It happens to the best of us. Things were going so well. Or maybe they had been heading south for a long, long time. Then surprisingly – or inevitably – they blew up in your face.
Regardless of which side of the break-up you find yourself on, the experience can be terribly stressful. If you are the one doing the breaking up, you bear the burden of knowing in advance when the ax will fall, as well as anticipating and possibly preparing for the fallout – which can include anything from confusion and promises to change to dignified begging to abusive threats, or the worst – a refusal to accept that there is no more “we.”
If you are the “dumped”, you can be left hurt and/or angry – either of which if improperly dealt with can easily lead to bitterness and cynicism. If you find yourself doing the “dumping,” you may have to contend with feelings of regret, guilt, and the judgment of family and friends. Having survived many break-ups during my single life, both my own and those of close friends, and having hand-held (sometimes literally) with the broken-hearted (both men and women) during my married life, I have observed that some strategies work better than others for surviving a break-up.
Whether you are on the “giving” or the “receiving” end of a break-up, there are a few things you can do to (not just) survive it, but to thrive past it.
Grieve the Loss
I know. I know. You’re independent. You don’t need him anyway. Blah. Blah. Blah. She was drain on your finances. You’re better off without her. “Bro’s before ho’s,” and all that. Yeah. Okay. Whatever.
You know what? Getting rejected cuts deeply! Failing at a relationship hurts. And unless you are a case study in emotional detachment, you probably date people that you actually like. Developing an emotional bond with your significant other is what makes him/her significant! So stop frontin.’ Stop lyin’ – at least to yourself and to God. You may not have been heading for the altar. But you probably had plans – a vacation to visit friends or family – a formal event next month – the office Christmas party – Valentine’s day – dinner and a movie on Friday. The point is, you were looking forward to something. You had hopes. Now, they will go unfulfilled – at least as far as your “ex” is concerned. So you know what? Cry – if you feel like it. Mope around some. A relationship you valued has ended. Someone you cared about is gone. It is right and healthy to be sad – for a while.
Reach Out To Someone You Can Trust
It’s good if you have a physical shoulder to cry on, someone wise that you can talk to about your experience. But this being a Christian website and all – you what I’m going to say next, right? Let me tell you, nobody beats God. I know there is a prevalent sentiment out there that says that God doesn’t care about the little things, like touchdowns in football, whether or not you find a parking spot at a crowded concert, or if you find that missing earring or cuff link. This sentiment is founded on the lie that God is too busy with people who have real problems, like the orphan victims of the AIDS pandemic in Africa, the homeless people sleeping on the streets of the city, or the woman suffering physical abuse at the hands of a batterer, to be concerned with a single broken heart. But that is a lie – right out of the pit of Hell. God has no limits. He can and does love all of us at the same time everywhere. And is capable of doing anything, anytime he wishes. If something is important to you, it is important to God, because he loves you. The One who loves you cares deeply about what matters to you.
Furthermore, Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted. He does not qualify which broken hearts he came to heal. If you hurt, God cares. And he wants to comfort you. True, those other scenarios may give you a bit of perspective on your pain and suffering – but they do not diminish the legitimacy of your feelings. If you’re like me, you may not have much practice running into the arms of your earthly father, so turning to God may feel strange to you. But I promise you – he hears your heart’s cry and he never turns his back on those in need. It can just be difficult to discern that he’s listening – what with him being invisible and all. Seriously though, the connection factor can be the hardest part. But if you can get past the feeling that you’re talking to the air, and that your words aren’t going any higher than the ceiling, you can find comfort in talking to God about your pain. Even if you aren’t sure he is listening, speak or write out your feelings. The unburdening alone will do you good.
Learn From The Experience
This step is tricky because learning requires perspective, which can be difficult to gain when you are too close to a painful experience. Stay away from gross generalizations like, “All men are pigs,” or two popular but sad adages in our community: “Men ain’t (insert explictive here)!” and “Women ain’t nothin’ but gold diggers.” Don’t play dumb…you know you’ve heard one or all said – perhaps from your own lips. Again – more lies perpetuated by the enemy to keep us separated and at war. It’s a pretty effective strategy if you think about it. If I’m so focused on your flaws, I’ll never have to consider my own. And we can never effectively unite against our common enemy (and we do have one) if we’re continuously fighting amongst ourselves.
Seek out the hard truth about yourself and your defunct relationship. This is were those trusted, wise people come in. After one break up in college, I learned from someone who had seen the relationship develop, flourish, and flop, that while in it, I had become very needy, seeking from my boyfriend a type of validation that only God alone could give me. I have a friend who idolized his girlfriend, giving her and their relationship more attention than he ever gave to God – dumping all his buddies for the duration of the affair, only to remake our acquaintance when she moved on. Ask a trusted source for constructive feedback on your behavior. Again – nobody beats the Lord. If you have a relationship with God, don’t forget to ask the Holy Spirit to show you yourself. I can personally attest that asking God to reveal personal flaws is a prayer that always gets answered quickly in my life. So get ready to grow.
Don’t forget one of the biggest benefits of dating. Pastor Donald Bell of Covenant Blessing in southern California declares that the purpose of dating is to “collect data.” Dating is a really practical means of discovering many of the things you want or don’t want in a relationship or in a potential mate without having to commit for life. Done properly, dating can prepare you well for marriage - instead of destroying your faith in humanity (a major reason we are not to engage in unmarried sex). Dating allows you to discover your own likes and dislikes, the qualities you value in a mate, and the pet-peeves that grind your nerves. In short – it helps you to hone your desires.
Determine To Forgive
Truthfully, this step could fall anywhere on this list. Forgiveness is just one of those things you have to do before you can move on. I can’t think of one step on this list that wouldn’t improve or be made easier if it were preceded by forgiveness. This is my favorite topic – ever! I’m in a season where I am really wrestling with it, so I write about it – a lot. I have a few blogs about it. Feel free to check them out.
Commit To Change But Be Patient
You will not likely improve instantly. But a willing, humble heart goes a long way.
God can do anything. Enough said.
Just a word of encouragement. God is not a sadist. He creates no desire in us that he determines to leave unfulfilled. I’ve quoted C.S. Lewis before, I’ll paraphrase here. There is hunger – so food exists. There is thirst – so water has been created. There is loneliness – so God created companionship. He gives us all good things that he means for us to have in his time – but here’s the catch – we must pursue them in his way and in his time. He won’t hold any good thing back from you. If you are consistently failing in the area of relationships, then maybe it is time you try doing it his way. It might be worth it to consider how God wants you to date. His way is always life-giving and soul-edifying. Perhaps you should investigate it? Just a thought.
Be blessed Family!
And Happy Dating!
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