“Another one bites the dust!” a friend commented after her daughter’s romance broke up. She wasn’t being unsympathetic, it was just that with her mature wisdom she was confident that ‘another one’, a more permanent one, would come along in due course. Her daughter could have been experiencing it very differently. Not interested in ‘another one’ when she felt as though she had just lost ‘The One’. Grief at the end of a promising relationship. Lost expectations. Hurt self-esteem. It can feel almost as though our personal relationship with ourselves has been affected.
In the adventure of starting and developing relationships hurts happen as an unavoidable part of getting close to people and letting them get close to us. So how can we heal afterwards and see our confidence begin to grow again?
The good news is that time is already on our side. Emotions heal in the same way our physical bodies do, especially if we cooperate with the process. There are active steps we can take ourselves to foster this quietly resolute recovery.
Express the pain
As a woman who had been ditched by her husband, I once came home from an evening out and somehow found myself standing in front of the bathroom mirror crying and shouting all my pent-up fury at the way I thought my ex-husband had trashed our marriage. I finally collapsed into bed utterly drained, slept soundly the rest of the night, and got up and went to work the next day as usual. That action must have been truly cathartic because it was a one-off, but I clearly needed it.
Make a decision to let the relationship go
‘Forgetting what lies behind’, leaning in to ‘what lies ahead’ (Philippians 3:13). In an age of personal mantras I was helped by reminding myself every day at some point the phrase from Lamentations, ‘New. Every morning,’ — punctuation my own! There is such potential encapsulated in these words, a potential echoed throughout scripture, a potential we can grasp.
Don’t beat yourself up
I remember thinking: if only I were better-looking/a better cook/funnier/earned more/blah blah blah, he wouldn’t have left me. Then I realised this is actually irrelevant. There are millions of people who fulfil all these apparently desirable criteria whose relationships ended not by their own choice. Never see yourself as a victim. Remember you are a man or woman with relationship experience, so of course you will have a few knocks to prove it.
Venture out socially before you venture out romantically
After my own breakup I took up non-dating social activities (ceroc class, book club, hiking group) that enabled me to chat to people in a neutral environment, reminding my damaged self-esteem that I was a likeable person who could relate to others.
Practise enjoying your own company
In doing so you help nurture that relationship with yourself that possibly took a battering through relationships with others. For me this meant having a rough plan for spending my evenings, so the time felt well-used, sending myself a subliminal message that my time was valuable and so was I.
There were often longish gaps between relationships which at the time I found dispiriting (would I ever meet anyone again?) but now I realise they were healthy breathing spaces allowing me to heal, grow up a bit more, develop, so when another relationship came along I was that bit more of an independent person ready to relate equally to another.
So, if and when you are mourning the loss of a relationship, behind it all God may be gently hinting, ‘Actually, I’ve got someone else in mind for you. Just you wait.’