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Why Break-Ups Are Painful (And What You Can Do About It)

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

A strange thing happens when we break up with someone: we lose all sense and, especially if we are the one being broken up with, objectivity. Yep, sense and objectivity go out the window and we suddenly become conscious of only the good things about the person. We see only our skewed, idealised version of them. We lose the ability to see them for who they really are; their flaws evaporate into the ether, and we often start believing that we can't cope without them.

A similar thing happens when someone dies - people insist on talking about how amazing the person was, all the wonderful things they did, how they're irreplaceable. People talk only about the positive aspects of the person as if they were immaculate, perfect beings. Yet deep down we all know this is nonsense.

This is delusional. (Incidentally, this is the same delusion as at the start of a relationship when we experience intense infatuation and are temporarily blind to the person's downsides). Not only is it delusional, but it's incredibly unhelpful. It keeps us in a place of unnecessary suffering as we lament their absence from our lives.

It's this delusion that renders us so bereft.

Our desire to believe that they are so unique and special (which they are, of course, but no more than anyone else) fools us into believing that we can't cope without them, that we'll never find someone to fill the hole in our heart... (until we do), or we end up comparing everyone else to this angel and spawn our own disappointment when no one can live up to them.

This can happen even if we are the one doing the breaking up - unless we have built up so much resentment to be gratifyingly rid of them, in which case the break up process is obsolete so why are you even reading this?

Another reason why breaking up is painful is that we might feel lonely without them. As irritating as the person may have been, at least their dastardly presence kept us from being alone with our scary thoughts.

The truth is, as much as the person brought wonderful things to our life, they brought equal measure of bad things, and took away equal measure of good things. For example,

one breakup I had was painful because he had been so supportive of me during an emotionally fragile time. I relished the support. It was so warm, reassuring and comforting. Hence, upon breaking up, the sudden lack of support left me reeling. How ever was I to cope without him?

Only on doing the process to balance my perceptions of the relationship did I realise that, for all the emotional support I gained, I lost self-reliance, self-soothing and my own sense of strength because I'd allowed myself to rely on him so much. The breakup then pushed me to reconnect with myself and my strength and realise that I was able to help myself better than he ever could - his support was ironically keeping me in a worse emotional state.

And if you must know, the bad things I gained from being with him were rubbish sex (that's a whole other story). a lot of stress when he'd have a temper tantrum, compromising myself to keep him happy, and an STI.

So if you're struggling with a break up, try these 2 initial steps to get you started on your road to recovery:

  1. Make a list of all the things you didn't like about the person. Things you're relieved you won't have to deal with anymore. What conscious or unconscious resentments have you been harbouring? They can be big, small, seemingly insignificant and major. Give yourself permission to dig deep and be honest with yourself. It can take courage. Keep going until you can see that they were as equally awful as they were amazing. You might need a couple of sides of A4.

2. List 3-5 behaviours or personality traits you most admire or like about them. For each one, think of the people in your life who have demonstrated this behaviour or trait since the breakup. It could be an old friend, a new friend (or lover - well played), a colleague, even a parent or sibling (not in a weird way of course), even yourself. The universe doesn't like a vacuum, so whenever something leaves, something else comes along to take its place. It's simple physics. We just need to make ourselves conscious of it. The traits you admire in them just take on a new form. So who in your life has filled that void? It could even be yourself.

When you really look, and keep looking until you see that nothing is missing, you will no longer yearn for the person (and humiliate yourself begging them to take you back).

Doing just these two steps can reduce your suffering. There are another two steps to this process which are too nuanced to describe here, but this is a solid start. To do the others, book in for a session to help reduce the sting of your loss.

Was this article helpful? Drop a comment and let me know. And also let me know what other topics you'd like to read about.

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