So you recently ended a romantic involvement with your ex, perhaps you finished on good terms — whoever initiated the breakup and the relationship wasn’t all bad, or bad at all. And perhaps somewhere deep inside you are even grateful that the two of you split up. You know it wasn’t meant to be, continue, and last for a multitude of reasons.
Yet, when the lights go off, the place turns dark, motionless and silent, you feel the depth of it all. The emptiness of space and the path in front of you as your new reality.
It’s over and there’s no coming back
Indeed, if you’re somewhere around a few weeks to a few months after a breakup, you — or rather your mind still keeps acknowledging this fact. The truth that what you planned over the past years and months, expecting it to be your present and future is no longer on the list of what will happen.
If you shook your head while reading these lines, let me tell you that you’re certainly not alone feeling this. Everyone does. Here’s what’s actually happening — hitting you and how to overcome the shocks.
Accepting the past is a harsh reality for our brains that love the good old, well-known habits and patterns so much that they always award us for it by flooding our body with tons of ecstatic hormones.
The trade with a hefty price between us and our minds — they get to relax in a comfort of safety and security of “no change,” and we get the “feel-good” hormones in return for keeping the old, the known and familiar. It’s a functional, however not a sustainable business partnership.
The fact is that change is an inevitable part of our life — some things have to leave and we need to let them go. There’s no way to avoid change as there’s no way to avoid pooping. Once it’s time for it, you have to push it through. And then flush whatever is leaving.
It’s that simple.
The issue here is that we create and hold onto expectations about our present and future with our partners, the lives we’re looking to have together, that once the bubble bursts, it feels painful to let them all go. And letting go takes a hell lot of mental effort and emotional release.
Once what we thought to have is gone, we start mourning it. We start missing it as if we never chose to let go of it in the first place. And we don’t mourn because we actually want this back, because we would have lost what’s been so good and valuable for us. No, we do it because we miss the familiarity of it. We miss the warmth of “the slippers of our comfort’”— the relationship and the partner we knew so well, the times we had together. Nevertheless, deep down we know that those old, broken slippers needed discarding.
We just have to remind ourselves of it. I had to remind myself of it. That I actually don’t miss the person and the moments of our life together as much as I miss the familiarity and comfort of it. That back then, I knew what my life was supposed to look like, I didn’t have to face the change and the unknown. Looking back though, I have to admit that it’s not even been that comfortable. My reasons for leaving the relationship far outweigh those for staying.
Again, change is scary and we humans hate it by default. Our brains are wired that way, but we’d hate it less if we allow ourselves to accept it rather than fight it. The more we take it in. And let ourselves feel into the loss of our comfort, security and safety until we get to accept it. It’s annoying to hear, I know, but what’s done is done. It is over. The past can’t be recreated and the only way is the way ahead.
The creeping loneliness
To be honest, it’s not even loneliness that’s bothering us at the very beginning. It’s the silence of the solitude that we so abruptly fell into.
We find this very solitude so scary because, first of all, it’s new for us. A new state of awareness to experience that feels unknown. We don’t know what may happen then and come out of it, therefore it’s scary. But we also fear solitude because our society has associated it with unpleasant, unwanted emotions such as loneliness, sadness, or depression and marked it as a negative, rather than a neutral state of being.
The issue is that we instinctively avoid solitude out of an overwhelming fear of loneliness — we think we’d get lonely when we are alone. It should not even surprise you then that many couples stay in unfulfilling relationships for years out of this single fear. And we end up missing out on all that solitude has to offer if we dared to explore it and its gifts.
At first, solitude feels uncomfortable but it’s not the loneliness that makes it so, but the fact that we have to face ourselves here. Ourselves as we are. This becomes especially apparent if we’ve been avoiding ourselves for a very long time — our feelings, fears, insecurities, and shadows.
Yet, when we allow ourselves to just sit down with it — with ourselves, as we are, precisely now, there’s a deep connection and healing we experience.
Silence is healing. It enables us to receive many answers. And those answers come because we get to hear our own thoughts without external intervention. We get to connect with our intuition and hear our inner voice. And that’s the one that gives us the ultimate peace over anything that we’re going through. Even the mourning over the breakup.
Ultimately, there’s nothing more important than learning how to be (at peace) with ourselves. And taking an opportunity to experience this rather than throwing it off the cliff, is the one thing that helps us to process the breakup properly. It helps us to acknowledge how we truly feel — as well as why we feel it. It was through solitude that I understood what I shared above.
Solitude is a space for our inner reflection. We get to know not only how we feel about something, but what makes us happy, what we want, whether we really want it and whether we’re moving in the direction we want in our lives.
The sudden empty space
The emptiness in our life equivalent to the amount of free space — to think, feel, do and create anything new to fill that space up — that opens up with a breakup is both fascinating and overwhelming.
It makes us think how could we have lived without this for so long? As well as how can we live like this now?
It’s as if we are given a beautiful, brand new, yet heavy book to write in. And we find the pages to be filled in too big, too bright and too broad.
You may find yourself asking — “What do I do with all this time and space now?” And that’s a good question. Just imagine that all this time is a gift for you now. A gift you’ve been asking for a very long time and now it’s all up to you what you do with the gift.
For the record, here are a few things that you may want to avoid doing with your time to start with;
a) thinking back about your dead relationship and everything that you’ve “lost” as you’ve actually given up on it,
b) looking for quick fixes for the rebound phase (sudden change of your circumstances) such as filling your space with mindless, uncommitted dating you’re not yet ready for, sleeping around, or drinking/smoking yourself to death.
Trust me, these won’t help you. Not in the long run.
And the reason why they won’t help is because you’re investing in them for the wrong kind of reasons such as to distract yourself from the painful breakup. Ask yourself this quickly as the answer is self-explanatory: “Am I just doing this to fill the void or because I truly want it with all my heart?”
See, you can’t give 1% of yourself out and expect 100% returns — that’s erupting joy, happiness, fulfilment. And this doesn’t only apply to investments.
Instead, of wasting your time doing that, you may want to look for proactive, healing, self-expanding ways to approach your new position and free time. Ask yourself:
What did I always want to do for myself when I was in the relationship and dreamt about my own time? What did I dream of doing? What do I dream of doing now?
Shifting our perspective to see this new space as a blessing rather than a course changes everything. Suddenly, you’d not want to kill this time off by empty-mindedly swiping over Tinder, waiting on your friends to respond to your nowadays long WhatsApp or Messenger texts. No.
You’d want to do something just for yourself. Something fresh that makes you feel alive, good, happy and proud. Such as what writing, reading, running, singing and crafts do for me.
You’d want to invest in rediscovering yourself, your interests and diving deep into them. Simply because you can and man, it’s so worth it.