It sucks, but it happens: at some point in our lives, we are all rejected in the face of love. And if you haven’t been yet — if you’ve always been the rejector and not the rejected, the dumper instead of the dumpee — there’s something to be said for the lessons you’re missing out on.
Because nothing teaches you about yourself quite like handing your heart wholly over to someone else only to have it spit back in your face.
This is not to say that the person who does the breaking up doesn’t grieve as well, or that they have it any easier. But the lessons you learn from that process are a little different, and sometimes, the person who breaks up with the other person is effectively the dumped one because there was cheating or some other sort of betrayal involved. After all, no one ever said relationships were easy.
1. How long it takes to heal.
The simple answer here is: enough, and it will change and fluctuate from breakup to breakup. But the longer answer is that you will also learn how long it takes to sift through and compartmentalize each of the very intricate feelings you experience from the rejection — after all, feeling rejected is only one piece of the puzzle at play here. You will learn how long it takes you to shift from one expression of grief to the other, and how you personally cope with each stage along the way. No one can give you a formula, like “half the time you were dating,” or expect you to snap out of it.
2. How to go through the motions like everything is fine, until it is.
You don’t wash your hair for 16 days, you rearrange the food pyramid so that ice cream is your base food, you listen to Taylor Swift with a wine bottle as your makeshift microphone. (Part of the way we learn about how people get over heartbreak is through the clichés fed to us by Hollywood, so chances are good you’ll have a by-the-books mope session at least once in your life.) Sometimes you just have to pretend like you actually can erase your memory, Eternal Sunshine-style, and act as if the other person never existed. Sometimes you have to do a mix of both, and sometimes you have to escape town and friends for a little while and try to reinvent yourself and get bangs and the whole nine. Any of these options are okay. Whichever is the best coping mechanism for you is the one you ought to turn to.
3. Which friends will really be there for you.
The friends who will drop everything and show up to your place with that bottle of wine; the friends who will try to make you forget the person who dumped you with dinner, or setting you up on a new date; the friends who will rally against your ex and tell you that you could do so much better… They all have their place, but so too do the friends who help you learn how to get back on your feet, and the friends who shake you when you need to be shaken and remind you when enough is enough. Sometimes we need these reality checks. (And sometimes, you need to realize which friends will say that they’re so sorry to hear that, only to breeze back into a conversation about themselves. Cut these losses, too, while you’re in the process of cutting ties.)
4. If you’re the kind of person who can go back to just being friends.
Sometimes you can be. Sometimes you need to take a little time before you hang out around your ex; and sometimes you have to sever all ties, burn everything they ever gave you, and avoid all the restaurants in their neighborhood you loved. Obviously this is a case-by-case situation, and you can be friends with some exes while you make a voodoo doll for another. As a general rule, though, you’ll know if you’re the kind of person who would want to be friends with the people who spurned you, or if you wouldn’t.
5. Where your boundaries and edges exist.
When you get into a relationship, it’s too easy to blur the lines of where you end and the person you’re dating begins. And when you dump someone, it’s in part facilitated by the fact that you’ve already begun to navigate and rediscover those lines, put your walls back up, whatever it takes for you to distance and sever yourself from them. So when you’re the one being broken up with, you’re left with the raw end, and the bits of yourself that used to be attached to something else. And because you’re raw and frayed, you have the opportunity to regrow those parts of yourself you might have abandoned in favor of the other person being around. It hurts, sure, because healing always does, but this is where you have the opportunity to knit yourself into something stronger.
6. How much the other person meant to you.
I don’t mean this to say that you won’t know, or that you can’t appreciate how much you loved them while you’re still in a relationship, but taking a step back from things always puts them in full relief. In a breakup, you’ll learn if it was a codependent love, an unrequited love, if you were the one who loved more or less, and where all the warning signs you ignored actually existed. There’s that saying that goes, you don’t know what you had until it’s gone, and though hopefully you do know what you had from the outset, this can often act as a wake up call that next time, you definitely shouldn’t take whoever it is that comes after for granted.
7. How to learn to love yourself (again).
We blame ourselves for driving the other person away, for being less than what they wanted, for doing and saying the wrong thing. But just because someone decides to take their love away from you doesn’t mean you’re any less worthy of being loved. So you turn the love you gave them inward, and use that to help yourself move on. How you redirect such affection though varies from person to person, and you can still feel like you love that person who broke your heart even months and years after they left you. And that’s normal. You have to give yourself time, because that is a crucial part of the kind of love you should give yourself whether you’re single or taken.