“Sometimes the most uncomfortable learning is the most powerful.” ~Brené Brown
Seems impossible, doesn’t it?
How can you look at your breakup as an opportunity when it feels like someone cut your right arm off and ripped out your heart?
Breakups can be rough. When you open yourself up to another person, love them unconditionally, and compromise your own needs for the “betterment of the relationship,” you put yourself all-in. It’s no surprise that you feel lost, confused, and unwilling to move on when that connection is torn away from you. You gave everything to your relationship and now it’s gone. Forever.
Breakups have taught me something that I never learned in school: I’ve learned that losing love is hard. Brutally hard. I experienced more pain after the toughest breakup of my life than completing an engineering degree, doing standup comedy for the first time, and walking 400 kilometers in two weeks with 50 pounds on my back. When I lost my soul mate, I didn’t know how I was going to move on.
At first, I didn’t. I did everything I could do to escape, suppress, and avoid my feelings. I wasn’t nice to my body. I cried in the shower. I hid in the park close to my apartment since I was still living with my ex for a month after the breakup.
It was my “grieving period.” We all need one after a breakup. But although we all need different lengths of time to grieve, it’s important to put a time limit on it. Since I knew I was going to be living with my ex until we got our arrangements sorted out, I decided that I was going to give myself that month to grieve. And grieve, I did! I was a drunk, unproductive puddle of sadness.
Eventually I said goodbye to my ex, my cat, and my apartment. I cried on the metro on the way to my buddy’s condo. That first night away from the place I’d called home for years was brutal. But I knew my grieving period was over in the morning. And the next day, I got to work.
The road to recovery wasn’t easy. There were many ups and downs. But I stayed focused on letting go and moving on in the healthiest way I could.
That was two years ago, and I’m proud to say that I did let go and move on from the toughest breakup of my life. I’m a better version of myself today than I’ve ever been and I’m still a work in progress. We all are.
When I was recovering from my breakup, I did a lot of “reframing.” I tried looking at things through new perspectives so I could develop more understanding and empathy, for my ex and for myself. Today, with the advantage of hindsight, I can put my finger on an idea, or reframe, that helped me start moving on faster:
Breakups are an end, but they are also an opportunity for a fresh start.
First, a breakup is the end. Accept it. If you’re reading this and thinking, “Maybe I can still get my ex back if I just do this…” then you’re reading the wrong article. Because if your mind is set on getting your ex back, this is not your new beginning. At best it’s a rerun of the same show that’s been playing for too long.
Because guess what? When a breakup happens and people get back together, usually they break up again. And again. And again. The chances that you’ll get back with your ex and everything will improve and they’ll change into the perfect partner is as likely as me playing first base for the Yankees.
But just because you accept this as the end of your relationship doesn’t make it a negative experience. Most things come to an end in our lives—jobs, friendships, lives, your favorite Netflix series, the tub of cookie dough ice cream in your freezer (okay, in my freezer).
When one door closes another opens. You just have to have the guts to lock the old door behind you and walk through the new one.
I realized that my breakup was my opportunity to:
- Do things I’d wanted to do for a long time but hadn’t because I had a partner to consider in every decision I made.
- Peel back the layers and look within myself to see where I was going wrong in my romantic relationships, and most importantly, how I could improve so that I would be better in my next relationship.
- Reconnect with friends and family who had been relegated to the sidelines for five years because my relationship consumed a lot of time and energy.
- Meet new people and get excited about a fresh chance at love.
- Inspire other people to get over their breakups without the typical clichés and bad advice.
Let’s face it, you’re here on Tiny Buddha because you’re interested in self-improvement and self-growth. You’re on a journey toward becoming a better version of yourself. That’s why if you’re struggling to let go and move on after a breakup, you need to reframe it right now so you can continue on your journey.
You need to tell yourself this is your opportunity to become better. This is your chance to fix things that went wrong in your past relationship so next time you don’t end up with a partner who isn’t right for you.
Remember, relationships end for a reason.
You and your ex had your problems. Sure, you had love and a deep connection, but did you also have rock-solid communication, clear boundaries, and unwavering honesty? Did you share the same core values?
I’ll say it again: relationships end for a reason. And when it happens, it’s okay. Your ex wasn’t the only person on the planet who is capable of loving you. On the contrary, if you use your breakup as an opportunity to improve things about yourself, you will attract a partner with whom you’ll find so much more love and connection that you’ll wonder how you lasted as long as you did in your past relationship.
That’s what life is all about. None of us get things right on the first go. Finding a soul mate is no different than learning a new language or getting in shape. You have to practice. Look at your ex and breakup as a practice round. Because of that relationship, you’re stronger, smarter, and more prepared for the next one.
This is your time. It’s your opportunity to sort through your past relationship issues and figure out how to be better.
Because no matter what, we all play a role in our breakups. Even if you were lied to, cheated on, duped, or betrayed, you still played a role. That might be hard to hear, but it’s true. My mom always said, “It takes two to tango.” And my mom ain’t no fool.
I had to get comfortable with my role in my breakup, too. I was no angel.
I had to accept that I hadn’t been true to my core values. I wanted children, my ex didn’t. Still, I put that to the side because we were in love. I also realized I had a lingering fear of commitment. I was still battling with jealousy and insecurity issues even though I thought I’d left them behind in an earlier long-term relationship. It wasn’t easy accepting those things about myself, but when I did I knew exactly where the nuts and bolts needed to be tightened. And I got to work.
For you, perhaps there were co-dependency issues or a need for validation. Maybe you stayed for the sake of the children, the dog, or the mortgage. Who knows. But I do know that you played a role and you need to accept that before you can move on.
Looking in the mirror and accepting the not-so-good things about ourselves is difficult. People resist peeling back the layers of their personality because it means leaving themselves vulnerable and exposed.
But you’re different. You understand the importance and power of vulnerability. And your breakup is the best chance you might ever have to rebuild yourself in the image that makes you feel like the confident champion you dream of being.
I know your breakup sucks. I know you miss your ex and still have love for them. I know it’s hard looking to the future and wondering if you’ll ever meet your true soul mate.
Remember: the greatest opportunities for growth in our lives come when we’re the most uncomfortable. And a tough breakup takes us way outside our comfort zones.
That discomfort is your opportunity. Accept it, embrace it, and cherish it. Big breakups don’t come around often. This is an exciting time! You’ve proven to yourself that you’re brave enough to take a risk on love. Just because the relationship is over doesn’t take away that bravery. Now it’s time to be courageous in the face of adversity.
And guess what? If you can shake off your breakup in a productive, healthy way, it’ll build new skills and resilience for the next time a difficult, unexpected life event happens. Jobs will be lost. Friends will drift away. People will die. Change is inevitable in your life. Now is your opportunity to prepare yourself for those times that will come whether you like it or not.
A breakup is your opportunity to show everyone around you—friends, family, colleagues—how gritty you can be. It’s going to be hard work. It’s never easy coming to terms with our limiting beliefs, fears, and ghost in our closets.
You have an important choice to make:
You can choose to sit in your basement waiting for “time to heal” and hoping that by some miracle you’ll get better.
Or you can choose to look at your breakup as an opportunity to improve the way you show up in your relationships so you can attract the right type of person into your life.
You will let go and you will move on. But you have to start, today. The last thing you want is to look back on this moment and realize you waited too long to accept this as your opportunity. Time is too precious to waste feeling stuck.
About Eric Ibey
Eric Ibey is a relationship and leadership coach, member of the International Coach Federation, and the creator of the Breakup Challenge. He lives in Montreal, Canada.
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