A breakup is painful, lonely, and hard to navigate. How much time do you need to mourn the end of a romantic relationship before you can move on to the next chapter? How do you know if you’re ready to start dating again, or if you should hold off on creating some dating profiles on some Catholic dating apps? What if you thought that they were really the one?
If you’re processing through feelings of sadness, loss, or even anger, that’s natural. You may wonder if you’ll ever reach a point where you don’t miss your ex.
There’s no denying that breakups hurt.
Here are some of the major obstacles that could be keeping your heart from healing after a breakup. Despite the emotional pain and grieving process, it’s a good idea to sort through these feelings and take the time to heal. If not, these obstacles could end up affecting your successes in a future relationship.
You’re not taking time to heal from a relationship breakup
There are lots of theories about how long it takes to get over a relationship. A good rule of thumb is one month of healing for every year you were together. But every relationship is entirely different. Regardless of how much time you take, make sure you’re allowing yourself time to process your feelings.
Avoiding the situation, ignoring the negative emotions associated with the breakup, or dwelling too heavily in it are all things that can delay the healing process.
One of the biggest culprits when it comes to not taking time to heal and sort through emotions is keeping lines of communication open.
If you’ve ever had a blister on your foot from a pair of shoes, the best way to let your foot heal isn’t to continue to wear the shoes. You must wait until the wound heals and you find a solution to the shoe rubbing before you can put the shoes back on.
Talking to your ex is a lot like that. How can your wound heal if you don’t remove the source of the pain?
You’re not being friends the right way
I’m avidly against being friends with your ex. But for all rules there is an exception.
Sometimes a relationship ends on mutually understood terms. Maybe you have long-term ties like friends or a shared space that make it impossible to entirely omit that person from your life.
If that’s the case, make sure you’re approaching friendship after a breakup in the right way. Keep it in group settings.
Don’t have long, deep conversations about your past relationship. Beware of continuing to hash out past feelings and details of the breakup together.
My personal favorite rule for both exes and new relationships is no contact after 9:00 pm. I can’t explain my reasoning here, except to say I’ve read it in self-help books and it is in the top ten most effective pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten.
You’re wearing rose-colored glasses
Memory is a tricky thing. At its best, our memory can help us take moments and expand them for lifetimes. But at its worst, it’s an unreliable narrator of our past that can lead us to an unnecessarily rocky future if left unchecked and blindly trusted.
There are some studies that suggest the human memory is such an imperfect piece of the mind. No single memory is ever entirely accurate. If you don’t believe that, you don’t need to look much further than the pain of a breakup to start thinking maybe there’s some merit to that claim.
No one becomes the hero of the story faster that the person you didn’t want to let go. Even if at the end of the relationship, there was no more communication, romance, or affection, as soon as the final goodbye is issued, it’s pretty common that your mind will be flooded with memories of exclusively those things.
As a people, we’re resistant to change. It’s why we’re not nomadic, and why we thrive in routine. When we breakup and our entire situation changes, our minds try to solve the problem. It says to us, “What changed? And how can we get it back?”
Instead of moving backwards to the place where you were most recently comfortable and happy, imagine what is up next and move forward.
My practical advice is to write yourself a letter, as close as possible to your breakup, listing all of the reasons it didn’t work out. Start with the big, fundamental differences. But don’t forget the little things, like the fact that your favorite breakfast cereal made them sick. Let your mind wander and be vulnerable to the paper. No one will ever read it but you.
Return to it when the rose-colored glasses say, “But she/he did do that incredibly sweet thing that one time!”
Your ex isn’t the villain (I hope), but they’re simply not a character in your story at all anymore.
You’re convinced you were the problem
If you think that you were the only reason behind your painful breakup, you have forgotten how awesome you are! Don’t worry. It happens. But let me reassure you, in case you need to hear it: you are awesome and worthy of love.
I don’t need to know you personally to know that. You were designed by a creator to be exactly who you are and where you are in this life. Now is the time to embrace that fact and get to know yourself as a part of God’s creation. Period, the end.
Your worthiness isn’t in your job, your vocation, or your relationships. You are worthy of love because God breathed his spirit into you long ago.
Having a hard time believing this in the midst of the memories of your breakup? Begin with a practical way to start owning this fact. Use a dry erase marker and make a large dot on your bathroom mirror.
Every time you see the dot, look into the mirror and say, “I was made on purpose, for a purpose.”
That’s it. Once you do it again and again, this habit will form a belief and it will root into the truth God has written on your heart.
You’re stuck in your pity party
Pity, party of one.
This is such a slippery slope! Sure, allow yourself some wallow time to mourn the loss of a relationship. Heal from the past of a toxic relationship, if that’s the case in your breakup. You get some awkward time to adjust to a new normal without a person who had become a fixture.
But don’t let the grief about your past relationship consume you and lead you to a dangerous place.
Pity parties are progressive parties. At first, you’re sad about the end of your relationship. That may lead you to wonder about the reasons behind the failed relationship, and question everything about it. Before you know it, you’re nitpicking your personality apart. You could even start to convince yourself that you’re not worthy of love.
See what I mean? Slippery. Slope.
If you’re having trouble RSVPing “no” to that pity party invite, instead bring friends and family.
Talk to people about your emotions and listen to them as they offer advice, condolences, and in some cases, a change of subject.
There’s no sugarcoating it, a breakup sucks
A breakup is a chance to do some really great soul searching. You should take time to grieve, but remember that you have a fresh start.
Breakups are challenging, and I’m not negating whatever you’re feeling. As always, know that I’m praying for you.
Remind yourself that endings are always followed immediately by beginnings.
Let God lead you to that beginning with joy and compassion.