship and your Ex-Partner.
But here’s what you can do.
Ask yourself: Why are we not together anymore?
I don't care how awesome your Ex was, how funny, intelligent, hot, witty, and caring … the ONE thing they couldn’t offer you was this:
Wanting to stay by your side no matter what.
I don’t care about the outstanding outside or inside qualities they had; if they didn't have that one thing, then they weren't right for you.
It's natural that you've put them on a pedestal and worship all their (so unimportant and very common) traits and looks they have.
One of the main benefits of going through a recovery is that you realize your personal needs and what a perfect relationship looks like for you.
You will learn to look for the things that really matter in a partner, and you'll find someone who is way better than your Ex ever was.
Even if it seems unrealistic right now.
Believe me, I've been there.
6. How to Get Over the Fear That They’ve Moved On and Are Happy Now
Isn’t it weird how fast they were able to move on right after the breakup?
- Are they already in a new relationship?
- Do they seem to have forgotten you?
- Do they suddenly have a new circle of friends, job, hobbies, etc.?
How is something like that even possible?
It isn’t magic, the reason is simple:
They started to separate themselves while you were still together without you even noticing.
They simply had a headstart.
Now, that doesn't mean that they've completely forgotten about you or that they don't care.
But I want you to ask yourself the following question:
Why do I care?
They've decided that they don't want to fight for the relationship, work it out, go through thick and thin — so who cares if they are happy now or not?
That is the mindset you must develop.
They didn't want to be with you and so walked away.
LET them walk.
Everything that comes after the breakup is now about YOU:
Your healing, your wellbeing, your future.
It hurts, I know, but THEY don't have a part in it anymore.
This is YOUR new life, this is the new YOU.
Once you are there, they might very well regret that they haven't given you a chance.
But it's not about revenge or to make them feel bad about the breakup.
It's about you moving on from them.
This MUST always be your ultimate goal — NEVER lose sight of it.
The stack of unbearable pain after a breakup is high. But it is caused by problems that we commonly face.
We need to approach them separately.
Most of them are limiting beliefs that we automatically adopt after the separation.
They are founded in a negative image that we paint of ourselves, which results in low self-esteem, reduced self-worth, and the inability to face a life without the Ex.
But as previously said, herein lies your opportunity:Use this breakup as a catalyst to right these wrongs.
Make the right choices and avoid common mistakes.
Only then will you reach the ultimate goal:
To find a perfect match partner and bulletproof your heart from future breakups.
You can do it!
Your friend and coach,