Breakups are never easy. Maybe you’ve been on the receiving end of one, or perhaps you were the one who made the difficult decision to end a relationship.
Several years ago, I had to end a relationship after I lost peace about moving forward with a future together. We initially met like many couples these days through online dating. At the time, our break up felt abrupt. It didn’t all make sense to me.
In time, as I prayed through and processed the breakup with my counselor, I knew I made the right decision.
Sometimes the right decision is still a hard and painful decision to make.
I learned a lot from that breakup. For each of us, there are still important lessons to learn from the pain of a difficult breakup.
Here are five lessons I have seen play out in my own life.
1. Reflect on the gifts of the relationship and what you learned
I have a great therapist. When I’m processing something heavy in my life, she always reminds me to get my journal out to process my feelings and emotions.
One of the first things I did after the break up was get a new notebook and on four separate pages wrote four different questions:
- What were the gifts of this relationship?
- What were the lessons I learned about myself?
- What did I like (and not like) about this relationship?
- What would I do differently in a different relationship?
Then, I took the time to reflect and write down various responses to each of the four questions. Taking the time to reflect on a past relationship is a healthy thing to do. But you need to feel your feelings and grieve the losses.
No, it won’t always be this way. But it is how you feel right now. So take the time right now to reflect on what this relationship taught you. This lesson will be helpful when you are ready to jump back into online dating again.
2. Remember that each relationship has something to teach you
As I navigate online dating in my mid thirties, my counselor reminds me that every relationship has something to teach me. People are in your life for a reason or season.
Whether a relationship is short lived or you find the person you will spend the rest of your life with, each relationship has something to teach you about yourself and what your needs/expectations are in dating.
Consider asking yourself:
- What has this other person taught me about myself?
- What are new things I have learned about myself as a result from this other person?
- What have I learned about dating and relationships from dating this person?
Be open to what you have learned and how you’ve grown from being with this other person, even if for some reason it did not last.
3. Follow the peace
Can I share with you a secret on knowing God’s will? Follow the peace. Sometimes in Catholic circles we talk about discernment and knowing the will of God like it’s a jigsaw puzzle to be figured out rather than a natural unfolding over time.
Knowing God’s will for dating and relationships is all about following the peace. We know that peace is one of the fruits of the Spirit. If those fruits are active and present in our lives, that can be a good indication we are doing the will of God.
One of the reasons I ended that relationship was because I no longer felt peace about moving forward. It was hard to explain and understand for myself. But in time, I saw I was paying attention to where the peace was (or was not).
In God’s will, there is great peace. No matter what online dating brings for you, this is such a good reminder to have in your spiritual toolbox.
4. Give yourself time to grieve (especially before dating again!)
No one likes to work through messy, difficult feelings. It is hard work. But the work of grief after a breakup is an important part of your personal journey in moving on.
The solution to a recent breakup is NEVER a new relationship. Give your heart and mind time to process and work through the sadness and grief. It is one of the healthiest things we can do. That was critical for me before I felt open and comfortable to dip my toes back into online dating.
If you are not emotionally or spiritually ready to begin dating again, you could either attract the wrong kind of person or just further confuse your heart. Take the time to do your healing work in grief.
5. Ask Jesus what he thinks
You may be rolling your eyes at me thinking, Okay Patty, that’s cute and all, but how can that be a lesson about a difficult breakup?
After a breakup, maybe you do what I have done. I call all my closest friends and family members to talk through my feelings, cry, and process what I am going through. That is all good and fine.
However, too often, I forget to start by processing it all with Jesus. Taking time to bring all my real feelings and emotions before Jesus.
- What do you have to say about this?
- What do you have to teach me?
Yes we want sound advice and support from family and friends, but we also need the voice and perspective from Jesus to help us deal with a breakup.
Don’t leave God out of the equation, invite him in to be a part of it with you.
What are important lessons you have learned through the heartbreak of a breakup?
What helped you heal, grow, and find your bearings in new ways?