When I am in the midst of a breakup, I rarely see things reasonably or clearly. Everything is doom and gloom. I sob daily and curse the day that my then ex was born. It isn’t pretty. It is actually full of negative talk and bashing. At the time, it’s what I need to do to heal.
But that’s not all. I have a process that helps me mourn and move on from a relationship. Almost like a personal 12-step program. First, I cry. For about 24 hours I am so sad that it’s over, that I am single … again. Then I flip a switch and I am fine. We call this denial. It takes me about a week to realize that I am so not okay. As a matter a fact, I am angry. I am enraged. Let the ex-hating commence!
Soon, I feel guilty for trash-talking a man that I shared my life with and cared about, and probably still do. I go back to crying. I do a lot of thinking between sniffles. I miss him. I want him back. Why didn’t we work? What did I do wrong? What do I need to learn from this relationship so I can move on? Tears continue to shed due to reflection, not sadness. I am growing. And often times growing hurts.
The last step in my healing process is acceptance. Sometimes I feel nothing, and I am truly over it …him. It’s not so much a numbness as it is a “get over it already!” state of being. Other times it feels peaceful. It all makes sense, why it didn’t work out. No need to fight it anymore.
I wish I could skip the heart-wrenching, maddening steps and go straight to the lesson. I want to be a more compassionate ex-girlfriend sooner rather than later. How do I do that? How do you take that step if you’re anything like me? It begins with having a positive frame of mind.
Juana, a 26-year-old from Los Angeles, took her breakup in stride. It wasn’t easy. She was with her then-boyfriend for over six years. But she knew it had to end. They had grown apart, not together. She wanted more from their relationship, from him, and he couldn’t meet her needs. Yet, she wished him well and showed so much compassion. She still maintains communication with her ex. I, on the other hand, usually cut my exes off. No friendship if you’ve seen me naked, I say.
Juana suggests showing compassion by focusing on the positive. “You were obviously with this person for a reason, so focus on the good memories,” she advises. Lingering on negative feelings only brings up more sadness and anger. But it’s not always rainbows and butterflies. “There’s a reason why he is ‘the ex,'” Juana reasoned. “But keeping the negative in mind can be toxic. Move on and take the good stuff with you.”
Others feel that to be a compassionate ex is to be brutally honest. Rip the bandage off, so to speak. Grace, a 33-year-old from New York City, doesn’t want to “kumbayah” her way out of a breakup. She wants to express exactly how she feels.
“How I acted or what I said to my ex … I wouldn’t change any of it,” she admits. “I’m glad that I did and said whatever it was (no matter how hurtful it may have been) and did not keep it in. Because that is toxic.”
No matter what your approach, what truly matters is to be kind to yourself. Whatever your process, go through it and all the emotions that come up. Just take care of that tender heart.