WHEN SOMEBODY BREAKS YOUR HEART

Some breakups are not forever, not even till next Tuesday. Some of them are just negotiating points, ways of dramatizing a fight, stations in the dance of courtship, temporary setbacks in the process of learning
someone else and accepting the ways in which they change your world.

Some breakups are just a way of generating a round of make-up sex. But in this chapter I am talking
about breakups that feel more final, more definitive—and more tragic. Where it looks like it’s gonna stick.
Situations where the person who ended it seems to have given the matter sober consideration and has
declared in a measured way that it’s over. And where the result on the other person’s side is serious pain.

When somebody breaks your heart:
• Stay away from him. Don’t reopen the wound. Don’t invite him to be the good guy while also being the bad guy. Don’t turn for comfort to the person who broke up with you. Don’t even turn to him for help, unless you absolutely have to.
• Meditate on the fact that this loss is primarily about you, not about him. Your pain isn’t about your concern for him. Get perspective from that.

• If you are sad, enjoy the sadness. Realize that sadness is actually a valuable human state, a valid place. Read some sad poems, listen to some sad love songs. Own it, let yourself feel it, don’t try to pretend you’re not hurting.
• Find a friend you can talk to about it, someone you can be honest and vent with; or call a counseling line and talk to someone. Don’t let this be a secret, private hole to crawl into.
• Again, don’t go it alone. Once you feel a bit better, seek out good friends, make new ones if you have to, draw on whatever spiritual and emotional resources you have; get involved in the lives of others and do something for them. All this will shore up your self-esteem and put your own life in perspective.

Information that could have taken years to discover. Don’t shoot the messenger.
• If there was mistreatment involved, then you’re definitely better off.
• If the relationship itself had become miserable, then the breakup is a mercy. There were probably advance signs that all was not well. So realize that if those clues existed, then this may not have been such a miscarriage of justice after all. If he hadn’t done the deed, you might have been forced to do it down the line. Maybe you were already thinking of ending it . . . if so, don’t worry too much that he beat you to the punch— the outcome would have been the same. Instead, be amused by the following lines, written by a talented poet I know. In it a woman imagines time stopping just before her boyfriend can break up with her.

And now if you’ll indulge me in an English 101 moment, we’ll get a payoff that helps lift the ignominy of being the one who was left. The speaker in this poem is saying, in a wonderfully vivid way, that she who is about to be left has just as much right to break it off as her jilting partner has. He just gets there first; he’s quicker on the draw. But if time were to stop at the split second before he rejects her, and she knew what was coming, she would be able to clearly see that he is bad news in her life, that he brings her down, and that she should leave him.

If time stood still—for him. The speaker gleefully imagines that her boyfriend is frozen in time—parked in place—while she is launched into a happy celebration of her emancipation from the one who has in fact kept her from being free. She dances, does the town, kicks up her heels and rollicks. Then, on her way back
to the place they share, she sees clearly that the boyfriend is the one who needs to be left.

So realize that his leaving you was just a quirk of time, a trick of sequence designed to make you feel like the victim. But really it could have been the other way.

• You may feel anger, a desire for revenge, a desire not to let the other person get away with it. That’s not your heart, that’s your ego talking, and we’ll deal with it a little later. For now, resist the temptation to let him know how you’re feeling and what he has done. If that’s a demand for justice, it’s misplaced. The problem
is, you won’t get justice from him, and you will keep the wound open and maybe cause more strife.
• Use your love for the person as a way of accepting what has happened. Remind yourself that if you really love him, then you want him to get what he wants. Use the unselfish part of your feelings as a balm for the other part.
• Don’t force the other person to tell you why. You can figure it out for yourself (we’ll discuss how later), and your own answers will help you more.
• Don’t threaten the other person.
• Make a clean break. Get gone. He will have to deal with a world that doesn’t have you in it, that he is responsible for. And (if this matters) that is the only way he will ever “get” the enormity of what he has done. Then he may come crawling back. Even if you are tempted to reconcile—especially if you are tempted—don’t make it easy.
• Don’t pick up the phone when he calls. Don’t do it. The time to talk was before he broke up. If he had asked to talk about things back then, without threatening to leave, that would have been fine.

• If he makes a concerted appeal to come back to you, don’t say yes unless:
∙∙ he explains why he left, in a way that you believe, and then explains why those reasons don’t apply anymore, ∙∙ you’ve thought over the whole thing and learned the lessons of the relationship as I’ll discuss later, and you still think he’s the right guy and you want to pursue it, and
∙∙ he wants to come all the way back. (If he wants to be just friends, wish him well and show him the door. Tell him you’ll consider his idea in a year and then close the door behind him.)


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