Breaking up sucks. It’s painful. It’s a heart-wrenching ordeal. It feels like the end of the world. The dreams of a shared future dissolve You forget which day of the week it is, whether you’ve eaten or not, and thoughts of going to work in the morning seem laughable. How do you recover from this?
Looking back on heartbreaks, I find myself wondering, “is there a way to turn this pain into something beautiful?” I think it’s human nature to search for meaning in heartache. But that doesn’t make it any less worthwhile. In fact, it’s the only thing that allows us to heal from these wounds and move on. So, here are the most powerful lessons I’ve learned from heartbreak:
1. Don’t start a relationship as an escape from loneliness. It will only result in deeper loneliness.
Finding connection is one of our primal human emotional needs. We crave the sense that we know someone else intimately and that they intimately know us. For a long time, I didn’t know the difference between loneliness and solitude. But now I’ve recognized that solitude is something we choose whereas loneliness is something we don’t. I would start relationships in order to escape loneliness, but now I’ve learned to cherish my solitude.
2. If you don’t trust someone completely, love is impossible.
Having major trust issues has made it difficult for me to open up in new relationships. I’ve always expected betrayal and kept my heart closed. But I know now that if we don’t take the risk of trusting someone else, we’ll never feel the true joy of intimate, full-hearted love.
3. Your relationship with yourself is the only one that lasts forever. Don’t sacrifice that for a relationship with someone else.
There were moments when it was tricky to distinguish who I was outside of a relationship; I would lose my sense of self. The person you’re with loves the person you are. You can’t sacrifice that in an attempt to please them or fabricate intimacy. You have to be true to yourself before anyone else.
4. Unless something is obviously relevant to your present, keep the ex-files in the past.
At the beginning of a relationship, it seems like a good idea to share about everything. But unless something from a past relationship is relevant to the relationship you’re in now, there’s no need to drag the ghosts of the past into this brand-new chapter.
5. The easiest way to ruin your life is to never take a risk.
My parents met each other sky-diving. They were fearless and passionate and bonkers. Taking risks? Yes, please. If they’d been too afraid to try it, they’d never have met over the breaking dawn in Finland. They followed their own passions to the edge of the earth and it opened up a whole new life for them.
Opening your heart is a huge risk. It makes you feel alive. It might end in tragedy, but, really, wouldn’t it still be worth it?
6. Take everything one day at a time.
“Let’s go to Patagonia, let’s build a cottage in the mountains, let’s have four kids.” It’s fun to imagine the future, but how many of the things we imagine actually pan out the way we planned?
Try not to plan for the decades to come. Don’t make expectations for a future that you can’t count on. Enjoy every moment. Let your relationship unfold before you, one day at a time, one step at a time.
7. Jealousy doesn’t start with your partner. It starts with you.
More often than not, the root cause of jealousy is not disregard perpetrated by your partner. It is insecurity that lives inside you and rears its head whenever you’re not being assured that you come first. It’s important to be with someone that makes you feel special, but if you find yourself constantly jealous, you may want to explore what’s feeding those feelings of insecurity you can’t escape.
8. If you have to change to make someone want you or change them to make them someone you want, it’s never going to work.
It’s hard enough to change ourselves, right? Whether we want to lose 10 pounds or learn a new language or stop cursing so much, these deeply ingrained habits take serious effort and commitment to change. You have to really want it. So, how well do you think it works to try to convince someone else that they need to change something about themselves that they were perfectly fine with before you came along? It doesn’t work, and it breeds resentment. If you focus on becoming your best self, you’ll attract someone who’s doing the same thing. When you don’t want to change them and they don’t want to change you, that’s how you know it might actually work.
Every setback, disappointment, and heartbreak we face can offer us lessons that help us move forward in a healthier way. Learning these lessons is key to uncovering true happiness. Look for the lesson in every loss, and you’ll find yourself being grateful, even in grief.