But you told me that you loved me…
Have you ever said that to someone? A husband, a wife, a partner, a boyfriend, a girlfriend? Maybe this person did something that disappointed you, or hurt you in some way, or they betrayed you. Or they somehow fell out of love, or at least seemed to, and gradually or not so gradually pulled away.
It’s one of the hardest things in life to love someone who no longer loves us back. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had this experience at some time in their life. In fact, most of us have been on both sides. It’s just part of being human.
You fall in love, you fall out of love, it hurts a lot, you move on.
Or you don’t.
Like any loss, losing a romantic relationship can be devastating. It can leave you wondering how you can move forward, how you can live without that person in your life and why they would chose to live without you. It can leave you feeling directionless, take a big hit on your self-esteem, leaving you wondering if you will ever find someone who can love you in the same way again.
Losing love has a way of making you lose your perspective, throwing you off center. Over time, a loss of love can leave you vulnerable to feelings of anxiety and depression – and hopelessness. This can lead to a downward spiral that can affect other areas of your life.
If you have lost a romantic relationship, and having trouble coping with this loss, here are some ideas to consider.
It’s personal and it’s not. Sure, the other person broke up with you, and not someone else. At it hurts. However, keep in mind that there are a lot of reasons why someone may decide they can no longer be in a relationship. One reason may be that they don’t maintain relationships well with anyone. In other words, don’t make this all about you and what you did or didn’t do.
People change. We can’t control that. Relationships start one way and end up another way because individuals are always in the process of changing. A couple may change in ways that complement each other, and promote each other’s growth. But they may not. As unfair as it seems, sometimes one partner changes in terms of how they feel or what they want or what they can give. As much as you might like to, you can’t control how your partner changes. Don’t make yourself wrong, or otherwise criticize yourself for being at fault.
How am I looking to complete myself through someone else? Ask yourself what you feel you have lost. Sure, you miss having that person in your life. But is there something else? Sometimes, relationships are about more than being in love, they are about completing ourselves in some way. Gaining our sense of worth, for example, by being validated by someone else. Or getting a sense of security or safety from someone else and feeling like we can’t get it otherwise. Ask yourself if what your partner was giving you might be things that you can learn to give yourself, or that other people in your life, including your friends and family, can also give you.
Get out of the story. Do you see a pattern here? Have you had other relationships in the past, maybe with people who were similar to the person you just broke up with, in a relationship, that developed and ended in the same way? You may be caught up in a cycle of rejection, for example, in which you become attracted to people who aren’t right for you, or who are abusive, or can’t make commitments, only to have those relationships end badly, and leave you feeling devastated. You can break this pattern. The first step is to recognize it.
Let yourself grieve. Losing a romantic relationship is a loss. Give yourself time to get over it. Grief is a unique process for every individual, it takes whatever time it takes. Let yourself cry when you need to, to feel angry, to feel whatever feelings come up. Don’t let anyone else tell you how you should or shouldn’t feel. At the same time, you may not want to push yourself to get into another relationship right away. Take your time.
Avoid either-or thinking. He/she was not the last person in the world and this was not your last chance at love. There was a you before you met this person. And there is a you now. In fact, you are now that much more experienced, you know more about yourself, what you are looking for, what you need. Leave the either-or thinking behind and open yourself up to new possibilities.
Fill your time. Make plans with friends to help keep you occupied, and feel supported, especially during evenings and weekends when you would otherwise have been with your partner. Reconnect with people you haven’t seen in awhile, spend time with family. Get involved in activities that you enjoy, that challenge you. Do volunteer work. Schedule yourself. Avoid long stretches of loneliness.
Remember how people change? You can, too. No matter where you are in life, you have more of your life ahead of you. You don’t have to accept that you are destined for rejection, mistreatment, or other hurts that you were left with. Sometimes, a break-up is a wake-up call for starting on the road toward positive change.
Reach out for help. This is an important time to have a listening ear, someone who can listen without judging you or telling you what to do, who can help you to gain a perspective on your relationship, who can give you a reality check when you need it, and who can help you to process this loss and move forward with your life. This might be a good friend, or many good friends. You might also want to consider reaching out to a mental health professional if you are not already in therapy or counseling.
It’s hard to lose a relationship. Human beings are social beings. Give yourself some alone time when you need it but don’t use this as an excuse to isolate yourself. Give yourself a push to be with other people. Go through the daily motions of life, even when you don’t feel like it. Keep moving.
Are you going through the loss of a relationship? How are you doing? Have you recently suffered a loss?
Any way we can support you? Anything that helped you that you want to share?
Don’t go through this alone!