There’s nothing I find stranger than how quickly people that were once a couple go from being lovers to being strangers. It is the strangest thing to go from sharing knowing everything that happens in each others lives, to simply unknowing each other. But that is what it is, sometimes it can’t be helped due to the terms on which the relationship ended.
Today, I went to grab lunch with a friend of mine. We had opted for a quiet place where we could both eat and work afterwards or simultaneously. We had barely made it into the parking lot before she recognized his car right next to the empty spot she was aiming at. She sighed heavily and informed me that he was probably in the tiny restaurant/cafe we had wanted to have lunch at. I half expected her to spin the car around and drive us to somewhere else (I would have probably done the same), but she didn’t. She wasn’t going to put her life on hold for him by avoiding him everywhere. He wasn’t that important. She was ready to brave it.
We walked in and he was seated right across the entrance. We chose a table and while I was settling into the cozy spot, she made her way over to him to say hello. From where I sat, I observed how formal and cool their exchange was. It was so brief and devoid of any warmth whatsoever. I tried picturing them together as a couple and being warm with each other, but I couldn’t. It seemed like whatever flames may have existed in past have long been quenched by the cold cold waters of hurt, and could never be revived again. In fact, I suspected that if she had not been the bigger person and gone over to say hi he would not have acknowledged her presence.
This incident got my wheels rolling through out our lunch. I wondered at the stages they must have gone through since the break up before getting to this stage of cold mere acknowledgment of each others existence. I wondered if there were other stages after this one. I thought about my own past experiences and wondered if I had ever been at this place with anyone. My wondering led to a brief research, and some enlightenment which I shall now share.
I came to know that there are indeed stages of getting through a break up. Seven of them to be exact. According to clinical psychologists like Suzanne Lachmann Psy.D., these stages can either all be experienced at once, or spread out over a long period. They could also either occur in this particular order, or in varying orders.
1. Desperation for Answers
You feel the compelling need to understand why this happened. You hinge unto things your ex said at various times that seem to very contrary to the breakup itself, and you hold onto them now as if they were some sort of life line. Yet somewhere within, you have moments of clarity, too. You go back and forth between painful disbelief and shock to painful clarity and realization of reality. But, somehow, you still desperately seek to understand what happened.This could lead you to go over why the relationship ended with family and friends, al the while trying to give them and yourself reasons why it shouldn’t have ended.
You cannot just bring yourself to accept that it’s over.It feels like you’ve put everything you are into this relationship. You hold unto every last hope of reviving it, even at the expense of your well-being. You distract yourself from any forms of grieving its end, because that means accepting it is really over. Not knowing that in so doing, you’re only postponing the grieving process by entertaining the unlikely unrealistic hope that the relationship can still be revived.
You’re willing to do everything to get your ex back. You convince yourself that you can make right everything that’s been wrong. At this point, you’re made slightly irrational by the pain Imagining life without them is so intolerable that you’re willing to extinguish your own pain by winning him or her back, at any cost. However, during this phase, by promising to fix all the problems between you, you are placing the entire burden of repairing, maintaining, and sustaining a relationship on just yourself. It’s as if the responsibility is yours and yours alone to make it work. And that by performing some superhuman acts, you actually can. This is both false and unhealthy for you. Try your hardest during this phase not to lose sight of the fact that bothparticipants in the relationship contributed to its end. You can’t possibly take responsibility for everything.
With persistence and due to the number above, you may actually succeed in convincing your ex to give the relationship another try. And if there was a good reason for the break up initially, you’d discover that despite your best efforts, you can not carry the relationship by yourself. And you’d find yourself starting this process afresh. This could happen over and over if one is not careful and emotionally disciplined to let go after the first time (or first few times).
This is the stage that I have identified my friend to be in. One probably may not feel this after the break up, at first. This is usually because of the fear of the unknown which a breakup brings with it. Fear, at that point, trumps anger. Therefore, when anger sets in, it’s because you have let go of some of your fear, at least temporarily. Depending on your temperament and your unique breakup, your anger may be directed at your partner, the situation, or yourself. The good news is that your when you’re able to access your anger, the experience can actually be empowering. You begin to realize you matter as well. You begin to see the parts your ex played in the break up and you begin to justify the parts you played as well. You also begin to realize that you deserve more from a relationship. Even anger at yourself is still part of the grieving process and equally empowering. It can provide direction and make you feel alive again when all seem to have been killed by the loss of your relationship. The experience of anger helps you create enough internal discomfort to help shift your perspective about how the relationship has actually been, and it can compel you to make proactive changes, if you push yourself to.
If this stage happens early in the process, it can feel more like surrender. It can feel like a forced obligation to hold up your end of the breakup because you haveto, not because you wantto. Over time though, this acceptance becomes more substantive, as you both independently begin to recognize and grasp that’s it’s just not good for you to keep trying anymore. You accept that it is over for good.
7. Redirected Hope
Moving forward requires redirecting your feelings of hope from the belief that you can singlehandedly save a failing relationship to the possibility that you will be okay without your ex. It’s quite scary when forced to redirect your hope from the known entity of the relationship to the unknown. This hope is somewhere in you and becomes more accessible as you begin and continue to put some physical, mental and emotional distance between you and your ex.
I do hope you found this post educative and helpful. You can share it with anyone who you think may need help in their process of getting over a break up.