Breakups suck, and that’s putting it lightly.
Learning to love another person means opening up our hearts; it means becoming susceptible and vulnerable.
When we do this — committing so much of our innermost desires, hopes and dreams to other people — it can make losing them particularly difficult and torturous.
All relationships fizzle out, I presume, except for the one that ends up being, well, the one.
But, losing someone to whom we have devoted ourselves for months or years can breed a myriad of undesirable, painful and even self-destructive emotions.
You don't have to feel this way, though. You can control the hurt.
My ex and I broke up about a year ago after a year-and-a-half together. When we did, I couldn’t dine in our university cafeteria without breaking down and imagining her sitting across from me.
I couldn’t sleep without sweating profusely, getting the shakes or having night panics for several weeks.
Full disclosure: I actually developed anxiety and panic attacks and I soon fell into a mild depression for a few months.
I’ve never cried more in my entire life combined than I did in the few weeks after the breakup.
In short, I was suffering withdrawal from the first big breakup of my life. I had seemingly lost the only girl I ever loved, without much of an understanding of what went awry.
She walked away, and I let her. I guess I realized we’d both been walking away for a while.
The whole experience was miserable.
It was hard to understand how love — this sweetly sought after emotion that took so long to unveil itself to me — could end so abruptly.
Almost immediately, my mind generated a flurry of questions.
How could she? How could she walk away? How could she leave without even talking about it? Why was it seemingly so easy for her to leave? What did I do wrong? Why am I unwanted? How can others expect me to “just move on”? How, with love still in my heart, can I let go?
The truth is that these questions, while valid and understandable for someone experiencing the newfound, unwelcomed shock of a breakup, are ultimately unhelpful.
They will cause even more angst, trouble and confusion.
You have nothing to gain by examining these angles of the relationship. It's done with, and there's a reason that it's done.
The right question to ask becomes: “Okay, this has happened to me. What can I do for myself — within my control — to keep going forward?”
If you ask 10 people, you’ll get 10 different answers.
Here are five things that can help to remedy the pain and withdrawal of a breakup:
1. Listen to music that captures how you feel.
I spent hours sitting in my car and apartment while I listened to my newly created "breakup playlist" over and over.
Once I got through Gary Allan’s "Every Storm," Fink’s "This Is The Thing," Jesse McCartney's "It's Over" and Brantley Gilbert’s "More Than Miles" and “You Don’t Know Her Like I Do” about a thousand times, I felt a lot better.
Sometimes, crying is what we need to make us feel better. Music makes that process not only possible, but oddly empowering.
Hearing words and feelings painted by others through song enables us to feel empathy in the face of terrible rejection and loss.
Simply hearing these kinds of familiar melodies and lyrics helps to remind us of the real, shared and universal human pain that follows the loss of someone we care about.
2. Accept that relationships are 50/50.
I learned this lesson early in college, as I interacted with all different kinds of people: guys, girls, professors and even family.
I maintain any personal relationship, romantic or not, requires equal parts effort from both parties.
In addition, it stands to reason that meshing two different personalities will inevitably result in two different approaches to any relationship.
You set yourself up for failure and disappointment — as I did — when you expect others to follow through, make decisions and act as you’d expect yourself to in any situation.
You control 50 percent of any relationship you're in. You control your own thoughts, emotions and actions. You cannot and will not control those of your partner.
Remember that anytime a relationship does not work out, you’re only 50 percent of that puzzle.
This way, if a potential flame burns out with a member of the opposite sex, you can rest easier knowing you will always be only 50 percent of a puzzle that takes two to assemble.
3. Blame love.
This is a very important point that will save you a lot of heartache. Don’t blame any person, including yourself, no matter how tempting it may be.
Instead, if it’s any consolation, blame it on love. Try to personify the love. You will find coping easier and more understandable, rather than trying to analyze the deep-seated complexities of the relationship.
Love did not choose to continue it’s path for you two. Love did not rest the same way in another’s heart as it did in yours. Love left, for whatever reason. But, love will return.
Rest assured, with time, love will return to you.
4. Focus on you.
As clichéd as it may be, the truth is developing a stern focus on bettering yourself in light of a hurtful breakup is a wonderful and positive way to channel terribly negative energy.
Learn to cook, fish or try a new hobby.
You can even do simple things: develop a schedule for cleaning your place, read a book or spend time learning about a new culture.
I’d always valued fitness, education and family. But after my breakup, I joined a new gym, played basketball more, helped a family member achieve her fitness goals, earned a full-time marketing position with a Fortune 1000 company and spent time enjoying my family.
Ultimately, bettering ourselves post-breakup in one way or another will eventually (we hope) help to spark and keep the interest of someone new.
Down the road, we will find someone who is attracted to our new tastes, the new body we’ve sculpted, our commitment to our work or our passions.
5. Allow time to help you meet others.
I quickly learned wanting and expecting to meet a new girlfriend the same week I lost my old one was not a realistic or helpful expectation to have.
For some of us, perhaps finding a single-night rebound temporarily helps heal the open wound.
But for others who long for the spectacle of light falling in love creates, that is not so.
The only option, which is the hardest of my five points for truly moving on, is to allow for the quick passage of time to do its work and bring someone new into our lives.
Never lose hope and never let your faith waver: You will love again.
It’s simply a matter of where, when and how that next love will choose to come into your life, sweep you off your feet and show you what it means to say those three words once again.