How can I get over a bad break up?

-- Question for John --

I’m having a very difficult time getting over the breakup with my friend. I was closer to him than anyone else I ever met in my life. How do I get over this? I felt like I knew him even before we met. I thought we really could be soulmates. Obviously I was wrong, and the worst part about this is I can’t know why. And I cannot seem to let go. How do I move on?

First he chose me to be his friend and romantic interest, then he told me he chose me not to be his soulmate. He gave me no reason for the change. He told me it was nothing I did. He told me other women he was seeing weren’t as nice as me. He wasn’t attracted to them more. There’s just no reason.

I hate to try to think he was such a bad man… I can’t because this means I let him trash me, the best I gave him, I gave my inner self to someone who said he didn’t treasure me, and think I was worth keeping. I respected him more than he respected me. I loved him more than he loved me. And I never knew it until he just decided to throw our love away, for no good reason at all.

I can’t even begin to think about starting over. I don’t want to go through this anymore. I don’t want to have my heart thrown back in my face like it’s just some learning experience that he’ll take on to his new, better woman. This is what he told me: you taught me about intimacy and what it is, now I’ll take this to a new relationship. I told him: how nice for you, that you got so much from me… how do you think that makes me feel? I hope you never find anyone…then he said, how mean that was that I didn’t want him to be happy with someone else…. and he’s not mean for trashing the love we had?

I waver thinking he’s just a selfish, dishonest man to thinking he’s confused, to not believing this! How could I have been so stupid not to have recognized his inability! I believed him! So how do I ever trust any other man again? How do I ever trust my own judgment? I certainly can’t trust my intuition. I’m sure you hear these kinds of things all the time. I still have hope he’ll realize how wrong he was.

I mostly hope I’ll realize what he really was, a liar. I should have known better, divorced twice, and two children from each marriage. It was this stupid feeling that I knew him, his name, all about his family, and history, and even how he looked. I had this intuition that he would be the one. How could I have been so wrong?

-- Answer from John --

You are right that it takes time to go through the phases of healing following a breakup of the kind you have just suffered. In our work with individuals who are in a similar situation, we certainly know the pain, anger and suffering that we all tend to experience (if we are honest with ourselves) in the aftermath. You are having normal emotions and even your negative thoughts are understandable.

ultimately, time will pass and time supposedly heals all wounds. (We might agree that it would be nice if time also wounded all heels…)

But getting over something because we either start forgetting about it or get involved in something else… this may be the normal process of letting go… but it is not the healthiest way to go. It is rather passive and, in fact, we have seen many many cases where the emotional baggage is still there, affecting the next relationship…

The real opportunity for you at this point in time… as painful as it is…. as much of a crisis for the soul as it is…. is that it is truly an important opportunity for you to personally grow from this experience… grow in ways that assure you that you never have to go through it again.

There are three areas of personal growth that will best serve you at this time. (1) Emotional. (2) The Lessons Learned. (3) Cleaning Up Your Own Patterns.

(1) Emotional. This is a time of pain, anger and anguish. These are emotional states that are particularly intense now. Your response to having these emotions can make a huge difference in self-healing, self-nurturing and self-loving. To simplify it, there are two directions you can go in how you deal with these emotions. One direction is to focus on this other person (him) and how he is involved with you feeling these unwanted feelings. The other direction is to learn to better care for your own feelings and bring them to a state of inner healing. Your email suggests there is a lot of energy right now, understandably, in focusing on him. I am suggesting that a major healing opportunity is upon you, to change that focus and learn to do some inner healing. This learning will not only make you a stronger person, but it will better equip you in a future relationship (not that you want to think about that now) and make you less susceptible to emotional manipulation in the future by some other party.

(2) The Lessons Learned. Unfortunately, all too often we can tend to learn the wrong lessons from a painful breakup. We learn not to trust everyone, based on the pain that just one particular individual (who was not trustworthy to begin with) bestows upon us. We learn to protect ourselves the next time around in ways that further mess up relationships and hold us back from the love and joy we truly want. We learn to close the doors to everyone, based on this one person we have had a bad result with. I think you see where I am going here, and I am directing my comments to some of the thoughts it looks like you are having above. All these lessons are not only erroneous, but they will only hurt us and keep us suffering in the future. The important lessons to learn about the nature of having a healthy successful relationship and not repeat the mistakes just made. I do not think that opening your heart to a new possibility was a mistake. There are probably some other glaring mistakes about what you did… or said… or did not do… or did not say… or did not allow yourself to see at the time… and that by getting clear on these things, you can assure yourself that you do not have to repeat this kind of relationship again.

(3) Cleaning Up Your Own Patterns. This is also a great opportunity to see more clearly what your own part of the dance of this particular relationship was. Healthy relationship is partly a matter of each partner taking full responsibility for how things are and where they are going. Above, you are somewhat sounding more like a victim than a participant. I do not mean to be insulting in the least when I say that. Who hasn’t tended to fall into that way of thinking? But even in as minor a way as you might tend to cast yourself as a victim of this terrible man, you are disempowering yourself. From your story, I agree fully with your assessment that he is an… well the word assessment is good enough for it… but finally, so what? Your life story is about you. What do you want that story to be about? How this one man came along and ruined your life? Or how you used the pain and anguish of a failed love relationship to pull yourself together and empower yourself to find and co-create a truly wonderful relationship?

Okay, maybe you aren’t ready to think about the future in a positive way right now… but I suggest that the only way you can assure yourself of a different kind of future is to use this situation to learn, self-heal, grow and change yourself.

How to do this? Reading books is a good, low-commitment door opener. Self-help books on any area of relationship or emotional psychology that could seem to apply.

If you are more serious, I’d suggest counseling.