Everyone has a friend who is always in crisis, or who is always sad, or who is always just generally suffering. Having a friend with these particular qualities often inspires in one a repulsion for this kind of self-indulgent wallowing and a strict personal policy that “I will never be like her/him.”
In our world, there are many ways to suffer. There is the betrayal of a friend, the loss of someone close to you, a perceived professional or personal failure. The most common form of suffering, one that wraps all of those in the list into one, is the end of a relationship.
Whatever the circumstances, the end of an important relationship almost always involves a feeling of betrayal. It can be spawned by cheating or dishonesty, or even just a sense of injustice. During a break-up, you often feel that someone you once trusted has wronged you in some way. Wrapped up in the betrayal is a keen sense of loss. This is a person into whom you made an emotional investment. They were a part of your everyday life for a significant period of time, and you expected them to be around for a while. With a break-up emerges a void in your life that that person once filled. This was the person to whom you told your dreams and your dirty little secrets. They shared disappointments and successes, and now that they’re gone, who is going to care?
When you are suffering a loss, you have to give yourself a break and take time to go through the various stages of suffering without being too hard on yourself. When you are in the thick of the hurt, there will be no end of people giving you pat equations for how long you are going to hurt (“It takes one week for every month you were with someone to get over them,” etc.). In the end, however, what it comes down to is that every break-up is as unique as the relationship. Issues such how much you loved them, the details of and reasons for the break-up, the length of the relationship, and how both of you deal with the post break-up period, all influence your healing time.
One thing that can prolong the agony of a break-up is the pseudo-break-up. While you are not officially dating, you may still talk to each other 3 or 4 times a week, maybe go out for the occasional drink, just to “catch up.” And maybe once a month, or even every couple of months, you find yourselves warming the sheets, just because it’s “familiar” and “safe.” You will go through periods where you feel as if you are healing, but all you are really doing is kicking a dead horse of a relationship because you don’t want to be alone or give up the relationship.
A true break-up has the following qualities: the pain of loss, you don’t talk to your ex, and you go through the stages of grieving (denial, anger, sadness, and acceptance). Things that can interrupt this natural progression and prolong the suffering include withdrawing from your social circle for longer than a month (you have to force yourself to get out there), excessive and prolonged use of drugs and booze to numb the pain (you have to go through it, not around it), and not allowing yourself to grieve.
You are going to suffer, and it’s going to hurt. You need to have at least one good friend with whom you can be honest about the pain. Even better is having a couple of friends, so that you are not constantly burdening one person with the weight of your suffering. A good friend will allow you to grieve and will not judge you based on things you claim about yourself or the other person, but will be honest with you about your behaviour and rationalizations.
You also need at least one or two good friends that will hate them more than you do so that eventually you can forgive your ex. By forgiving them, you are not exonerating wrongs they have committed against you, but you are admitting to yourself that they did the best they could with what they had. Anger and hatred are useful for the initial stages of letting them go, but if you cling to them, you are going to end up exhausted and bitter, and it will affect future relationships. You have to eventually accept your part in the relationship, as easy as it is to blame the other person, because if you simply vilify the ex, you won’t learn anything about yourself to carry into the next relationship.
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