by guest blogger Pam Fullerton, psychotherapist and writer
I will preface this post by saying you’ll want to read this even if you are currently in a loving relationship, you’re entering a new relationship, or you’re healing from a breakup—you’ll see why!
Breakups are painful, period. A relationship is an investment of our heart, time, love, and so much more. Even if it’s you who ends the relationship, it can still be challenging to move forward. Where do we even begin the healing process? Here are some of my thoughts about how to heal after a painful breakup.
Be kind to yourself
One of the most important aspects of healing is self-care. How do you nurture yourself? (Yes, this applies to men, as well.) Self-care appears to be a challenge for so many of us, even if we aren’t healing from a breakup. When I ask people, “How do you nurture yourself?” many look at me as if I’m speaking a different language that they don’t understand! Life is hard, and we get worn down. Self-care is necessary to build ourselves up again. And if you’re trying to heal from a breakup, self-care is crucial.
In addition, one of the most important things that you can do after a breakup is to ask yourself, What did I learn about myself?
Don’t lose sight of what you’ve gained
If you don’t learn from your relationship, well then, what was the point? I hear people say when a relationship ends, “Years of my life wasted!” Well, it doesn’t have to be that way if you can learn something from it.
And the reason I suggest that everyone reads this blog is because it’s always important to always to gain self-awareness from your relationship.
Let me explain! When I’m working with someone who’s beginning to date again after experiencing a bad breakup, I always encourage the person to ask dates what he or she has learned from the previous relationship. If the answer only focuses on blaming the previous partner, it’s a real concern. Here is why…
It’s easy and understandable to get caught up in how we’ve been hurt. And it’s easy and understandable to focus on all the pain, challenges, and heartache that the other person brought to you and the relationship. However, you also need to be aware of the challenges you brought to the relationship so that you don’t repeat them or you can at least be mindful of them in a new relationship.
Even if the person was awful to you and the best thing was for that relationship to end, you can still learn something about yourself.
For example, if someone was consistently mean to you, the focus should be not on what a horrible person he or she was, but rather, on questions like, “What do I need to understand about myself as to why I endured such meanness? And, “Was it because of low self-esteem or self-worth?” Or “Was it because I struggled to set boundaries within our relationship?”
There is so much to learn about ourselves from relationships that I could never address it all in one blog post! We are each unique individuals with different lessons to be learned and different levels of self-awareness to be gained. Two separate people might each endure meanness in their relationships, but it could be for completely different reasons.
Another good question: Do you see yourself as “unlovable” because your partner was not able to show you love? It’s simply not true that you are unlovable because of another person’s challenges. Those are his or her challenges, not yours. But why do you see yourself as unlovable? That is the question to focus on, not why didn’t he/she love you.
Did your former partner blame you for many of the challenges in the relationship? The focus after a breakup is not how horrible that person was because they were blaming; the question is why did you accept blame that you didn’t deserve?
Among the many opportunities that I appreciate in a relationship is the chance to gain self-awareness. Again, that’s why I suggested that you keep reading even if you’re in a loving relationship. Nothing feels better in life than personal growth and the gaining of self-awareness.
Now, let me say this: The things that I learn about myself are not always positive, and sometimes it’s hard to accept hard truths about myself! But that’s OK; it’s the best way to gain self-awareness, insight, and personal growth—all empowering aspects for any relationship, but perhaps especially so in a new relationship.
Please remember, what I’m suggesting is not easy work, and this kind of self-reflection needs to be done with self-compassion. Be kind to yourself and you can experience personal growth at the same time.
Pam Fullerton has been in private practice as a psychotherapist for the past 19 years. Although she works with a variety of life issues that are presented to her in therapy, her passion is to understand the vast complexities of all relationships. She believes that healthy connections with others are what promote personal growth. Keep up with her writings on relationships, mindfulness, and more by subscribing here.